It Looked Good On Paper: Bizarre Inventions, Design Disasters, and Engineering Follies by Bill FawcettIt Looked Good On Paper: Bizarre Inventions, Design Disasters, and Engineering Follies by Bill Fawcett

It Looked Good On Paper: Bizarre Inventions, Design Disasters, and Engineering Follies

byBill Fawcett

Paperback | January 20, 2009

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A remarkable compendium of wild schemes, mad plans, crazy inventions, and truly glorious disasters

Every phenomenally bad idea seemed like a good idea to someone. How else can you explain the Ford Edsel or the sword pistol—absolutely absurd creations that should have never made it off the drawing board? It Looked Good on Paper gathers together the most flawed plans, half-baked ideas, and downright ridiculous machines throughout history that some second-rate Einstein decided to foist on an unsuspecting populace with the best and most optimistic intentions. Some failed spectacularly. Others fizzled after great expense. One even crashed on Mars. But every one of them at one time must have looked good on paper, including:

  • The lead water pipes of Rome
  • The Tacoma Narrows Bridge—built to collapse
  • The Hubble telescope—the $2 billion scientific marvel that couldn't see
  • The Spruce Goose—Howard Hughes's airborne atrocity: big, expensive, slow, unstable, and made of wood

With more than thirty-five chapters full of incredibly insipid inventions, both infamous and obscure, It Looked Good on Paper is a mind-boggling, endlessly entertaining collection of fascinating failures.

Bill Fawcett is the author and editor of more than a dozen books, includingYou Did What?,It Seemed Like a Good Idea . . .,How to Lose a Battle, andYou Said What?He lives in Illinois.
Title:It Looked Good On Paper: Bizarre Inventions, Design Disasters, and Engineering FolliesFormat:PaperbackDimensions:368 pages, 8 × 5.31 × 0.83 inPublished:January 20, 2009Publisher:HarperCollinsLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0061358436

ISBN - 13:9780061358432


Rated 1 out of 5 by from Not Exactly As Advertised With a sub-title of "Bizzare Inventions, Design Disasters and Engineering Follies" you would expect this book to contain stories about bad designs and engineering projects that flopped miserably. And this book does contain some of those, but also an annoying quantity of stories that are totally off the theme of the book. Bad Broadway musicals, bad movies, military planning gone wrong and good grief, even the Starr Report. I was not expecting political nonsense. I imagine the editor calling up his coterie of writers: "The manuscript is due tomorrow and I'm short. What can you give me tonight?" Answered with "Well, I once saw this really bad musical...". "OK, it will have to do. Can you stretch it out to five pages and get it to me in an hour?". Instead, we should have had well-written, thoroughly researched stories about The Spruce Goose, the Bricklin, the Chevy Vega and more early, failed aircraft. The concept of the book is good, but it was poorly executed. I'm sure the brief to the publishers to get an advance certainly Looked Good On Paper.
Date published: 2011-02-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Pushing Back the Tech Frontiers (and being pushed right back) This book’s 350 pages contain 67 individual stories. The authorship of these stories is shared among 12 individuals. As can be expected in a book like this, some stories are more interesting than others, depending on the reader’s preferences for either the subject matter or a given author’s writing style. Nevertheless, all of these stories have varying degrees of tongue-in-cheek-ness, which makes for very pleasant light reading. The writing style is generally quite engaging, often humorous and accessible to a wide readership. In a book with such a wide-ranging scope, errors may creep in which, depending on the reader’s knowledge base, may be easily missed. For me, two errors stand out. They are both in the chapter entitled “Overcooking with Atoms”. On page 47 can be found the statement: “sodium reactors never deplete their fuel supply, so the SRE could … provide uninterrupted power without any need for additional uranium”. This statement is misleading since it implies that the sodium reactor is a perpetual motion machine, i.e., it will run forever without any new fuel – like an automobile that will run forever on a single gas tank. This is obviously wrong; better wording should have been chosen. The other error pertains to the use of an incorrect term: on page 49, the term “radio nucleotides” is used when the correct term is “radionuclides”. Aside from these minor quibbles, this is a book that can be enjoyed by absolutely anyone.
Date published: 2009-02-06