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Where's My Jetpack? [Paperback]

Daniel Wilson
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
List Price: CDN$ 16.95
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Book Description

March 20 2007
It's the 21st century and--let's be honest--things aren't exactly as advertised. Despite predictions of a fully automated, atomic-powered, germ-free Utopia where robot servants cater to our whims, we are not living the future we were promised.

In Where's My Jetpack?, roboticist Daniel H. Wilson takes a hilariously deadpan look at the future we imagined for ourselves. He exposes technologies, spotlights existing prototypes and reveals plans that crashed and burned on the drawing-board. Wilson leads readers beyond the Hammacher Schlemmer catalogue to find cool gadgets in arcane places. And if the technology isn't public, he'll explain how to build, buy or steal it. The 30 entries, spanning topics such as teleportation, space vacations and x-ray specs, push the nostalgia button.


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Where's My Jetpack? + How To Survive A Robot Uprising + How To Build A Robot Army
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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Clinically depressed fans of Star Trek and The Jetsons, take heart: the future you've been dreaming of-ray guns, robot maids, unisex jumpsuits, space vacations-is ready for production. Sort of. That's the premise of this tongue-in-cheek look at all the techno-wonders that 21st century man was promised by sci-fi dreamers of the past. In his introduction, author and robotics expert Wilson (How to Survive a Robot Uprising) sets forth a pledge: "If the technology is possible-even remotely so-this book will lay it out," gamely ignoring "any potentially catastrophic consequences." Happily, this Ph.D. isn't trading in idle speculation; among plenty of jokes and silliness he deals in solid-and fascinating-science. For instance, it turns out that teleportation can work, and in fact already has: exploiting an obscure (and complicated) rule of quantum physics, scientists achieved, under lab conditions, the teleportation of a single photon in 1993. Wilson goes on to explain (or debunk) much-anticipated wonders like robot pets, food pills and cryogenic freezing ("the chance of being reborn in the future as a brain-dead humanoid zombie surely beats having no chance at all"). Though readers of this slim guide may not be inspired to "raise your voice, and demand your personal jetpack," it's got plenty of encouragement and info for frustrated futurists.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Daniel H. Wilson, PhD, (Portland, Oregon) is a columnist for Popular Mechanics and has a degree in Robotics from Carnegie-Mellon. His previous book, How to Survive a Robot Uprising, sold strongly worldwide.

Richard Horne (101 Things to Do Before You Die) provides the witty illustrations.


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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Where's My Jetpack? Aug. 10 2011
By Naturak
Format:Paperback
Where are all those wonderful things we were promised in the future... 40 years ago?
The author is a scientist who gives a clear explanation of the current status of a number of items such as jet packs, cloaking devices and living on the moon. There are a few surprises as many now exist but they are very expensive and not available to the public.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Build your own hoverboard! May 7 2007
Format:Paperback
Robots, cyborgs, and strange planets with their own languages - it sometimes appears that anything and everything is possible in books. Real life, by comparison, seems so drab. Where, demands Daniel Wilson, is the stuff of wonder, all that cool gear we were guaranteed? Where's My Jetpack? A Guide to the Amazing Science Fiction Future That Never Arrived is a nonfiction book for kids and adults that itemizes the sleek chrome Tomorrowland we were meant to inherit. How close have we come to attaining our Jetsons-style destiny? Sadly, not very, concludes the author, who writes about even complex science with an enviable competence and humour. Find out how to build your own hoverboard, learn how close we are to (finally) developing reliable rebreathers, and get the inside scoop on how to book your own berth on a revamped zeppelin. It's none of it as cool as we were promised, but hey, at least we haven't let the robots take over yet.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.8 out of 5 stars  23 reviews
22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining and informative, but needs photos. May 17 2007
By Arthur M. Bullock - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is classified as humor, and indeed it is very amusing. The ironic tone is maintained well, and the occasional jokes have a pretty good batting average at really being funny. However, the book is also quite factual in its discussions of the current state of progress on the various "Wonders of Tomorrow". Since so much of this involves actual robots, rocket planes, jetpacks, etc., that exist today (or at least existed at one time), you really want to see photos of these things. There are none at all in the book.

By the way, I'm still waiting for the solar-powered electro-suspension car that I saw on the old "Disneyland" TV show.
29 of 37 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A survey of ironic future-tech May 16 2007
By M. A. Plus - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
You have to hand it to yesterday's science fiction writers and futurologists: They portrayed futures where people got off their butts and did interesting things in the physical world: flying around in jetpacks, building underwater cities with the help of artificial gills and trained dolphins, colonizing the moon, etc. These visionary projects seem a far cry from the allegedly "futuristic" stuff popular in the real early 21st Century, like sitting in front of your computer all day and pretending you have a "second life" online. Wilson explores the current state of the more interesting technologies from futures past, demonstrates some of their weaknesses and impracticalities, and points to individuals, companies and organizations still working on things sort of like what people my age (late 40's) and older remember hearing in our youth about the wonders of the 21st Century.

