THE PATENT FILES by David Lindsay

THE PATENT FILES

Dispatches from the Frontiers of Invention
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

This compilation of Lindsay’s long-running New York Press column on inventions blends P.G. Wodehouse’s freewheeling joy in the absurd with Orson Welles’s razor-sharp social commentary. An index to the collective unconscious, it includes the expected whacko ideas, along with some truly brilliant creations. As topical cocktail-party fodder, the book has plenty to offer. Lindsay’s curiosity about how things work is insatiable. He explores everything from the US patent office itself, with its (non-working) display on Thomas Edison, to the Timetrack cameras that produce those neat Gap ads where swing dancers stop in midair and the camera tracks around them in 3D. There is a typically odd Greenhouse Helmet, which recycles the air you use in a mini-biosphere of plants you carry on your head, and an idea for using gravity to run cars without fuel. He interviews Gregory Matloff of MIT, who is figuring out how to use the sun as an amplifier for space telescopes (Matloff already wrote the definitive handbook on ion drive in interstellar ships—for real). And then there is the guy who wants to send elevators up and down between Earth and space, hooking the cables to some sort of planetary orbital rings he intends to send up. As with many of the details of these inventions, what keeps the cables up is a mystery. Lindsay uses human invention as a path to explore the universe, though his findings are not always clear. But it is fun and mostly illuminating. And if you find yourself looking around and marveling at what you see, wondering who the heck ever thought of that, then Lindsay has done his job.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 1-55821-741-X
Page count: 248pp
Publisher: Lyons Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1999




SIMILAR BOOKS SUGGESTED BY OUR CRITICS:

IndiePROMETHEUS IGNORED by John D. DeSain
by John D. DeSain