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Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Electric Universe

Read David Bodanis' Electric Universe, The Shocking True Story of Electricity .... which is a set of essays on the history of electricity. The are disjointed, hardly forming any sort of sort of coherently written view of the subject, which I was looking for. The longest essay is a popular history of radar in WWII, which though interesting, is out of place in this book. The individual topics are of interest, but scantly covered. Some of the writing too left me a bit puzzled. The author heavily overuses specific mental images, e.g. clouds of electrons for example. There are some emphatically negative reviews in Amazon, and I checked the references on a few, and the mistakes could be attributed to interpretation, but I would expect a book like this, to be read by non-scientists, to be more clear. This is another example where it is very hard to believe that the well-known reviewers on the back cover ever read the book. The Amazon reviews led me back to Robert Thompson's 1947 history of Telegraphy: Wiring a Continent. Still considered a classic.

1 comment:

David E. Goldberg said...

Hi Franz. Take a look at Tom Hughes's stuff on electrification if you haven't seen it already. Several articles on Edison and electrification. One I remember is in The Engineer in America. He also has a full-length book Networks of Power, but it is quite long, and I haven't tackled it yet.