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Monsters: The Hindenburg Disaster and the Birth of Pathological Technology

Ed Regis

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Basic Civitas Books
24 September 2015
Aviation manufacturing industry; Mathematics & Sciences; History of science; History of engineering & technology
Oh, the humanity! Radio reporter Herbert Morrison's words on witnessing the destruction of the Hindenburg are etched in our collective memory. Yet, while the Hindenburg ,like the Titanic ,is a symbol of the technological hubris of a bygone era, we seem to have forgotten the lessons that can be learned from the infamous 1937 zeppelin disaster.

Zeppelins were steerable balloons of highly flammable, explosive gas, but the sheer magic of seeing one of these behemoths afloat in the sky cast an irresistible spell over all those who saw them. In Monsters , Ed Regis explores the question of how a technology now so completely invalidated (and so fundamentally unsafe) ever managed to reach the high-risk level of development that it did. Through the story of the zeppelin's development, Regis examines the perils of what he calls pathological technologies ,inventions whose sizeable risks are routinely minimized as a result of their almost mystical allure.

Such foolishness is not limited to the industrial age: newer examples of pathological technologies include the US government's planned use of hydrogen bombs for large-scale geoengineering projects the phenomenally risky, expensive, and ultimately abandoned Superconducting Super Collider and the exotic interstellar propulsion systems proposed for DARPA's present-day 100 Year Starship project. In case after case, the romantic appeal of foolishly ambitious technologies has blinded us to their shortcomings, dangers, and costs.

Both a history of technological folly and a powerful cautionary tale for future technologies and other grandiose schemes, Monsters is essential reading for experts and citizens hoping to see new technologies through clear eyes.
By:   Ed Regis
Imprint:   Basic Civitas Books
Country of Publication:   United States
Dimensions:   Height: 244mm,  Width: 166mm,  Spine: 31mm
Weight:   602g
ISBN:   9780465065943
ISBN 10:   0465065945
Pages:   352
Publication Date:   24 September 2015
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Hardback
Publisher's Status:   Active
The Pathology Prologue: Up Ship! PART I: Beginnings 1. The Man in the Sky 2. The Philosopher's Stone of Flight 3. The Flying Bomb 4. The Delirium 5. Demystifying Gargantua 6. A Technological Anomaly 7. Death Rattle of a Leviathan 8. From Hubris to Horror in Thirty-Four Seconds PART II: Pathological Technology's Chamber of Horrors 9. Progress Through H-Bombs 10. The Godzilla of Physics 11. Stardate 90305.55 PART III: Endings 12. The Six Hindenburgs 13. The Pathology of Delirium Epilogue

Ed Regis is a longtime science writer and the author of seven books, including What is Life?, The Info Mesa, and Who's Got Einstein's Office?. Most recently he was co-author, with George Church, of Regenesis: How Synthetic Biology Will Reinvent Nature and Ourselves.

Reviews for Monsters: The Hindenburg Disaster and the Birth of Pathological Technology

ADVANCE PRAISE FOR MONSTERS A must for any aeronautical history buff, this book is as readable and entertaining as a high octane spy thriller and as informative as a semesters worth of graduate level seminars. Regis is a gifted writer with empathy for his subjects, even if they do sound bonkers. --Library Journal Wonderful... one of the most readable accounts of airship history that has recently been published. --Airships.net Much more than another book about the Hindenburg disaster. --Maclean's An engaging history of humankind's technological hubris. --Science News Fascinating... a fine history of Zeppelin and his disastrous airships. --Publishers Weekly A fine account of the rigid airship and... a thoughtful meditation on out-of-control technology. --Kirkus Reviews Monsters is both a fascinating historical narrative and a wakeup call to the dangers of technologies that capture our collective imagination--but come with staggering risks that seem obvious only in retrospect. As we move into an era of rapid advance in fields like genetic engineering, synthetic biology, and artificial intelligence, the forgotten lessons from technology's past are sure to become ever more relevant. --Martin Ford, author of Rise of the Robots Ed Regis has written an important book, one that should be required reading for scientists, engineers, politicians, and policy-makers pursuing The Next Big Thing. Focusing on the alluring and tragic Hindenburg, but examining as well such costly projects as the abandoned Superconducting Supercollider, Project Plowshare (earth moving using nuclear bombs!) and proposed Space Arks roaming the Cosmos, Regis shows how fascination with ill-considered mega-technology has generated both waste and human tragedy. This is a sobering yet fascinating picture of the human and material costs incurred when the unchecked dreams of zealots run amok. --Richard P. Hallion, Senior Adviser for Air and Space Issues, Directorate for Security, Counterintelligence and Special Programs Oversight, The Pentagon Monsters provides a very thoroughly researched and well-written explanation for how a nation, an industry, and wealthy passengers saw only the benefits of traveling in hydrogen-filled dirigibles and overlooked the potential hazards until the Hindenburg literally exploded on the news. Regis shows how the tunnel-vision lessons from this 1937 tragedy went unheeded in projects like using atomic bombs to excavate canals and harbors and DARPA's 100-year starship. --David Lochbaum, Director, Nuclear Safety Project and co-author of Fukushima: The Story of a Nuclear Disaster The inevitability of the Hindenburg or a similar disaster serves as the centerpiece in Ed Regis's masterful and tragically humorous envisioning of our myopic infatuation with grandiose yet dangerous scientific projects. In the background lies the question of risks that may be suppressed in pursuit of large-scale contemporary technological ventures. --Wendell Wallach, author of A Dangerous Master


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