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July 2016

  • On July 20, 1969 workers called in sick and children stayed home from school. Crowds gathered around televisions in department store windows to watch the Apollo 11 moon landing. Digital Apollo: Human and Machine in Spaceflight by David Mindell examines the design and execution of each of the six Apollo moon landings, drawing on transcripts and data telemetry from the flights, astronaut interviews, and NASA’s extensive archives. In honor of the anniversary of the first moon landing, the following is an excerpt from Digital Apollo that describes the high tension of that fateful day.

    On a July day in 1969, after a silent trip around the far side of the moon, the two Apollo spacecraft reappeared out of the shadows and reestablished contact with earth. The command and service module (CSM) (sometimes simply ‘‘command module’’) was now the mother ship, the capsule and its supplies that would carry the astronauts home. The CSM continued to orbit the moon, with astronaut Michael Collins alone in the capsule. ‘‘Listen, babe,’’ Collins reported to ground controllers at NASA in Houston, ‘‘everything’s going just swimmingly. Beautiful.’’ His two colleagues Neil Armstrong and Edwin ‘‘Buzz’’ Aldrin had just separated the other spacecraft, the fragile, spidery lunar module (LM, pronounced ‘‘lem’’), nicknamed Eagle, from the command module. This odd, aluminum balloon, packed with instruments and a few engines, would carry the two men down to the lunar surface.

    Posted at 09:00 am on Wed, 20 Jul 2016 in history, science, technology
  • Drones are changing the conduct of war. Advocates say that drones are more precise than conventional bombers, allowing warfare with minimal civilian deaths while keeping American pilots out of harm’s way. Critics say that drones are cowardly and that they often kill innocent civilians while terrorizing entire villages on the ground. In Drone: Remote Control Warfare, Hugh Gusterson looks at the paradoxical mix of closeness and distance involved in remote killing: is it easier than killing someone on the physical battlefield if you have to watch onscreen? Hugh Gusterson discusses his new book.

    How has the use of military drones altered the way that war is conducted?

    Traditional definitions of war assume combatants on either side who can kill one another. In drone warfare, one side is now physically absent from the field of combat. This is why some people have said drone warfare is more like hunting than war.

    Further, democratically elected leaders have always been aware of a certain risk in going to war: if too many of their own citizens come home in body bags, the country may turn against them (as happened to Presidents Johnson, Nixon, and George W. Bush). But drone warfare, by sparing us Americans in body bags, offers the possibility of indefinite war without victory, but with very little political cost at home.

    Posted at 02:30 pm on Mon, 18 Jul 2016 in anthropology, current affairs, technology
  • Happy #WorldEmojiDay! We are celebrating with a passage from Book from the Ground by Chinese artist Xu Bing. A book without words, it recounts a day in the life of an office worker, told completely in the symbols, icons, and logos of modern life.

    Posted at 09:00 am on Sun, 17 Jul 2016 in art
  • Back in May, ahead of the referendum on whether Britain should remain part of the European Union or leave, Guy Edwards penned an op-ed in the Boston Globe explaining why Brexit would make realizing climate change cooperation significantly tougher. In the wake of the Brexit vote, he reflects on what's next for Europe. Guy Edwards is coauthor of A Fragmented Continent.

    Despite the vote in favor of Brexit, I feel resolutely European. Our generation grew up as the Cold War drew to a close and the Berlin Wall came down. Our continent shares common values and ideals: freedom, equality, democracy, multilateralism, and the international rule of law. Our generation has for the most part embraced the freedom of travel to live, work and study across the continent; reinforcing our love and respect for each other's cultures.

    Posted at 02:35 pm on Mon, 11 Jul 2016 in environment, politics
  • As we observe Independence Day in the United States, we look back at the nation's history. William Hogeland's Inventing American History is a call to make the celebration of America’s past more honest. Hogeland argues that only when we can ground our public history in the gritty events of the day, embracing its contradictions and difficulties, will we be able to learn from it. In the following excerpt, he takes readers on a tour of the U.S.

    Posted at 09:00 am on Mon, 04 Jul 2016 in history

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Books, news, and ideas from MIT Press

The MIT PressLog is the official blog of MIT Press. Founded in 2005, the Log chronicles news about MIT Press authors and books. The MIT PressLog also serves as forum for our authors to discuss issues related to their books and scholarship. Views expressed by guest contributors to the blog do not necessarily represent those of MIT Press.