July 2003

Thomas, Dominique. Le Londonistan. Paris: ╔ditions Michalon, 2003. ISBN 2-84186-195-3.

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Rees, Martin. Our Final Hour. New York: Basic Books, 2003. ISBN 0-465-06862-6.
Rees, the English Astronomer Royal, writes with a literary tic one has become accustomed to in ideologically biased news reporting. Almost every person he names is labeled to indicate Rees' approbation or disdain for that individual's viewpoint. Freeman Dyson—Freeman Dyson!—is dismissed as a “futurist”, Ray Kurzweil and Esther Dyson as “gurus”, and Bj°rn Lomborg as an “anti-gloom environmental propagandist”, while those he approves of such as Kurt G÷del (“great logician”), Arnold Schwarzenegger (“greatest Austrian-American body”), Luis Alvarez (“Nobel physicist”), and Bill Joy (“co-founder of Sun Microsystems, and the inventor of the Java computer language”) get off easier. (“Inventor of Java” is perhaps a tad overstated: while Joy certainly played a key r˘le in the development of Java, the programming language was principally designed by James Gosling. But that's nothing compared to note 152 on page 204, where the value given for the approximate number of nucleons in the human body is understated by fifty-six orders of magnitude.) The U.K. edition bears the marginally more optimistic title, Our Final Century. but then everything takes longer in Britain.

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Goldstuck, Arthur. The Aardvark and the Caravan: South Africa's Greatest Urban Legends. Johannesburg: Penguin Books, 1999. ISBN 0-140-29026-5.
This book is out of print. I bought my copy in a bookshop in South Africa during our 2001 solar eclipse expedition, but didn't get around to reading it until now. You can occasionally find used copies on abebooks.com, but the prices quoted are often more than I'd be willing to pay for this amusing but rather lightweight book.

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Graham, Richard H. SR-71 Revealed. Osceola, WI: Motorbooks International, 1996. ISBN 0-7603-0122-0.
The author, who piloted SR-71's for seven years and later commanded the 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, provides a view from the cockpit, including descriptions of long-classified operational missions. There's relatively little discussion of the plane's development history, engineering details, or sensors; if that's what you're looking for, Dennis Jenkins' Lockheed SR-71/YF-12 Blackbirds may be more to your liking. Colonel Graham is inordinately fond of the word “unique”, so much so that each time he uses it he places it in quotes as I have (correctly) done here.

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Zakaria, Fareed. The Future of Freedom. New York: W. W. Norton, 2003. ISBN 0-393-04764-4.
The discussion of the merits of the European Union bureaucracy and World Trade Organisation on pages 241–248 will get you thinking. For a treatment of many of the same issues from a hard libertarian perspective, see Hans-Hermann Hoppe's Democracy: The God That Failed (June 2002).

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Benford, Gregory ed. Far Futures. New York: Tor, 1995. ISBN 0-312-86379-9.

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Wells, H. G. Mind at the End of Its Tether and The Happy Turning. New York: Didier, 1946. LCCN 47-002117.
This thin volume, published in the year of the author's death, contains Wells' final essay, Mind at the End of Its Tether, along with The Happy Turning, his dreamland escape from grim, wartime England. If you've a low tolerance for blasphemy, you'd best give the latter a pass. The unrelenting pessimism of the former limited its appeal; press runs were small and it has rarely been reprinted. The link above will find all editions containing the main work, Mind at the End of Its Tether. Bear in mind when pricing used copies that both essays together are less than 90 pages, with Mind alone a mere 34.

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O'Leary, Brian. The Making of an Ex-Astronaut. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1970. LCCN 70-112277.
This book is out of print. The link above will search for used copies at abebooks.com.

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