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Ignition!: An Informal History of Liquid Rocket Propellants Hardcover – May 23, 2018
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About the Author
ISAAC ASIMOV (1920 - 1992) was an American author and professor of biochemistry at Boston University, best known for his works of science fiction and for his popular science books. A prolific writer, he published more than 500 books, most notably the science fiction novels I, Robot and Foundation, and the popular science works, Guide to Science and Understanding Physics.
- Item Weight : 12 ounces
- Hardcover : 302 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0813599172
- ISBN-13 : 978-0813599175
- Product Dimensions : 5.19 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
- Publisher : Rutgers University Press Classics; None Edition (May 23, 2018)
- Language: : English
- Reading level : 18 and up
- Best Sellers Rank: #644,360 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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The book is 5"x8.5", honestly about the size of a paperback. The font is super tiny and I think many readers will not have a pleasant time reading this.
I mean, seriously, if you're going to charge A HUNDRED DOLLARS, at least make an attempt to make the book a little bigger and nicer. This is ridiculous.
For a $30 digital edition of a book long out of print, I had much higher expectations.
It covers the history of rocket propellant research from the late 1800s to about 1980 through the eyes of a propellant chemist. The writing is engaging and humorous.
For those interested in the specifics of propellant chemistry, this book is a fantastic starter. Note that this is a history, not a lab manual. The author spends plenty of time talking about why a particular chemical works and why others don't. Chemical handling problems are discussed along with spine-tingling accounts of accidents. There were a few fairly tedious sections where the specifics of a particular family of propellants were explored but these sections are easily skipped without serious impact on the following text.
Readers are strongly encouraged not to try this at home because everything in this book is designed to go bang in a very big way. There is more than enough information provided in this book to get started with making liquid propellants. However, even experienced chemists accustomed to working in this field are hurt or killed. DO NOT TRY AT HOME.
I learned a lot about the practical side of rocketry from this book I'd never known before and consider it a valuable read for anyone interested in rockets, space travel, NASA in the 1960s, the cold war, or the hard sciences.
This review is definitely for the paperback edition. It seems that people aren't too happy with hardcover and kindle editions, FYI.
I loved this book.
It is a hilarious rendition of the history of liquid and solid propellants.
I sent the info on this book to other friends who work for NASA as well.
We all were amazed at the courage and inventiveness of so many brave and sometimes mad scientists who devoted their lives [and some lost their lives or parts of anatomy] to free us temporarily from Earth`s gravity.
Top reviews from other countries
This is the 60's, when jet planes looked like proper jet planes, man had yet to walk on the moon, and flying cars were just around the corner. A small, elite bunch of scientists are happily mixing oxidisers and fuels together in an attempt to solve problems such as "How to get that infeasibly large aircraft off an aircraft carrier"
This is the story of one man, a survivor, with all digits intact but interesting eyebrows, battling the Army, the Navy, the Air-force and a few competitors for the crown of making something that didn't explode if you moved it, didn't explode if you stored it, and memorably, didn't explode if you shone a torch at it.
Some of the stories he tells are hilarious; some literally tragic in multiple horrific ways and some of squirming sales reps forced to make fools out of themselves because 'we need to pretend our product is special' but are talking to engineers that 'Know'.
This is a complex subject with a lot of chemical names - and few structural diagrams except when the compounds got really crazy-weird as some did; perhaps this is for the best. Hence you will either need a really good memory for what 'UDMH' / 'IRFNA (red fuming nitric acid)' is - or consult the helpful glossary at the back (a lot). At one point I thought about copying the glossary onto separate sheets for quick consultation. Higher education in Chemistry helps...though only do much as the chemistry is so specialist you either know it very specifically or little more than anything you learned about the reactivity scale of elements (Fluorine as the master) at school is going to help before you start reading. A lot of the challenges were physical (how to stop the fuel freezing at above -56C this being a military requirement for example) or how to get the fuel to 'light' smoothly and political (programs start; money is awarded; companies pile in, fashions change and interests move on to another program that starts).
As the author states he expresses his own opinion. He does this fearlessly as one might expect from a person now retired from his senior position with many of his more incompetent - or simply unlucky - contemporaries dead (literally).
I'll probably be sending this book out for Christmas presents to some of my more geeky friends in December 2019 having read it myself in 2018.
This book is written to make you laugh and learn. But when you stop laughing you realise "holy cow, someone was burned alive screaming from contact with Chlorine Triflouride." Truly an entertaining and informative read, let's all be grateful today we aren't toying with this mad science anymore now that we've settled on a few, sane propellants
Everyone's interest should be piqued by the statement at the beginning that the chemists and engineers that designed the liquid rocket fuels up the the early 70's when this was originally written were "beyond insane". It was certainly a hairy business, and one wonders what modern safe working practice would have accomplished in the time. However this work was undertaken in the darkest days of the cold war when there was a more complex balance of risks.
The book uses a bit of inorganic chemistry to explain what happens, but nothing that someone that did chemistry to the British O level (taken at 16) 50 years ago cannot follow. For those not familiar with basic chemistry the book is still an interesting read and quite understandable if you skip the chemical equations.
It is well worth reading, particularly, if like me, you have a geeky interest in all things to do with science, engineering and the military history of the cold war era.