Book Review: Loonshots

Here we have a book delving into ‘phase separation,’ and ‘dynamic equilibrium,’ and the Bush-Vail theory, in other words, a book that promises to be technical…and is. But it also explains why society moves forward once we get out of our own way, and let the lunatics have their chances. Loonshots could be their chance.

Loonshot launchers don’t seem to restrict themselves to technology, either. The author ranges over several disciplines & characters: Tycho Brahe, Copernicus, Vannevar Bush, Theodore Vail, WW-2 and the transistor, why we speak English and not Chinese, Papin & his ‘digester of bones.’ There’s something in this book for every nerd and every geek.

It explains the difference between P-type loonshots, based on existing products, and S-type loonshots that are strategic initiatives. It also shows why certain companies & products once seen as invulnerable crash and burn, despite attempts by their principles to right the ship. Pan Am airlines is the example given. That once proud, and dominant airline, the largest and most venerable line in the world, failed in such spectacular fashion once deregulation came along, that industry experts are still scratching their heads.

After reading Loonshots, I can’t say I truly understand the importance of its premise, but I am convinced that we’d be worse off without them. And we’d likely be speaking Chinese. Pan Am captains once had people asking for their autographs. That’s how popular their employer was, and the esteem Pan Am held in the world. Within a few short years the airline lost that exalted status, and sank into oblivion. Anyone born after 1960 won’t remember when Pan Am ruled the skies.

Loonshots explains how that happened, and will continue to happen, unless societies lunatics are free to take their shots. Four stars only because the book became a bit too technical in the middle.