About the book

In over 200 delightful short essays - over 422 pages! - Bill captures the creativity and impact of engineers. He talks of their spectacular achievements - jets, satellites, skyscrapers, and fiber optics; but draws his deepest insights from the everyday, the quotidian. He finds beauty, elegance and meaning in Ferris wheels, Tupperware, Slinkys, mood rings, waterless urinals and Velcro. Delivered originally on public radio between 1999 and 2006, each essay is a small slice of the world created by engineers. The essays also illuminate and inform about the important topics of our day by showing how intertwined engineering and technology are with terrorism, security, intellectual property and our cultural legacy.

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What's inside the book

The book is best read by flipping it open at random and letting the essays come at you by chance as they did for his public radio listeners. A good way to get a feel for the book is to browse samples. Unlike the videos the essays capture just a slice of the world of engineers. Science Magazine captured their spirit best:

"Bill Hammack can rhapsodize over the clever design of a soda can or a Scotch tape dispenser .... His light, often humorous essays also provide insight into the cultural forces that speed or hamper the acceptance of new products and the inventors' often unexpected sources of inspiration.”

 

Perhaps the best way to approach the book is through its thematic table of contents.

  • Inventions & Inventors Air Conditioning | Better Mousetraps | Blue LED | Bob Kearns | Bose Wave Radio | Coffee Maker | Color Film Chemistry | Composting Toilets | Concrete | Contact Lens | Cornstarch Packing Peanuts | Cruise Control | Directional Sound | Duct Tape | Elevators | Gas Lighting | Geiger Counters | George Eastman & Kodak | Glass | Glo-sheet | Glowing Hockey Puck | Gore-Tex | GPS | Grain Elevators | Hazel Bishop | Jack Kilby | Jell-O | Lava Lamp | Maclaren Strollers | Margaret Knight & Paper bags | Matches | Mauve | Moen Faucets | Mood Rings | Neon | Nitinol | Nylon | O-Rings | Phillips Screws | Philo Farnsworth | Photocopiers | Pop Rocks Candy | Pumpkin masters | Razor | RFID | Saul Griffith | Scotch tape dispenser | Sliced Bread | Spam | Stay-on Tab | Steadicam | Superglue | Super Soaker | Surveillance Tags | Swimsuits | Television Remote Control | Tupperware | Typewriters | Ultrasound imaging | Vacuum Cleaners | Vaseline | Velcro | Video games | Volkswagen Beetle | Wind-Up Radio
  • Art, Literature & Music The Beatles | eBooks | Fahrenheit 451 | Hammond Organ | Jekyll & Hyde | Leonardo da Vinci | Lord of the Rings | Pompeii the Novel | Project Gutenberg | Saxophone | Theremin | TiVo | Zildjian Cymbals
  • Technology & Society Accurate Throwing | Anthrax | The Calendar | Cigarette Machine | Color Film & Determinism | Colton | Container Ships | Counting People | Cryonics | Diapers | Education & Technology | The Electrical Chair | The Electronic Paper Trail of Terrorism | Escapement | Face Recognition Software | Genetically Modified Food | Gridlock | HeLa Cells | Housework | Laundry Machines | Machine Guns | Thomas Midgley | Numbers | Numbers & Empire | Potholes | Risk | SARS | Science & the Declaration | Technology & 911 | Technology & Terrorism | Voting & Paper | Voting machines & gambling | Waterless Urinals
  • Computers & Information Technology Adam Osborne | Apple’s Killer App | Atomic Clock | Cell Phones | Claude Shannon | Disc vs Disk | Digital data | Dvorak Keyboard | Fiber Optics | First E-mail Message | Google | IETF & Domain Names | Iridium Satellites | Landlines & the Five Nines | LEO Computer | Monocultures & viruses | Moore’s Law | The Mouse | MUZAK | Open Source | J.R. Pierce & Satellites | Public Key Encryption | Rolodex | Silicon | Spam | Thomas Stockham | Text Messages | The Telegraph | The Queen of Voice mail | Voice Over IP & 911
  • Energy & Environment Batteries in the Frig | Blackout Reading | Electric Cars | Garbage | Hydrogen-Powered Cars | Local Power | Los Angeles | Nitrogen Fixation | Partially Zero Emissions | The Power Grid | Proven Oil Reserves | Recycling | Wind Energy
  • Toys, Sports, Travel & Entertainment Baseball Stats | Bicycles | eBay | Ferris Wheels | Frisbee | The Ice Hotel | Lego Toy Company | Legos | Nautilus Machines | Olympic Flame | Olympics & Technology | On-line shopping | Ping Putter | Roller Coasters | SCUBA | Slinky | Terry Bicycles | Tour de France | Waiting in Line
  • Food & Cooking Champagne | Clarence Birdseye | Cooking a Turkey | Corks | Ice Cream | Microwave ovens
  • FlightAirships | Black Box | Boeing vs. Airbus | Concorde | Jet Takeoff | SpaceShipOne | Stall Warning Detector
  • Engineering Methods & Design Bathtubs | Betamax vs VHS | Bolts | Demolition | Engineering Heritage | Eulogy for Old Technologies | Fluid Flow | Fracture Mechanics | Henry Dreyfuss | Mass Manufacturing | Nanotechnology | New vs. Old Technology | Packaging | Plasmas | Sears Tower | Strobe Light Photography | Swatch | Technological Optimism | Why a Chair?
  • Stamps Richard Feynman | Josiah Willard Gibbs | Barbara McClintock | John von Neumann
Available ebook or paperbound Look Inside

Available ebook or paperbound

The essays can be purchased in either paperbound or ebook versions. We've taken care to make it available on all major platforms. You can purchase it from Amazon in a paperbound edition, or for their Kindle, Barnes & Nobles Nook reader, as a Google Books, for the iPad and iPhone from Apple's iBookstore and on Kobo.