An occasionally choppy but intriguing and informative history of laser weapons.

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LASERS, DEATH RAYS, AND THE LONG, STRANGE QUEST FOR THE ULTIMATE WEAPON

A veteran science and technology writer delivers an insider’s account of the military’s obsession with laser weapons.

First, New Scientist contributor Hecht (Beam: The Race to Make the Laser, 2005, etc.), the author of multiple scholarly books on lasers, delivers an amusing account of fictional death rays from Archimedes to Tesla to Hollywood. All of these are “updated versions of the mythic bolts hurled by mythic ancient gods, born more than a century ago…when scientists were puzzling over new discoveries from X-rays to radio waves, inventors were seeking new weapons of war, and storytellers were looking for thrilling new ways to entertain.” In 1960, a properly stimulated ruby emitted the first tiny laser beam. The author explains that when a light photon stimulates an atom’s electron to jump to a more energetic level and then fall back, it produces an identical photon. With repeated stimulation, massively amplified by mirrors, this light can swell to an intense, narrow beam that carries a great deal of energy. Of course, LASER is an acronym: Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. A torrent of civilian applications followed the initial discovery, and the military began to pay attention. Hecht reminds readers that, struck by a laser beam, a target does not conveniently explode but rather gets hotter. Industrial lasers burn holes in metal held immobile a few inches away. Generating a beam capable of hitting, following, and destroying a speeding rocket hundreds of miles distant seems wacky, but readers may recall that this was the “Star Wars” anti-missile system launched by Ronald Reagan in 1983 and officially abandoned in 1993. All was not lost, however. Wildly expensive research produced technical advances, and lasers continue to grow more powerful, efficient, and compact. Now in field testing, powerful beams have destroyed small boats, shot down drones, and punched holes in vehicles.

An occasionally choppy but intriguing and informative history of laser weapons.

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-63388-460-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Prometheus Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2018

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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A sleek, vital history that effectively shows how, “from the outset, inequality was enforced with the whip, the gun, and the...

AN AFRICAN AMERICAN AND LATINX HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

A concise, alternate history of the United States “about how people across the hemisphere wove together antislavery, anticolonial, pro-freedom, and pro-working-class movements against tremendous obstacles.”

In the latest in the publisher’s ReVisioning American History series, Ortiz (History/Univ. of Florida; Emancipation Betrayed: The Hidden History of Black Organizing and White Violence in Florida from Reconstruction to the Bloody Election of 1920, 2005, etc.) examines U.S. history through the lens of African-American and Latinx activists. Much of the American history taught in schools is limited to white America, leaving out the impact of non-European immigrants and indigenous peoples. The author corrects that error in a thorough look at the debt of gratitude we owe to the Haitian Revolution, the Mexican War of Independence, and the Cuban War of Independence, all struggles that helped lead to social democracy. Ortiz shows the history of the workers for what it really was: a fatal intertwining of slavery, racial capitalism, and imperialism. He states that the American Revolution began as a war of independence and became a war to preserve slavery. Thus, slavery is the foundation of American prosperity. With the end of slavery, imperialist America exported segregation laws and labor discrimination abroad. As we moved into Cuba, the Philippines, and Puerto Rico, we stole their land for American corporations and used the Army to enforce draconian labor laws. This continued in the South and in California. The rise of agriculture could not have succeeded without cheap labor. Mexican workers were often preferred because, if they demanded rights, they could just be deported. Convict labor worked even better. The author points out the only way success has been gained is by organizing; a great example was the “Day without Immigrants” in 2006. Of course, as Ortiz rightly notes, much more work is necessary, especially since Jim Crow and Juan Crow are resurging as each political gain is met with “legal” countermeasures.

A sleek, vital history that effectively shows how, “from the outset, inequality was enforced with the whip, the gun, and the United States Constitution.”

Pub Date: Jan. 30, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-8070-1310-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Beacon

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

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