From Publishers Weekly
There was a time when people thought future generations would be living in cities topped by geodesic domes, and that all babies would be born in mechanical incubators, probably after having their DNA selected for better intelligence or physical attractiveness. Milo explains why these and dozens of other predictions never came to fruition in a wide-ranging survey that covers everything from atomic energy (which some scientists predicted would never work out) to Puerto Rican statehood. Sometimes the wrong guesses even contradict themselves: airplanes would never work, conventional wisdom once ran; once they'd proven successful, people believed they'd be fast enough to cover the globe in mere hours. Milo's tone is amiably conversational, filled with casual asides such as the discovery that the electric car was also the flavor of the month more than one hundred years ago. He delves into the work of some famous visionaries, from Paul Ehrlich to Hal Lindsey but refrains from mocking even those who were completely off the mark. Readers will come away with a smattering of historical information in several scientific and cultural fields, but it's presented in such a way that they'll feel like experts. (Dec.)
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Given its title, you’d expect this book to be a light-hearted look at wacky predictions. But it isn’t, really. While some of the predictions he discusses are (with modern-day hindsight) wacky, Milo approaches his subject from a historical and scientific point of view, explaining how, at the time, some of these ideas didn’t sound so weird. “Knowledge pills,” for example, were proposed in the 1960s; they sound silly now, but, the author points out, the idea was based on research that indicated memories may be stored in specific proteins. Cars that drive themselves may seem like science fiction today, but in the 1930s, when car ownership was expanding exponentially, and many drivers were hopelessly incompetent, it seemed like a fine idea (and in the 1950s General Motors even floated the notion of a self-driving vehicle). Milo covers a lot of ground—a cure for the common cold, 3D TV, domed cities, the ability to regenerate body parts, and a lot more—but he resists the temptation to make fun of these things (or the people who thought them up). Readers expecting one of those “weren’t we a bunch of idiots?” books may be disappointed; on the other hand, those looking for a glimpse into the past, and a taste of what our future used to look like, will be delighted. --David Pitt