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The Science of James Bond: From Bullets to Bowler Hats to Boat Jumps, the Real Technology Behind 007's Fabulous Films [Paperback]

Lois H. Gresh

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Book Description

Aug. 1 2006
The science behind the gadgets, exploits, and enemies of the world's greatest spy

From the sleek Aston Martin that spits out bullets, nails, and passengers at the push of a button to the microjet that makes hairpin turns to avoid a heat-seeking missile, the science and technology of James Bond films have kept millions of movie fans guessing for decades. Are these amazing feats and gadgets truly possible?

The Science of James Bond takes you on a fascinating excursion through the true science that underlies Bond's most fantastic and off-the-wall accoutrements. The acclaimed science-fiction authors Lois Gresh and Robert Weinberg provide a highly entertaining, informative look at the real-world achievements and brilliant imaginations behind such singular Bond gadgets as the buzz-saw Rolex, the car that turns into a submarine, and the ever-popular rocket-firing cigarette. They examine hundreds of Q Division's ingenious inventions; analyze Bond's astonishing battles beneath the earth and sea, in the skies, and even in outer space; and ask intriguing questions that lead to enlightening discussions about the limits of science, the laws of nature, and the future of technology.

Filled with entertaining anecdotes from Bond movie shoots and supplemented with ""tech"" ratings for all of the Bond movies, The Science of James Bond separates scientific fact from film fantasy--with some very surprising results.

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From Publishers Weekly

Everyone knows which secret agent drives a car that turns into a boat at the flick of a switch, leaves fake fingerprints and, of course drinks his martinis shaken, not stirred: Bond. James Bond. Gresh and Weinberg, having surveyed the science of supervillains and superheroes, turn to Bond and all the wonderful toys conjured up for him by Q, as well as the weapons created by his enemies. They explain how "dirty bombs" work while noting that Goldfinger's plot to contaminate Fort Knox with one wouldn't work, because the radiation would turn gold into liquid mercury. Biological agents were also used by one of Bond's foes. Fortunately, Hugo Drax's Moonraker scheme to destroy humankind with a poison made from orchids was fairy tale stuff. Gresh and Weinberg's book goes up against last year's Death Rays, Jet Packs, Stunts, & Supercars by Barry Parker,, but they write better and their book is more accessible to Bond fans who've forgotten their high school science. Readers might check out the appendix on the Bond martini first, so they'll have something to sip while enjoying this lively read. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

From the authors of The Science of Supervillains (2004) and The Science of Superheroes (2005) comes this lighthearted examination of the real-world truths behind the fantasy world of 007. Can a tossed bowler hat really decapitate a man? Can a car really fly, or turn into a submarine? Can a simple wristwatch do all the wondrous things Bond's watches have done over the years, from garroting people to detonating bombs to shooting out laser beams? The authors take none of this too seriously: the book is written in the spirit of the Bond films, with a wink and a nod. But there is a wealth of fascinating information here for fans of Fleming's superspy, and some readers might be surprised at just how many of the fictional gadgets were based on, or evolved into, real pieces of hardware. The book is being published to coincide with the release of the new Bond flick, Casino Royale, so expect some demand. David Pitt
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.3 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Unfortunately, a bit of false advertising Dec 12 2006
By D. E. Erbas White - Published on
I just finished reading this book, and while it has its amusing and informative bits, it is apparent that the publisher and/or editor did not bother to read the book before making the covers shots, and even the subtitle. This books is titled, "The Science of James Bond", with the subtitle of "From Bullets to Bowler Hats to Boat Jumps, the Real Technology Behind 007's Fabulous Films". The cover shot on the book shows a wristwatch, a bowler hat, and a boat jump scene from "Live and Let Die". The wristwatch appears to be too cheap to be a 'genuine Bond' item, but let's give them the benefit of the doubt. Despite the blurb and the photo, there is absolutely no mention of the bowler hat in the book, and only two (throwaway - no pun intended) mentions of Oddjob in the book. I was expecting a discussion of the derby, such as what could it have been made of, how heavy would it have to be, and even (as the Booklist review seems to indicate, showing that the writer ALSO didn't read the book) if it could decapitate a man.

