Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Review: The Department of Mad Scientists by Michael Belfiore

Title: The Department of Mad Scientists: How DARPA Is Remaking Our World, from the Internet to Artificial Limbs
Author: Michael Belfiore
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Smithsonian
Publish Date: October 20, 2009
Source: Library

What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "The first-ever inside look at DARPA—the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency—the maverick and controversial group whose futuristic work has had amazing civilian and military applications, from the Internet to GPS to driverless cars

America's greatest idea factory isn't Bell Labs, Silicon Valley, or MIT's Media Lab. It's the secretive, Pentagon-led agency known as DARPA. Founded by Eisenhower in response to Sputnik and the Soviet space program, DARPA mixes military officers with sneaker-wearing scientists, seeking paradigm-shifting ideas in varied fields—from energy, robotics, and rockets to peopleless operating rooms, driverless cars, and planes that can fly halfway around the world in just hours. DARPA gave birth to the Internet, GPS, and mind-controlled robotic arms. Its geniuses define future technology for the military and the rest of us."

My Two Cents:

"The Department of Mad Scientists" is the story about DARPA, which is an arm of the Department of Defense. DARPA has existed for a long time and has been sort of the research and development arm of the American military. Although it's part of DOD, a lot of the experiments and research and development that the group has done has helped to create some of the biggest technological advances the world has seen in the past few decades. Some of their projects have included the Internet and artificial limbs. I find their group absolutely fascinating and I was looking to read this book in order to get more information about the story of DARPA. 

Most of the book actually focuses on just a few of the different projects that the group has done. In fact, each chapter focuses on a different project that it has done. Some of the book tells a little bit about the history of the group, which is absolutely fascinating. I found the fact that each of the chapters only focused on one project to be a little bit limiting only because there are so many other things that this group has accomplished throughout its existence. 

The author relies on first-hand interviews in order to talk about each of the projects which lended a lot of credibility and detail to each of the different sections. This book is best if you only want a summary of the group and not end-all discussion on all that they've been through and all that they've done. This is at least a good introduction.


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