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Sharon Weinberger: Imaginary Weapons
Sharon Weinberger: Imaginary Weapons: A Journey Through the Pentagon's Scientific Underground (paperback, 2007, Nation Books)
Another New York Times Book Review book that looks interesting is Sharon Weinberger, Imaginary Weapons: A Journey Through the Pentagon's Scientific Underworld. Way back in WWII the US put many of the world's most notable scientists to work on weapons -- especially, but not exclusively, in the Manhattan Project. Since then, scientific quality has declined, but for a long time DARPA actually developed some useful things in addition to the bombs and guns -- the Internet is a major example. But for some time now many, perhaps most, of their projects have been utterly useless, even for such misbegotten purposes as dominating the earth or, failing that, destroying it. The hafnium bomb is the prime example in this book, but I get the impression such fantasies are the rule and not the exception. The "Star Wars" anti-missile system was a major turning point -- the DOD's prime example of politics trumping science and reason. That the same dynamic has played out in so many other areas implies that dumbing down wasn't invented in the Pentagon, even if that's where it's been most heavily subsidized.