Moving on to the subject of boat jumps, let me describe, in sum total, how much the authors have to say about them (and let me be the first to admit that the "Live and Let Die" boat chase scenes were among my favorites): Nothing.

That's right, not a single word, phrase, or discussion about any of this -- not the technology needed to film them, the stunt men, nothing.

There's quite a bit more wrong with the book, even if taken as 'tongue in cheek', because it's obvious that the authors (who claim to be science-aware) don't understand even basic facts. For example, they go on and on (over several pages) about how Blofeld's spaceship in "You Only Live Twice" is unrealistic because, after all, it wouldn't be able to 'stop' in space, as it needs to go 17,000 MPH to be in orbit, etc. They completely ignore relative speeds -- the Blofeld spaceship only needs to go slightly faster/slower than the target ship, not thousands of miles per hour different. I won't go into the whole 'orbital mechanics' that happen with rendezvous in space (most of which are counter-intuitive), because the authors don't touch on it at all. The authors go on and on about how they can't understand how (at the time the movie was released, in the sixties) NASA wouldn't have 'seen' the spaceship on radar, without understanding how much work had gone into being able to track vehicles that we KNEW about (let alone unknown ones). And there is only a passing reference, several chapters later, about the most 'incredible' aspect of this spaceship -- that it's able to land vertically, under power, on land.

The blurb on the back cover of the book even talks about the "ever-popular rocket-firing cigarette." Of course, if you're anticipating reading anything about that in the book, rest assured -- you won't. It isn't there. And while they spend pages and pages explaining bullet calibers, and why Bond has a Walther PPK, there is nary a mention of one of the most fascinating 'gadget guns' in any of the movies, the 'golden gun' used by Scaramanga in "The Man with the Golden Gun".

In short, this seems to be a somewhat rambling discourse on logical flaws in the Bond movies, with a bit of 'science' thrown in, but it doesn't hold together well, and I can't help but feel cheated by the comparison of the book cover blurbs and the actual content. It doesn't make me feel good to realize that I spent more time reading this book than the publisher did...
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Errors and Plugs Dec 22 2006
By JeremiahA - Published on
Please do not waste your time reading this book. It is soon obvious that the authors have done very little research into their topic. Some of the obvious errors are: Ian Fleming did not write the screenplay for "A View to a Kill" as the authors claim, the wristwatch garrote appeared in the film "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" which the authors fail to mention, and the authors must have gone into the kitchen for a snack while watching "Goldeneye" since they seemed to have missed a Russian fighter crashing into the Russian facility. Since the authors base some of their reasoning on some of these errors, their final conclusions fall a bit flat.

My other complaint is how often the authors plug another one of their books. Several times in "The Science of James Bond," when the authors have introduced a field of science, they drop the topic, explaining that the reader will have to find more information on the particular field by referencing another title by the authors. To me, this reeks of laziness and commercialism.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 007 Gets A Reality Check Jan. 24 2010
By Matthew Kresal - Published on
Having been a James Bond fan for sometime now, I was intrigued when I first saw and then bought a copy of The Science Of James Bond. The Bond films are famous for their fantastic gadgets, villains and plots so the idea of someone looking at exactly how plausible they really are is an intriguing notion to say the least. The execution of that idea, as the book shows, is mostly an well written, tongue in cheek reality check for 007.

