The Department of Mad Scientists: How DARPA Is Remaking Our World, from the Internet to Artificial Limbs

The Department of Mad Scientists How DARPA Is Remaking Our World from the Internet to Artificial Limbs The first ever inside look at DARPA the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency the maverick and controversial group whose futuristic work has had amazing civilian and military applications from th

  • Title: The Department of Mad Scientists: How DARPA Is Remaking Our World, from the Internet to Artificial Limbs
  • Author: Michael Belfiore
  • ISBN: 9780061577932
  • Page: 406
  • Format: Hardcover
  • The first ever inside look at DARPA the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency the maverick and controversial group whose futuristic work has had amazing civilian and military applications, from the Internet to GPS to driverless carsAmerica s greatest idea factory isn t Bell Labs, Silicon Valley, or MIT s Media Lab It s the secretive, Pentagon led agency known as DARPAThe first ever inside look at DARPA the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency the maverick and controversial group whose futuristic work has had amazing civilian and military applications, from the Internet to GPS to driverless carsAmerica s greatest idea factory isn t Bell Labs, Silicon Valley, or MIT s Media Lab It s the secretive, Pentagon led agency known as DARPA Founded by Eisenhower in response to Sputnik and the Soviet space program, DARPA mixes military officers with sneaker wearing scientists, seeking paradigm shifting ideas in varied fields from energy, robotics, and rockets to peopleless operating rooms, driverless cars, and planes that can fly halfway around the world in just hours DARPA gave birth to the Internet, GPS, and mind controlled robotic arms Its geniuses define future technology for the military and the rest of us.Michael Belfiore was given unprecedented access to write this first ever popular account of DARPA Visiting research sites across the country, he watched scientists in action and talked to the creative, fearlessly ambitious visionaries working for and with DARPA Much of DARPA s work is classified, and this book is full of material that has barely been reported in the general media In fact, DARPA estimates that only 2 percent of Americans know much of anything about the agency This fascinating read demonstrates that DARPA isn t so much frightening as it is inspiring it is our future.

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      406 Michael Belfiore
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      Posted by:Michael Belfiore
      Published :2019-01-11T00:25:26+00:00


    About “Michael Belfiore

    • Michael Belfiore

      Michael Belfiore is an author, journalist, and speaker on the innovations shaping our world He has written about game changing technologies for the New York Times, Popular Science, Popular Mechanics, Smithsonian, Air Space, Financial Times, and other outlets He is an International Aerospace Journalist of the Year Award finalist.Michael has appeared as a commentator on the Fox Business Network, Bloomberg Radio and TV, CNN, CTV s Canada AM, NPR s Marketplace and Morning Edition, Showtime s Penn Teller BS , and C SPAN He has delivered his message of change to audiences at Noblis, Medtronic, the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, Rutgers University, and other organizations.Michael lives in New York s Hudson River Valley with his two daughters.



    897 thoughts on “The Department of Mad Scientists: How DARPA Is Remaking Our World, from the Internet to Artificial Limbs

    • Shallow and uncritical.'s prompt for review text includes the language "what I learned from this book"; my answer to that is "not nearly as much as I'd hoped".This title is mostly gee-whiz science writing with nearly all of the content that would be interesting to a scientist or engineer elided and replaced with biographical profiles of DARPA program managers and directors. For variety, he includes you-are-there stories of how he cleverly obtained entré to DARPA principals--entirely on their te [...]


    • 3.5 stars. "The Department of Mad Scientists" is the story about DARPA, which is an arm of the Department of Defense. DARPA has existed for a long time and has been sort of the research and development arm of the American military. Although it's part of DOD, a lot of the experiments and research and development that the group has done has helped to create some of the biggest technological advances the world has seen in the past few decades. Some of their projects have included the Internet and a [...]


    • I love to browse the new shelves of nonfiction books at my local library. One recent title that caught my attention because of it's goofy title was The Department of Mad Scientists by Michael Belfiore.The book covers many of the recent advances by the Defense Advance Research Projects Agency, some which have made their way into civilian applications and others that are perhaps on the horizon. There are chapters on artificial limbs, the internet, GPS and driverless cars.The chapter that made me p [...]


    • A book that SHOULD be a lot more interesting than it actually is, it's best passages concern the founding of the agency, its tumultuous early history and its role in the Information revolution. It quickly devolves, however, into a catalog of flashy demos, and features some strangely egocentric extended passages by the author (I'm so sorry it was difficult to contact the Darpa public relations office. Being a writer sounds hard.) Finally, while tele-surgery, artificial limbs and ramjets are inter [...]



