As advertised, the author weighs in on everything from space travel to litter boxes in this collection of intriguing but often half-baked proposals.
Ponnapalli, an information-technology specialist who holds a doctorate in physics, offers a raft of ideas to improve the world. On the practical, just-might-work end of the spectrum are wireless gadgets that tweet passengers when their luggage comes up on the airport carousel, a dishwasher you can load from the top without bending over, cars with gas caps on both sides to ease filling-station traffic and a blueprint for a smell-sequestering cat restroom adjoining the house. On the boondoggle end is a grandiose project for an elevator to outer space, built from a series of geometrically increasing skyscrapers. In between are random schemes to modify hockey—a seventh player on the ice per team would boost scoring, the author contends—and make chess either less or more complicated. He offers several short treatments for Star Trek sequels (the Trekkie ethos of improvisational engineering saturates this book) and a surefire scheme to use a supercomputer to calculate a 14,600-term equation that can predict the stock market. The author presents his ideas in a lucid, engaging style, but doesn’t always think them through; his proposal to devote 10 % of the federal budget to paying down the national debt, for example, wouldn’t even close the yearly deficit. Other suggestions, such as his 1,000-calorie-a-day soup, coffee and tea diet, are just too odd to catch on—to judge by the cravings and gorgings noted in his 23-day weight-loss diary, he can’t even stick to it himself. Ponnapalli’s thinking shows both the strength of inspired dilettantism and the need for expert analysis to rein it in. Still, there are some nifty ideas here, and even the questionable ones will provoke reflection.
A stimulating grab bag of outside-the-box—sometimes out-of-left-field—brainstorms.