NEXT: The Coming Era in Science by Holcomb B.--Ed. Noble

NEXT: The Coming Era in Science

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Prognostications edited by the Deputy Director of Science News for the New York Times, who relies heavily--too much so?--on his colleagues to supply the material. Included are Times-men Timothy Ferris on Grand Unification Theories (GTUs), John Noble Wilford on space, Andrew Pollack on technology, and Peter Lewis and Richard Flaste on computers. A few free-lancers and Leon Lederman, Director of Fermi Laboratory, fill out the roster. But they do not make a coherent volume. First, the range. The ""coming era of science"" is restricted to particle physics/cosmology, computers, communications, space, and, of all things, speculations on ESP, extraterrestrial life, and self-replicating machines. Furthermore, within this compass there are differences of opinion. We will colonize space (Wilford); not likely (Wayne Biddle). Japan's efforts to build fifth generation computers? No big deal, says Richard Flaste, but Michael Edelhart (editor of P. C. Week) says we should expect the inevitability of ""biochips""--molecular hybrids of electronics and proteins that will outperform everything. Of course, differences of opinion happen all the time in science and can make for lively reading. But this volume seems to have been put together as independent pieces, with no cross-talk or editorial comment. The result is repetition of facts, and varied levels of writing--from fairly technical to ultra-gee-whiz. Lederman's long lead chapter almost works, however, as one of the more technical pieces that traces physics from Greek science to GTUs. The chapters on computers are among the more successful and interesting--describing the potential for ""smart"" houses or offices; sophisticated interactive programs; and new ways to combine communications and computers in global networks. For the most part, though, readers would be better served by reading single-volume popularizations on the topics covered here. Paste-pot prophecies: disappointing.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1987
Publisher: Little, Brown