INVENTIONS FROM OUTER SPACE: EVERYDAY USES FOR NASA TECHNOLOGY,
D. Baker, Random House of Canada, 2000, pp: 125, ISBN 0-375-40979-3 (hc); Price: $38.00
It is no secret that the NASA space program is responsible for a great number of inventions that we use everyday on Earth. David Baker's Scientific American: Inventions from Outer Space does a great job of cataloguing and demonstrating some of the everyday practical uses of technology specifically developed for the space program.
Its quick-read format and cool graphics are sure to entice a wide audience of readers. In the coffee-table book tradition, it is formatted in such a way that one is able to browse through it to uncover a plethora of surprises and interesting facts. Unfortunately, it does not go into great detail of the physics involved in the inventions and is more of an informational survey-type read. The book has a sort of advertisement feel to it, as it contains large fonts and flashy graphics and also mentions several company names in conjunction with some of the technologies it describes.
I was amazed at the breadth of the technological applications of some of the inventions. They ranged from athletic footwear to water filters to sewage purification using hyacinths; from special swimsuits that resist drag to keyboards for the handicapped to a g-force protection bed; from dichroic glass used in jewelry to ergonomic seats; from urban planning to body scanning diagnostics. X-ray technology developed for the lunar probes and mars landers are now used in the hospitals for diagnostic imaging, and ocular scanners are a direct by-product of lunar imaging systems. Infrared satellites are also being used remotely for archaeological purposes on Earth. There was also mention of the development of a self-healing computer that NASA engineers ironically dubbed HAL-2, named after the autonomous computer in Space Odyssey 2001 who murdered his own crew of astronauts! You'll have to read the book yourself to see that this is by no means an exhaustive list!
This book was a definite eye-opener as to the wide variety and importance of the inventions that have come out of NASA. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in learning about the kind of cool technology that can come out of space programs.
University of British Columbia