Exploration and Engineering

In Exploration and Engineering, Erik M. Conway reveals how JPL engineers’ creative technological feats led to major Mars exploration breakthroughs. He takes readers into the heart of the lab’s problem-solving approach and management structure, where talented scientists grappled with technical challenges while also coping, not always successfully, with funding shortfalls, unrealistic schedules, and managerial turmoil.

Collapse of Western Civilization

"The year is 2393, and the world is almost unrecognizable. Clear warnings of climate catastrophe went ignored for decades, leading to soaring temperatures, rising sea levels, widespread drought and—finally—the disaster now known as the Great Collapse in 2093, when the disintegration of the West Antarctica Ice Sheet led to mass migration and a complete reshuffling of the global order. Writing from the Second People’s Republic of China on the 300th anniversary of the Great Collapse, a senior scholar presents a gripping and deeply disturbing account of how the children of the Enlightenment—the political and economic elites of the so-called advanced industrial societies—failed to act, and so brought about the collapse of Western civilization."

Merchants of Doubt

The U.S. scientific community has long led the world in research on public health, environmental science, and other issues affecting the quality of life. Our scientists have produced landmark studies on the dangers of DDT, tobacco smoke, acid rain, and global warming. But at the same time, a small yet potent subset of this community leads the world in vehement denial of these dangers. In their new book, Merchants of Doubt, historians Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway explain how a loose–knit group of high-level scientists, with extensive political connections, ran effective campaigns to mislead the public and deny well-established scientific knowledge over four decades. In seven compelling chapters addressing tobacco, acid rain, the ozone…

Atmospheric Science at NASA: A History

Since the nineteenth century, scientists have attempted to understand the complex processes of the Earth’s atmosphere and the weather created within it. This effort has evolved with the development of new technologies—from the first instrument-equipped weather balloons to multibillion-dollar meteorological satellite and planetary science programs. Erik M. Conway chronicles the history of atmospheric science at NASA, tracing the story from its beginnings in 1958, the International Geophysical Year, through to the present, focusing on NASA’s programs and research in meteorology, stratospheric ozone depletion, and planetary climates and global warming. But the story is not only a scientific one. NASA’s researchers operated within an often…

Blind Landings

When darkness falls, storms rage, fog settles, or lights fail, pilots are forced to make "instrument landings," relying on technology and training to guide them through typically the most dangerous part of any flight. In this original study, Erik M. Conway recounts one of the most important stories in aviation history: the evolution of aircraft landing aids that make landing safe and routine in almost all weather conditions. Discussing technologies such as the Loth leader-cable system, the American National Bureau of Standards system, and, its descendants, the Instrument Landing System, the MIT-Army-Sperry Gyroscope microwave blind landing system, and the MIT Radiation Lab's radar-based Ground Controlled Approach system, Conway interweaves…

High Speed Dreams

In High-Speed Dreams, Erik M. Conway constructs an insightful history that focuses primarily on the political and commercial factors responsible for the rise and fall of American supersonic transport research programs. Conway charts commercial supersonic research efforts through the changing relationships between international and domestic politicians, military/NASA contractors, private investors, and environmentalists. He documents post-World War II efforts at the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics and the Defense Department to generate supersonic flight technologies, the attempts to commercialize these technologies by Britain and the United States during the 1950s and 1960s, environmental campaigns against SST technology in the…

Science and Exploration

A simple question: Which came first, advances in navigation or successful voyages of discovery? A complicated answer: Both and neither. For more than four centuries, scientists and explorers have worked together—sometimes intentionally and sometimes not—in an ongoing, symbiotic partnership. When early explorers brought back exotic flora and fauna from newly discovered lands, scientists were able to challenge ancient authorities for the first time. As a result, scientists not only invented new navigational tools to encourage exploration, but also created a new approach to studying nature, in which observations were more important than reason and authority.

© 2017 Erik M. Conway.