STAR WARRIORS: The Young Scientists Who Are Inventing The Weaponry of Space by William J. Broad

STAR WARRIORS: The Young Scientists Who Are Inventing The Weaponry of Space

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A timely essay illuminating the secretive world of the ""best and the brightest"" scientific elite who are busily at work trying to bring to fruition Ronald Reagan's stated goal of a nuclear shield. There is an old literary academic parlor game which attempts to distill the essence of a book by positing its first and last words. In this pursuit, Star Warriors boils down to ""The/game."" This is only right, for Broad's essay on the whiz kids of Livermore Lab in California show these young inventors as single-mindedly involved in a game, albeit a deadly one with a deadline--to create a third generation of nuclear-powered energy weapons (lasers, particle beams, and microwaves) before the Soviet Union decides to use its nuclear arsenal to destroy America. Broad, a New York Times science writer and co-author of Betrayers of the Truth: Fraud and Deceit in the Halls of Science, tries to do for those young men what Tracy Kidder did for the computer geniuses in The Soul of a New Machine. By living with a core group at Livermore (one of only two such nuclear research labs in the country) for one week, Broad attempts to explain what drives them (dreams of incipient personal million-dollar businesses), how far they have gotten (amazingly far!), and what this bodes for the future (not necessarily peace in the valley forever). Broad disappoints, where essayists like Kidder and McPhee elate, simply because he inserts too much of himself here. In the end, we know exactly where Broad stands on the issue: (squarely against it, which does not aid in an objective recounting). But, fortunately, in the process he manages to simplify much of the technical jargon of the trade. Worth the price of admission, if one overlooks the biases.

Pub Date: Oct. 31st, 1985
Publisher: Simon & Schuster