    • I've always been aware of some of the DARPA history just from being aware of the beginnings of the ARPANET (now known as the Internet) and I knew they were into a lot of other interesting projects, but I have come away from this book with a lot more respect for the organization. Respect may be understating it, I think I'm in awe of how the federal government can manage to create something so amazing, and under the auspices of the Department of Defense no less. "DARPA is a national treasure".The [...]


    • The topic was excellent and overdue. The treatment, I thought was rather sophomoric and spent time on superficial aspects. Written by a Wired magazine journalist, it is about the same quality of writing - a quick flight over a State, but never enough to really see the State, much less interact with the State understand what it really has and is.


    • The author had previously written "Rocketeers", about the roots and rise of the commercial rocket industry. The discovery that DARPA was a major customer for one of these companies (XCOR) led him to research resulting in "The Department of Mad Scientists". Besides the obvious, the book covers Belfiore's strategies and struggles to gain access to DARPA personnel for interviews -- as well as his eventual partial success. I use the word "partial" because many of DARPA's projects require Top Secret [...]


    • If you wish you see some conspiracy development in this book, you would be disappointed. This book is talking about how DARPA was established same time as NASA and it has became a department where they are not only focus on Space programs, overall GPS, internet, medical robots such as Davinci, artificial limbs, Xcor (not SpaceX), voice recognition to type out as text, AI development, autopilot carsc.The last chapter focus on future energy and its main purpose is the be able to get rid of the dep [...]


    • A well-told story of a little known government agency that has had and is likely to continue to have an important impact on the world and how we live. I think many of us are aware that DARPA was responsible for bringing the Internet into being, but they are doing so much more. I grieved when Bell Labs was sold with Lucent to the French firm Alcatel. I've been frustrated in my dealings on behalf start-ups with IBM's Watson Labs, with their bureaucracy and "Not invented here" attitude. It was surp [...]


    • I selected this book based on the sub-title ("How DARPA is Remaking Our World"), not because I had read the author's previous book, "Rocketeers". In general it was well-written and researched. I am not sure if it is because Belfiore writes mostly for shorter media (blogs, articles, and so on), but I found the book to be a bit "breezy" and a quick read: not quite as "meaty" as I would have hoped for.But, the subject matter (i.e. the projects he reports on and the organization itself) are both ver [...]


    • Two stars, and not because it is badly written, but because it was obviously written as blatant propaganda, a "recruitment tool" in the words of the DARPA head. Like all things bellicose and nationalistic, the DARPA functions as a primary beneficiary and functionary of "American exceptionalism." Yes, they are at the cutting edge of science, but science pinned to perversity as a means of better fighting the next war (not, of course, preventing the next war, but assuring that in any outcome, the g [...]


    • This is a frustrating book.On one hand, it talks about some of the coolest innovations coming down the pipe from an agency that's made its reputation on cool innovations, such as GPS and the internet. I found myself excited as hell as the author walked us through--at a very high, undetailed level--things like artificial limbs, on-site operating robots, self-driving cars, and fossil fuel replacements, to name a few. It's fascinating to find out someone is turning this science fiction stuff into r [...]


    • An inside look into DARPA, specifically following some of the agencies more successful projects. The book discusses the origins of DARPA - basically after WWII, there was a lot of power grabbing to see who would develop America's space program. The forerunner as DARPA temporarily took on this challenge. One of the reasons it was able to find the day of light was that it was specifically structured as a government research agency leveraging the free market, which appealed to Eisenhower. After NAS [...]


    • While I enjoyed the beginning of the book when the author talked about the past projects done by DARPA, the rest of the book did not seem exactly coherent. While I understand the nature of projects in research and industry, the authors introduced too many personnels and the story was lost (I spent most of the time trying to remember who does what project). Some of the projects mentioned were also not exactly ahead of the curve anymore. As for the idea of DARPA itself, it is troubling to see that [...]


    • This was an interesting and rare look at DARPA, the governmental arm where research leads to new discoveries. They are really secretive, so this examination of some of their recent, unclassified projects is a rare thing. We get to learn about biomechanical prosthetic technology for the injured, automated medical treatment, self-driving cars, and multiple-times-faster-than-the-speed-of-sound scramjets. In between the cracks of these stories, we learn about the history of the DARPA organization. A [...]


