Ten futuristic developments familiar to readers accompanied by equally astute explanations of the crushing difficulties to be overcome in order to bring the ideas to fruition.
In this husband-and-wife team of authors, cartoonist Zach, creator of the webcomic Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, provides a steady stream of amusing illustrations throughout the book. Ecologist and blogger Kelly belongs to the science-shouldn’t-be-boring school of writing, but readers able to tolerate her joke-filled prose will not regret the experience. Nuclear fusion can provide unlimited clean energy by forcing two hydrogen atoms to combine into one helium atom, a process that requires temperatures and pressures present at the heart of the sun. Achieving this turns out to be extremely difficult and expensive (more than $20 billion spent so far), but the scientists involved have no doubts that it is possible. We don’t have cheap space travel because rockets must carry all their fuel, leaving little room for cargo. An analogy is driving a car around the world pulling a trailer containing all the gasoline. All prophets of future technology must discuss robots, and the authors do their duty (“Build me a Rumpus Room, Metal Servant!”). Everyone knows that genetic engineering may eventually cure diseases and correct our defects; the authors provide the details. Predictions have a terrible record, but they’re irresistible. With good, common sense the authors turn the problems on their heads by discussing the barriers to the marvels to come. In the end, they take for granted that these will happen, so the predictions remain. Even so, they deliver excellent descriptions of the science behind each wonder and the state of current research that may or may not bear fruit.
Despite unrelenting whimsy, the authors provide solid, well-thought-out, useful information on cutting-edge technology.