As you might expect the book is mostly about the science and technology used in the long running film series (or at least its first twenty films from 1962's Doctor No to 2002's Die Another Day). Here the book excels. Writers Lois H. Gresh and Robert Weinberg seem to have done their homework as they present the scientific, technical and even historical reality of a whole multitude of gadgets, villains and plots. The results can be utterly surprising at times such as the reality of the background of A View To A Kill's Max Zorin or exactly how plausible is the Goldeneye EMP weapon from the film of that name. Other examples include the writers also look at two of the urban legends born out of 1964's Goldfinger, how plausible Goldfinger's plot really is and taking many of the plot points of 1967's You Only Live Twice to task (including the Volcano Base itself). All the while the writers manage to stay both technical and readable, especially with their tongue in cheek prose style. The result, on this side of things anyway, is a readable reality check of the James Bond films.

The book does have issues though. While the writers have done their homework on the science and technology, their knowledge of the films themselves seems to be utterly lacking at times. There are numerous goofs such as, for example, listing Bond creator Ian Fleming with writing the film version of A View To A Kill, despite it having been written twenty years after his death, the writers literally missing whole plot points for Goldeneye or listing the novel Fleming was working on at the time of his death as On Her Majesty's Secret Service (when it was really The Man With The Golden Gun). The writers also take several importunity's to plug their previous books in The Science Of series such as into the section on the Little Nellie auto-gyro for example. There's also a whole list of other gadgets including the "bowler hats", "boat jumps" and "the ever-popular rocket firing cigarette" that the book mentions on its cover that aren't covered in any size, shape or form within the book itself. Considering how well written the rest of the book is these things all come as rather disappointing.

Overall The Science Of James Bond an enjoyable and at times even surprising accounting of the reality of quite a few of the gadgets, villains and plots seen in the first twenty James Bond films. Yet the numerous factual errors on the Bond films, the unnecessary plugs of other The Science Of books and the lack of items included on the book's own cover do show that the book has issues though. It may not be perfect or even essential reading for Bond fans but if you're looking to cover the world of 007 a reality check look no further.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Very Misleading and Shabby Way to Capitalize on 007 May 30 2012
By Artimus Maximus - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Upon reading the description on this book and then reading the reviews I should have paid more attention to the reviews. What we have here is a book by two mediocre writers who were inspired by their greedy publisher to debunk the wonderful world of escapism fantasy that is James Bond. Many items listed on the cover are not even mentioned in the book. What a big RIP-OFF! I feel sorry for the writers who had to put their names on this tome. Check out the other books that these two have written and you will see the literary scam either their publisher or they are perpetrating. I love James Bond and I have followed his movies since I was a teenager and I know my subject, the errors that they made in writing this are unforgivable.
3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Informative and Great Fun! Nov. 29 2006
By G. Poirier - Published on
Reading a book like this can give one the urge to watch the Bond movies yet again. Although the authors review the James Bond movies with a critical scientific eye, it is obvious that they are genuine 007 fans. Some of the technology, big and small, portrayed in the Bond movies are discussed in very accessible and engaging prose. Some scientific ideas are discussed form basic principles, but in a clear and completely painless way. Thus readers can learn a bit of science along the way. However, I did stumble upon an error. On pages 99-100, Geiger counter readings are discussed with the intention of establishing the total radiation dose received by Bond due to radioactive contamination on the surface of his body. The one essential element that is missing from this otherwise quite accurate and illuminating discussion is the time factor. A Geiger counter measures a count rate which is a measure of the number of radiation particles impinging upon it per unit time. If the Geiger indicates a reading of 72.8 (no dimensions given in the movie), it is clear that this reading must include time in its units. Thus, in keeping with the units given in the book, the reading could have been 72.8 mSv/hour. Consequently, assuming that this figure also represents the rate at which Bond's whole body is absorbing the radiation dose (which, by the way, is not usually the same as the Geiger counter reading), the total dose received by Bond would be the dose rate multiplied by the time during which he was contaminated. So, for example, if his body surface was contaminated for, say, 10 minutes, then his total dose would only be about 12 mSv. This minor point aside, this is a wonderful book that could be enjoyed by anyone - especially Bond fans.

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