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The Geek Atlas: 128 Places Where Science and Technology Come Alive Paperback – Jun 6 2009

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Product Description

About the Author

John Graham-Cumming is a wandering programmer who's lived in the UK, California, New York and France. Along the way he's worked for a succession of technology start-ups, written the award-winning open source POPFile email program and churned out articles for publications such as The Guardian newspaper, Dr Dobbs, and Linux Magazine. His previous effort writing a book was the obscure and self-published computer manual 'GNU Make Unleashed' which saturated its target market of 100 readers. Because he has a doctorate in computer security he's deeply suspicious of people who insist on being called Dr., but doesn't mind if you refer to him as a geek. He is the proud owner of a three-letter domain name where he hosts his web site:

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 25 reviews
134 of 135 people found the following review helpful
Written BY a Geek, but for Geeks and Non-Geeks Alike! June 3 2009
By Steve Gibson - Published on
Format: Paperback
This terrific book first came to my attention when its author politely asked whether it would be okay for him to mention it in the technical newsgroup forums my company hosts. I had known of John through his many years as an occasional contributor in our forums, though I knew nothing of his being an author. Little did I know.

Now I have a copy, and I love it. When I take it with me to coffee, other regulars who have seen it before, grab it if I'm reading something else. We all love it because it is SO accessible (and these are people who are not nearly as geeky as me). Opening the book to literally any page pulls you in immediately. Even if you're not a traveller (I'm definitely not) the book is a compendium of bite-size world-wide technical history of innovation and invention -- in gratifying detail. No single topic is more than four pages long, so you can read many before your coffee gets cold. And you may be ordering a second cup, because this book is difficult to put down. You can read by region, or scan the table of contents for anything that looks interesting; The Escher Museum in the Netherlands, the Experimental Breeder Reactor #1 in Idaho, the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, the Mendel Museum of Genetics in the Czech Republic, and 124 other notable places and times where something geeky and technologically important happened. I used to wonder how and where the speed of light was first measured. Now I know.

John has filled the pages not only with a discussion of interesting brief historical notes, but also with his own diagrams and explanations of every principle and discovery. He has a direct, straightforward, and clear writing style. And best of all for geeky readers like myself, he clearly knows what he's talking about. Unlike some authors who are disconcerting because you sense that they're not sure of their facts, you won't find any of that here. The technical content is precise and will satisfy the geekiest among us.

This book would be a bargain at twice Amazon's price of only $20. So think about getting two. Even if you are not a geek, you'll love this -- really. And I'll bet you know a geek who would value this just as much!
24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
So much more than a travel guide! June 9 2009
By Roberta Wood - Published on
Format: Paperback
The Geek Atlas is a travel guide for locating the sites of significant math, technology, and science breakthroughs complete with little icons for each location indicating the availability of food, weather-suitability, and kid-friendliness. But "travel guide" barely begins to describe the wonder contained in the Geek Atlas. I prefer to think of this book as a geography-based survey of awesomely fascinating stuff no one ever told you, but that you'd love to know. Imagine having a smart uncle around to feed your brain tasty tidbits of knowledge. If you'd like to be that uncle, here's your guide. Open the book to any page and I guarantee you'll find a cool story or a neat technical explanation: the molecular structure of penicillin plus an explanation for how it works, the story of the first battery and the chemistry behind it, a thorough and detailed description of the structure and function of the lymphatic system, the temperature of space. Gobs of information about technology and science. I could live without this knowledge, but being a geek myself, I wouldn't want to!

Take, for example, the entry on the Eiffel Tower. From the Geek Atlas we learn that the Eiffel Tower was built with puddle iron "which has a higher carbon content than wrought iron and therefore more tensile strength. Puddle iron is made by mixing the pig iron from a blast furnace with iron oxide (rust) and puddling it (stirring the molten mixture)." The Eiffel Tower section continues with a description of Eiffel's engineering approach to the tower's wind resistance: "In 1885, Eiffel wrote a paper for the French Society of Civil Engineers in which he described the most significant part of the tower's design -- he had eliminated any diagonal bars by ensuring that stress from the wind was transmitted exclusively down the exterior of the tower. This design dictated a specific curving shape." As familiar as the Eiffel Tower seems, I knew none of this!

I love this book. Give it to a curious kid, a dad or mom with kids, or devour its pages on your own. If you're a geek, or a lover of science and tech, this book's for you.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Great book July 14 2009
By Draco Mal Trapnet - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Good book, I like how each location is reviewed and their scientific or geeky break down of the significant role the location has in science. I have shown this book around to some friends who were interested in it. I'll definitely check into this book before I take any cross country trips to makes sure I dont miss something interesting on the way.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
The best travel book EVER!!! July 2 2009
By Marie Curie - Published on
Format: Paperback
I absolutely love this book! Not only does it provide useful information (e.g. what you will see at the location, whether a tour is provided in English, and websites containing more information on how and when to visit), but for each location it provides a section explaining some aspect of science and technology (e.g. how a diesel engine works, or an explanation of iron allotropes). I found it very enjoyable to read, which can't be said for most travel books (at least not the ones I've read). I highly recommend this book to anyone with a passion for science and technology!
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Amusing entertainment...... Jan. 17 2010
By Gilbert N. Riley - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is chock full of factual (scientifically oriented) data. Being an engineer myself I am fascinated by factual information I've never before read.