Science Goes to War: The Search for the Ultimate Weapon, from Greek Fire to Star Wars

Science Goes to War: The Search for the Ultimate Weapon, from Greek Fire to Star Wars

Science Goes to War: The Search for the Ultimate Weapon, from Greek Fire to Star Wars

Science Goes to War: The Search for the Ultimate Weapon, from Greek Fire to Star Wars


"It was a thing blameworthy, shameful and barbarous, worthy of severe punishment before God and Man, to wish to bring to perfection an art damageable to one’'s neighbor and destructive to the human race."

This anguished statement from the fifteenth-century Italian mathematician known as Tartaglia, who created the science of ballistics, might have come from any one of thousands of brilliant scientists who, throughout history, have applied their genius to the art of war. Every advance in weaponry from the bronze sword to the stealth bomber has been the product of science, and it is likely that without the pressure of war, science as we know it would not exist.

Science Goes to War examines the moral dilemmas, knotty technological problems, and pragmatic necessities that have punctuated the inseparable histories of science and warfare. This remarkably comprehensive volume recounts the 4,000-year quest for the ultimate weapon and reveals how this eternal arms race has both exploited and contributed to "pure"science. Highlights among the many compelling stories in Science Goes to War include: Archimedes and the defense of Syracuse Galileo and the first military R& D laboratory Emperor Meiji and the technological transformation of Japan The Manhattan Project


War is the father of all things. —HERACLITUS, 510 b.c.e.

At night, when the cold winds sweep through the rugged Judean wilderness overlooking the Dead Sea, it is said that the ghosts of Masada cry out. the anguished wails and lamentations of those who knew they were about to die echo around the treeless, redbrown hills and valleys, a mournful dirge for their fate—and a world that would vanish for two millennia.

In the desolate silence, so it is claimed, the cries of the 960 Zealots confronting their certain doom nearly two thousand years ago in the fortress atop the high plateau sound across the centuries. Perhaps so; the dry desert air has preserved much in this land steeped in blood and history, and it is possible the spirits of the people who died at Masada have been preserved, too. Certainly, the arid climate has preserved much physical evidence, the evidence that so excited Israeli archaeologists forty years ago when they found the fortress of legend did indeed exist—the remains of the high walls that were the fortress's main defense, the deep cisterns that provided an infinite water supply in the event of a siege, the food storehouses to keep the besieged fed for years, the armories where swords, arrows, and spears were manufactured and stored.

There are other archaeological artifacts at Masada, and it is those artifacts that mutely testify to what happened on that terrible day in 73 c.e.—the 100-foot-high dirt ramp Roman besiegers built up a steep cliff to reach the fortress walls 1,800 feet above them; the charred reinforcing timbers for the walls that the Romans set afire with naphtha-tipped arrows; the broken wall smashed by a Roman . . .

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