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Great Mambo Chicken And The Transhuman Condition: Science Slightly Over The Edge

4.3 out of 5 stars 32 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0201567519
ISBN-10: 0201567512
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Sometimes a book has such a wonderful title that you assume the text could not be any good: but The Great Mambo Chicken is in fact a wonderfully rollicking masterpiece of scientific reportage about some of the wilder ideas being seriously considered by scientists "slightly over the edge" Regis describes the life and ideas of rocket scientists who would like everyone to have their own way into space, cryogenecists who hope to freeze people for revival in the future, nanotechnologists who want to build molecular robots to fix everything, and space colonists who want to build new worlds from the spare parts of the solar system -- and beyond. The most remarkable thing about the stories: Regis reveals that these seemingly disparate communities are all interwoven in unexpected ways. Even Evel Knievel makes a surprise visit in the chapter on personal rocket ships. Very Highly Recommended, and likely to become an Amazon.com Books customer favorite. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Author of the delightful Who Got Einstein's Office? , Regis here presents a hilarious but nevertheless sympathetic look at practitioners of "fin-de-siecle hubristic mania." These are the scientific visionaries who are plotting "post-biological man," scheming to build giant space colony/stations to orbit around the Earth, use microscopic robots (nanotechnology) to resurrect humans frozen in liquid nitrogen, raise chickens in higher gravity fields and project human minds via energy beams to distant galaxies. Readers learn about artificial life, bioinfomatic bumblebees, human minds instilled in "bush robots" and how to enclose the Sun within a man-made sphere. In the future everything will be possible and humans will be able to redesign themselves and the universe to meet higher technical standards than mere nature has achieved. This is a wonderful romp on the cutting edge of science.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 308 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (September 18, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0201567512
  • ISBN-13: 978-0201567519
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #413,761 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
With one of the most surreal literary titles since Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Mambo Chicken is not really sci-fi, because there is nothing fictional about any of it. It is a truly fascinating book, and this from someone who conscientiously buys pop science books only to fall asleep and start dribbling all over page 39.
Regis sets about acquainting the reader with just how bizarrely the thought processes of the world's most brilliant scientists operate, and some of the technological visions they are wont to put forward, without the slightest regard for realism or potential for success. There's the 'wrap the sun in a big insulator jacket and harness its heat' idea, space colonies, Olympics in space (which one physicist in the 70s predicted as achievable for 2005), mind-downloading and countless other truly incredible visions for the distant future.
Regis narrates these stories very adeptly - not least because he recognises that a certain amount of humour and gentle mockery is needed to keep the reader from thinking he has stumbled across MIT's version of Mein Kampf. Every page is thought-provoking (if only the thought 'you damned fools'), and if nothing else I'm looking forward to the brain-copy-on-a-floppy-disk that I am promised, as a backup every time I forget my own bank PIN number.
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By A Customer on October 18, 1998
Format: Paperback
All I can say after a month with this book is, WOW! I found it in a low dusty corner of a used book store and it is probably the best nonfiction book I have ever read. Amazingly interesting, in-depth looks at everything from recreational explosives to sun sailing, and somehow Mr. Regis ties it all together! I haven't been able to resist an opportunity to read this book, and I still haven't finished it! I go back and re-read good sections talk about it with friends, and it is so packed with information that it I have probably learned more interesting facts from this book than any science courses I have taken. For my biology course, I am required to do a report on a great moment in biology. Every time I read a chapter I changed by subject. Now two days from the report date, I have just switched over to the topic of Artificial Life. It is difficult, because I want to include everything from this book in my one small report. I recommend this book so much that I have been so exciting writing about it that I am sure all of my sentences are disjointed and confusing. Sorry, but that just shows how excited I am about this amazing book. The only thing I didn't like is that the Alcor cryogenics facility has moved since the publication from Riverside, CA to Scottsdale, AZ. I was going to go down there for a tour when I found out that Alcor was gone! Oh, well. That's why I didn't do my report on Cryonics. BUY THIS BOOK! YOU WON'T REGRET IT!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book made quite a stir among people I know in the cryonics and early transhumanist subcultures when the hardcover came out in 1990. (Yeah, I know: A tiny group of geeks, hardly enough for a good poker game.) How does it look in our mysterious, far-future year 2012?

Basically it describes a whole bunch of failures, or at best stagnated situations.

We don't have space colonization, and I say this as a disappointed L-5er who first met Keith Henson at Washington University (St. Louis, MO) in the late 1970's.

We don't have "nanotechnology," apparently because Eric Drexler got the physics wrong. I have the impression that Drexler in 2012 lives hand to mouth as a visiting policy wonk at various universities, and he manages somehow to run on the fumes of his failed nanotech vision from the 1980's instead of doing something which adds to the GDP. Ed Regis himself, in an interview he gave about "nanotechnology" back in 2001, indicated that he began to see something wrong with the whole idea because his coverage of it as a science writer over a decade showed him a lot of speculation but no progress towards nanomachines .

The manned space age has basically failed, despite the recurring "future porn" in magazines like Popular Science about private space ventures and missions to Mars.

Robert Truax died a few years ago with his dreams of space travel unfulfilled.

Timothy Leary, who pops up in the book in a few places, died without getting cryosuspended.

Alcor moved from Riverside, CA, to Scottsdale, AZ, in 1994, to find a friendlier regulatory climate.
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Format: Paperback
The guy who said that Regis "sneers" at the scientists and "holds himself above" them has it all wrong. Regis is praising these guys, he admires them, and so will you if you read this book. By now we have all heard such phrases and words as "space tourism" and "nanotechnology." Well, in Great Mambo Chicken, you can meet the people who made these words mean something. After I read it I couldn't shut up about all the wonderful ideas I'd found there. Hey, none other than Evel Kneivel shows up in this thing! Bet you didn't know he had any connection to space tourism, did you?

I took away one star because, yes, the word "hubristic" does get old after a while. Then again, it's fun to read a book by an author whose favorite sin is hubris, instead of lust.
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