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Imaginary Weapons: A Journey Through the Pentagon's Scientific Underworld
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Imaginary Weapons: A Journey Through the Pentagon's Scientific Underworld

3.22 of 5 stars 3.22  ·  rating details  ·  50 ratings  ·  10 reviews
How did a fluke experiment in 1998, involving a used dental X-ray machine & a dubious sample of radioactive material, become the Pentagon's pet weapons project? It had been rejected by one of the Pentagon's most important advisory groups, but the Pentagon found an eccentric scientist who believed that a super isomer bomb could be built & deliver the punch of a two-...more
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published May 15th 2006 by Nation Books (NYC) (first published 2006)
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Erik Graff
Feb 08, 2014 Erik Graff rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Military R&D fans
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: sciences
I picked this one up at the annual Park Ridge Public Library sale, being attracted to indications that it would be about fringe science funded by federal agencies. In fact this book is primarily about The Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency under the second Bush administration and the quest, funded by DARPA and other elements of the Defense Department, for a new lethal megaweapon which would not come up under the various arms control agreements to which the USA was signatory. It is also ab...more
Equal parts hilarious and terrifying. It focuses on one particular DARPA-funded project -- creating a bomb with the power of a nuclear weapon but small enough to carry in your briefcase (or under your turban?). A perfect storm of ignorant bureaucrats and military personnel (no doubt primed to ignore scientific consensus and peer review by decades of politicized science bashing), credulous journalists, a culture of secrecy in the Bush white House, and pathological science by a few outsider physic...more
Weinberger traces the politics of an unorthodox bit of physics which proponents claim could lead to a new superweapon, and detractors say violates the laws of physics.

With a background in nuclear and physical chemistry as well as physics, I fall firmly in the later camp. As laid out in the book, the people who make funding decisions in the Pentagon do not share that education, and rely on Jack D. Ripper types whose paranoia lead them to chase fringe science like ESP, teleportation, and cold fusi...more
Andy Love
This book uses the story of "isomer weapons" as a way to tell the story of how the U.S. military pursues new weapons technology. The isomer weapon would theoretically produce more damage than chemical weapons can, without some of the disadvantages of nuclear weapons. However, as Weinberger documents there was very little evidence that isomer weapons would be technically feasible.

However, I wish that this book had been given a once-over by a scientist or two before publication. I noticed several...more
I really liked this book. The author goes to great pains to show not only how scientists can let personal feelings affect their results, and how this can effect not only military decisions, but public policy for a whole country. It's fascinating to watch the process unfold and see how politics can screw up even more the horribly complex process of peer-review. Fascinating!
An interesting read about the government's involvement in (i.e. funding for) fringe science concepts. Not a great book, but worth checking out if you're interested in physics research and/or the Department of Defense.
Read this twice - last year and this year. Where do your tax dollars go? To people building fake nuclear weapons from dental x-ray equipment. No shit.
Hugh Hyatt
I read the first 50 or so pages amd found it slow-going and, contrary to my expectatiin, not a very interesting read.
Not sure this is an actual must-read, but I think you should read this.

It's all true and all unbelievable.
Pat Bahn
really a great story of how the damndest of concepts can
be funded when promoted by well placed individuals
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