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Science's Strangest Inventions    by Tom Quinn order for
Science's Strangest Inventions
by Tom Quinn
Order:  USA  Can
Robson, 2005 (2005)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

In his Introduction, Tom Quinn tells us that 'The mad scientist is one of the most enduring images of the modern world.' In addition to the great inventions that litter the history of science, there are also a myriad of also-rans. Quinn presents them here, reminding us that 'in the world of strange inventions, what appears to be mad one day, can seem perfectly sane the next.'

He covers over two hundred years (1486 to 2004) and about 150 weird and wonderful inventions. Early gadgets include a candle-lit night clock (most of them burned), and a conformator, used by hatters to measure their clients' heads. I love the idea of a pedal-driven bus - though it would be tough when there are only a small number of passengers to provide the footpower - and mirrored spectacles that allow reading while lying flat. There's a handgun-driven mousetrap, a coffin alarm system, an ear flattener, a bath bag (jump around to cleanse), leap-frogging trains (the mind boggles), an automatic book-page turner, a flatulence collector, a book house (really, built from old books), an angry (anti-smoking) ashtray, an imaginary pet leash, and a bullying fork for weight watchers.

My overall favorite is the circular, 2,500 ton warship Novgorod, whose captain reported that steering was 'like ice-skating with butter on the soles of your boots!' Science's Strangest Inventions is an ongoing source of entertaining anecdotes about the wild and wacky ideas generated over the centuries by rather mad, but very innovative, scientists.

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