A cartoonist and a researcher team up to write a book. Does that sound like the beginning of a joke? Well, it isn’t! The Weinersmiths, Kelly, a science researcher, and Zach, a cartoonist, have collaborated in writing and illustrating Soonish: Ten Emerging Technologies That’ll Improve and/or Ruin Everything. Amazon tells us that Soonish became an “instant New York Times bestseller.” The Wall Street Journal and Popular Science both call Soonish the “best science book of the year.”
We have long seen predictions of what the future will bring. Some of those predictions have been outlandish, and others have been right on target. For example, in the 1950s, Time magazine ran an article about the coming square tomato. Also, in 1950, Popular Mechanics published an article called “Miracles You’ll See in the Next Fifty Years.” The author of the article predicted houses would be made of metal, sheets of plastic and aerated clay because brick, stone, and wood would be too expensive. The article continues by explaining that plastics would be made from fruit pits, soybeans, straw, and wood pulp. Not only that, but sawdust and wood pulp would be changed into sugary foods.
On the other hand, John Elfreth Watkins, an American civil engineer, wrote “What May Happen in the Next Hundred Years, an article for Ladies’ Home Journal in 1900. In the article, Watkins made the following predictions which have come true: digital color photography, rising height of Americans, mobile phones, pre-prepared meals, TV, and bigger fruit.
In Soonish, the Weinersmiths tackle such topics as “Cheap Access to Space Travel,” “Asteroid Mining,” “Fusion Power,” “Programmable Matter,” “Precision Medicine,” and “Brain-Computer Interfaces.” Some of the sub-headings are equally intriguing: “Fusion Power: It Powers the Sun, and That’s Nice, but Can It Run My Toaster?” My favorite is “Programmable Matter: What if All of Your Stuff Could be Any of Your Stuff?”
Readers interested in the future of what may or may not come to pass should read Soonish. It is bright and funny and interesting.
At the end of the book, the Weinersmiths write, “We hope that, unlike so many books, we have not tried to sell you on a philosophy of futurology, or on a vision of the future. To our way of thinking, it’s probably impossible and it’s certainly not necessary. It’s exciting enough to know that right this second, people far smarter than us are working out how to probe your thoughts one neuron at a time or to pry open distant alien minerals.”
A side note: Weinersmith is a combination of Kelly Smith and Zach Weiner, forming Weinersmith when they married. Kelly tired of looking for her scientific articles under the name Smith because there were so many. When she researched articles by scientists named Weiner, she encountered the same problem. As a result, Kelly and Zach created their own last name: Weinersmith.
Kelly, an adjunct assistant professor at Rice University in BioSciences, studies how “host behavior influences risk of infection with parasites, and how parasites subsequently change host behavior.” Find out more at her site: http://www.weinersmith.com/.
Zach Weinersmith blogs at this site he calls The Weinerworks: http://theweinerworks.com/. Readers will find his sense of humor embedded in all his work. Here is the description from the site:
“The Weinerworks used to be a blog where Zach posted occasionally thoughts and essays. Now that he has two children, he no longer thinks, and the blog had fallen into dereliction.
Zach realized that having no thoughts made him an ideal critic, so he began writing book reviews of the various things he was reading. These were posted on various sites and were more popular than he would have guessed. So, he decided they should have their own site.”
Find more of Zach Weinersmith’s cartoons at Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal: https://www.gocomics.com/saturday-morning-breakfast-cereal/2014/07/14.