Wilson's book could have benefitted from some better fact checking, however. Specifially in his chapter on "Cryogenic Freezing," he erroneously states that "dozens of companies" offer cryonics services. In fact, only two organizations that I know of -- Alcor Foundation in Scottsdale, Arizona, and the Cryonics Institute in Clinton Township, Michigan -- perform cryonic suspensions and storage of patients. And they don't run as "companies," which implies profit-seeking; instead they run as not-for-profit organizations that stay in existence in defiance of market signals, not unlike progressive talk radio in the U.S.

Wilson also erroneously implies that the cryogenic dewars which store cryonics patients need electricity to maintain their liquid nitrogen temperature, when in fact they work passively, without electricity, like thermos bottles. And he ignores or doesn't know about progress in the vitrification of the human brain, which bypasses the formation of damaging ice crystals.

These and some other mistakes aside, Wilson has performed a service by adding to the growing body of literature that asks, "Why does the real world in the 21st Century look so lame?" He also encourages the reader who wants these kinds of things to become a lot more assertive about acquiring them. "Get out there, raise your voice, and demand your personal jetpack -- the magnificent future of humankind depends on it."
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Science humor Aug. 14 2007
By R. Howell - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Carnagie Mellon University PhD, degree in robotics, author of "How to Survive the Robot Uprising" = Daniel Wilson. Wilson takes another foray into the world of books by giving us the ever important question of 'Where's My Jetpack?'. Science fiction of the past predicted so many ideas for our future on surefire technologies that would come to pass... but didn't. Wilson looks into a plethora of these ideas and just how far they have progressed to feasibility and marketability. The answer is a big fat zero. Wilson keeps it simple for the mass audience, meaning we don't require PhDs ourselves to get the jist of what the author is conveying. Wilson gives us updates on projects and shows us the close-to-completion, won't-happens, and the looming-on-the-horizon of the old futurama ideas.

There's plenty of light humor mixed into the writings and some are pretty bad jokes. It's a light and fanciful book to read and will only take a few hours to complete. He covers topics ranging from jetpacks, flying cars, hoverboards, robot servants, smart houses, underwater and lunar cities, civilian space travel, ray guns, holograms, cloaking devices, food & no-sleep pills, cryogenics, and more. The book itself has blue foiled page edges and cover; the illustrations are largely silhouettes and simple line drawings but satisfactory. Overall, it's quick to read and will make you think of all the missed opportunities of the past science fiction world proposed by the likes of Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein, and Tomorrowland.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Congratulations DOCTOR Daniel H. Wilson! May 6 2007
By viktor_57 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Since his last book, "How To Survive a Robot Uprising: Tips on Defending Yourself Against the Coming Rebellion" Daniel H. Wilson has apparently satisfied his Ph.D. requirements and his committee members at Carnegie Mellon University, despite having published a less-than-scholarly-but-still-quite-helpful book for a general (and still-woefully-unprepared-for-a-robotic-rebellion) audience. Congratulations! In his new book, "Where's My Jetpack?: A Guide to the Amazing Science Fiction Future that Never Arrived", roboticist Wilson takes the same tongue-in-cheek (vocal processor-in-speaker?) approach to amazing-science-fiction-future technologies as he took to surviving a robot rebellion, combining real-world science with technically feasible technologies to come up with practical suggestions and advice.

From flying cars to ray guns to food pills to x-ray specs, Wilson takes 30 futuristic technologies we have yet to enjoy on a large scale and discusses the current state of the art, the science behind it, and the obstacles preventing widespread implementation. Breezy, informal and yet very informative, "Where's My Jetpack?" provides a fun romp through most of the amazing technologies which have become staples in science fiction but not in real life. Each chapter stands on its own, with some technological promises closer to being realized, such as household robots and ray guns, than others, such as teleportation of humans or moon colonies. Richard Horne provides bold illustrations perfectly complementing the retro-futurist subjects of the book. Always enjoyable, "Where's My Jetpack" may be one of the few books by a Carnegie Mellon Ph.D. that doesn't require a Ph.D. to read.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A very brief overview of pseudo-futuristic inventions July 15 2007
By J. Simon - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This could have been an excellent book. The idea is great, an overview of how real-life science has dealt with supposedly futuristic inventions such as flying cars, underwater hotels and jetpacks. The author who has a PhD in Robotics is obviously qualified to write such a book. The problem is that this book is written as a comedy book not a science book. Instead of interestng details relating to the subject, the reader is given bad jokes and only minimal scientific discussion. Although the book is nearly 200 pages in length, it is more like a short pamphlet with its giant print and plentiful illustrations. Overall, it was still interesting reading, but it could have been so much better.
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