Robotics, the Red Planet, and Flight

Posted Mar 4, 2016

This week, we’re featuring new non-fic picks from our engineering section.    

How We’ll Live on Mars: A TED Original by Stephen L. Petranek

Many speculate that in the next twenty years, humankind will step foot on Mars.  In fact, NASA is competing in a race to the Red Planet with international space programs  as well as with private companies and entrepreneurs to be the first to get there.  Mars, the fourth planet in our solar system, is being explored as a back-up plan if ever Earth suffers from a water crises, climate change complications, or an all-out disaster that would threaten humanity.  The technology to get to Mars has been developed within the past the past thirty years, and How We’ll Live on Mars will illustrate how it’s destined to happen.     

Our Robots, Ourselves: Robotics and the Myths of Autonomy by David A. Mindell

Through leaps and bounds of robotic innovation, we now have machines that study our world and beyond from the deepest depths of the ocean to outer space.  Robotic tools can accomplish extraordinary tasks and are quickly changing the technological landscape, raising many questions and concerns.  For example, will humans be replaced by machines?  Will we rely too heavily on robots that we are no longer able to accomplish tasks ourselves?  MIT engineer, David A. Mindell takes all of this into consideration in his book, Our Robots, Ourselves.  Mindell argues that despite speculative consequences and ethical dilemmas, humans and robots will only work together to further expand our reach.       

Skyfaring: A Journey with a Pilot by Mark VanHoenacker

Air travel is a common mode of transportation, so common that it could be considered to be mundane by most.  However, Boeing 747 pilot Mark Vanhoenacker takes readers on a journey that expands the human experience of flight beyond imagination.  Reimagining his role as both a passenger and pilot, Vanhoenacker explores a number of topics beyond an ordinary journey, including the history, politics, geography, meteorology, ecology, and physics of air travel.  Beautiful and nuanced, Skyfaring transcends both culture and geography in a way that will make you think twice the next time you step onto an airplane.

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