I ran across two interesting things this week. Slate has an excerpt from J.D. Hamblin’s new book, Arming Mother Nature, called “We tried to weaponize the weather.” Meanwhile, at The Space Review there’s a review of what looks like a fascinating new book: Implosion: Lessons from National Security, High Reliability Spacecraft, Electronics, and the Forces Which Changed Them.
Though they sit pretty much at opposite poles of Cold War science, sober, serious engineering and mind-blowing insanity, both stories are evidence of the unpredictable nature of technological development. Everything in “We tried to weaponize the weather” looks harebrained today, but in the 50 and 60s they looked far more plausible than the idea that anyone in a First World country could own a pocket-sized supercomputer. And, with all respect to Silicon Valley, those computers are the unpredicted spinoff of a series of military investments in technology that never quite did what it was supposed to: like the Army Signal Corps’ germanium transistors or DARPA Strategic Computing’s AI systems.