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The Starship & the Canoe Paperback – May, 1983
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Top Customer Reviews
In this book author Kenneth Brower alternates the telling of the divergent lives of these two men. As a result he captures the generational tension of an era.
Freeman Dyson was a product not only of the Fifties but of the flowing optimism of those years that today seems unimaginable. Truly, back then if one could think it then it was possible. One of the ideas Freeman thought possible was project Orion, a huge space vehicle propelled by external nuclear explosions. In the beginning years Freeman actually expected to journey across the solar system in Orion.
George's life was nearly the diametric opposite of his father's. He wound up on the Canadian Pacific shore, living in a tree house and designing ocean-going canoes. The irony is that he found a universe to explore in his canoes - the coasts and islands of the Canadian Northwest and Alaska.
In a fractal sense, both physically and culturally, George's universe was as infinite as his father's. And while he continues to explore it to this day, his father never got into his universe more than the cruising altitude of a 737.
I am nearly the same age as George, long enough into my life to wonder what I've done with it. Frankly, I envy not just George's vision but his ability to follow it.
I admire his father's pursuit as well. In much of the story there is clear tension between father and son, yet in the end some sort of meeting of minds happens.
Even though this book was written over twenty-five years ago it offers a still-fresh notion of the gulfs between people, and how our failures in bridging these distances cause us to forsake a real future.
The father and son are celebrated physicist (and author in his own right) Freeman Dyson and kayaker, tree-dweller, solo marine traveller (and also an author) George Dyson. In the wild, anarchic 1970s, author Kenneth Brower (who, it turns out, is also a friend of George's) takes us along with George and Freeman as they explore and plan explorations. His book is engrossing and one feels as though one has actually spent time with these fascinating, sometimes incredibly eccentric and singular men.
Freeman Dyson, an influential theoretical physicist, spent a great deal of time in the optimistic 1950s and 1960s preparing to push the New Frontier outward on nuclear explosion-powered spacecraft. This work, Project Orion, was supported and funded by NASA and the US Air Force until the atmospheric nuclear test ban, competition for funding from Project Apollo and the Vietnam War finally killed the project's funding leaving him and fellow physicist Ted Taylor to develop the concept further.Read more ›
Freeman Dyson dreamed of a huge spacecraft with near limitless power to carry entire cities to the far reaches of the universe; George dreamed of great voyaging kayaks carrying people across seas and oceans. While Freeman never did build his ship, George did indeed build his. After you've read this book, get George Dyson's "Baidarka",a beautiful illestrated history of these elegant ships and of George's own projects- including basic plans for building your own, should you choose.
This is my second read. Not my usual practice.
My one major disappointment is the exclusion from this paperback edition of a section about Freeman Dyson's work on a "safe" nuclear reactor. I found this section particularly interesting because of the specific subject and because of the learning and work principles illustrated. This was an inappropriate job of editing.
Read, enjoy and learn about learning and living and relating in our complex and conflicting world.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Fascinating story of Science, Earth, father/son relationships. Also, if you were a fan of Galen Rowell and adventure, read it.Published 7 months ago by JERRY CARLTON
I enjoyed it more when it first came out. It seems kind of dated material now to me. i didn't enjoy rereading it years later.Published 7 months ago by K. Deslauriers
I bought a Baidarka kayak designed by George Dyson and had to read this. The fact that his father was one of the greatest minds of the 20th century was icing on the ship!Published 21 months ago by Rian McGonigal
This truly is a beautifully told story. I picked it up because of my interest in Freeman Dyson the astrophysicist, but ended up becoming enthralled with Brower's description of his... Read morePublished on March 25, 2010 by Kieran Fox
You get a look at what makes these two Dysons who they are. A bit more emphasis on George Dyson, the son. If you want a deeper view of Freeman then get "Disturbing the Universe". Read morePublished on May 24, 2009 by DeeMee
I liked the book's story, but not the way it was told. The author interjected his opinion and personal bias too many times for it to be anything biographical. Read morePublished on October 1, 2005 by Amazon Customer