    • This book was definitely a geeky pleasure for me. I read it and just enjoyed hearing about all these crazy technologies that were being developed, which was awesome. I was particularly excited to read about the autonomous car program, because for most of my five years at Stanford, I walked past those autonomous cars sitting outside the Mechanical Engineering Research Laboratory everyday (some of these cars are now being worked on at Google) (also, it makes the grad students "driving" the cars re [...]


    • A good read on the true history of DARPA and introduces some very interesting people and projects. It makes one appreciate just how unlikely it's establishment was, and therefore just how much of a fortunate 'accident' the world-changing results of its work have been.However, I felt this could have been a much better book if it actually delved deeper into the science and technologies. Perhaps showing the authors bias (a journalist), every time the narrative came close to getting into fascinating [...]


    • The story of DARPA, a defense agency created out of the space race, tries to keep the USA at technologies cutting edge. This book is a collection of what feel like long essays about different aspects and people of DARPA. What bothered me about this book was a lack of critique of spending and programs. Every program is grand and for the greater good. The research continues mutually assured destruction. DARPA researches a weapon, someone develops a defense, DARPA develops a defense, someone create [...]


    • Very intriguing portrait of the beginning of NASA, the internet, Cold War arms build up and more. Would I recommend this to a friend? For sure. If you like to read Wired Magazine or Engadget on the web you'll likely dig this. Very cool in terms of history of the space program in US and how the space race led to huge government investment in technology research leading to among other things, the Internet as we know it today! Chapters on artificial limbs blew me away also. The nice thing about thi [...]


    • The story of DARPA, a defense agency created out of the space race, tries to keep the USA at technologies cutting edge. This book is a collection of what feel like long essays about different aspects and people of DARPA. What bothered me about this book was a lack of critique of spending and programs. Every program is grand and for the greater good. The research continues mutually assured destruction. DARPA researches a weapon, someone develops a defense, DARPA develops a defense, someone create [...]


    • Of course, there are a lot of acronyms in this book - so many that they're hard to remember even after they're written out. Plus a lot of people to keep straightThe way that DARPA is run is interesting. I wouldn't know if the management style makes it better at what it does than other organizations are, but according to this book, it has a lot of accomplishments. I think those accomplishments could have been gone through at less length, and an organization chart for DARPA would have been helpful [...]


    • This is a fantastic look at a government organization that has been responsible for creating some of the technologies that now shape our everyday lives like GPS and the Internet. It also provides insight into some of the projects currently underway such as self-driving cars and hypersonic jets and into what the world of tomorrow might look like. Well written, easy to follow, and incredibly interesting I couldn't put this book down.


    • I will update my review when I am done, but this book is really, really fascinating. It is about the history and projects done at DARPA. This is a little known government agency in the defense department where scientists and engineers can come do very futuristic projects with no red tape. It has been very eye opening to see just how much of our modern technology has come out of this department. It is well written and very engaging. I highly recommend it.


    • This is a fascinating read about DARPA and how they have shaped our lives, without us even knowing it. It's interesting and a little disconcerting to see how much of our everyday technology has roots in military technology. If you're interested in where technology is invented and the processes that happen behind closed doors, this is a highly recommended read.


    • The story of Darpa told through a look at several important projects over the years, including the development of prosthetics, DarpaNet, the predecessor of the Internet, diverless robotic vehicles, hypersonic transport vehicles, and alternative energy development projects. A fascinating and inspiring story.


    • I have bought this book twice both times as presents for guys with a tech bent. Overall good book reads like separate magazine length stories in the sections which describe the different projects which was appreciated by the two readers who got this as a gift. I found it a little rah rah america but I suppose that is to be expected given the subject matter.


    • This book has some interesting anecdotes about rejects from DARPA, but the whole thing can be summarized with, "They fund projects that no one else can or will." Oh, and the author had never heard of DARPA before. There was a little too much about how great the author was at getting through the secrecy walls. As an engineer, DARPA would be a really cool place to work.


    • What an amazing topic and series of subjects this book discusses. The chapter on battlefield Trauma Pods blew my mind with the possibilities. Probem is, it's incredibly, depressingly dully narrated. The writer wrote a total of two sentences that could be considered jokes. Hey bud, loosen up a little! In more energetic hands, this could have been a masterpiece, instead it's only a quite good book.


    • The first half is quickly paced and mostly well-done. The second half seemed to run out of steam. Still, Belfiore deserves credit for shining light on an organization that provides a pretty consistent high ROI for a government agency.


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