Inviting Disaster by James R. Chiles
Lessons from the Edge of Technology

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Combining captivating storytelling with eye-opening findings, Inviting Disaster delves inside some of history's worst catastrophes in order to show how increasingly "smart" systems leave us wide open to human tragedy.

Weaving a dramatic narrative that explains how breakdowns in these systems result in such disasters as the chain reaction crash of the Air France Concorde to the meltdown at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station, Chiles vividly demonstrates how the battle between man and machine may be escalating beyond manageable limits -- and why we all have a stake in its outcome.

Included in this edition is a special introduction providing a behind-the-scenes look at the World Trade Center catastrophe. Combining firsthand accounts of employees' escapes with an in-depth look at the structural reasons behind the towers' collapse, Chiles addresses the question, Were the towers "two tall heroes" or structures with a fatal flaw?


About James R. Chiles

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James R. Chiles began writing about technology and history while a student at the University of Texas Law School. His first piece was a 1979 "Texas Monthly" article on the Pantex nuclear weapons assembly plant in Amarillo, Texas. He began writing features for "Smithsonian" in 1983, and since that time has published features and cover stories there and in "Audubon, Air & Space, Harvard" magazine, and "American Heritage of Invention & Technology". He lives in Minnesota.
Published July 8, 2008 by HarperCollins e-books. 338 pages
Genres: Health, Fitness & Dieting, Computers & Technology, Professional & Technical, Science & Math, Business & Economics, Education & Reference, History. Non-fiction

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(“There is only one driving reason that a potentially dangerous system would be allowed to fly,” an astronaut later observed, namely “launch schedule pressure.”) Chiles touches on trains, oil rigs, cars, telescopes, and all manner of appliances, but his most gruesome tales center on aviation, whe...

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Publishers Weekly

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In a book that is much more than a litany of disaster and tips on survival, Chiles also offers fascinating, detailed analyses of "system fractures"—chains of events yielding catastrophes.

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Frenchie would ruin the American Idol franchise, creating a ripple effect that would cancel all of the other programs in development (Polish Idol, Armenian Idol, Vatican City Idol), the board game (American Idol: The Board Game), and the product tie-ins (Idol Brand Air Horns: Shrill, With a Lot o...

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Project MUSE

A synoptic account of Chernobyl provides a terrifying picture of ad hoc improvisation on the part of technicians under orders to make good a serious electricity shortage, but Chiles fails to situate events within the political framework of a command-and-response economy during the final days of t...

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