Summer Reading: It looked Good on Paper

It Looked Good On Paper (Book Cover)It Looked Good on Paper: Bizarre Inventions, Design Disasters, and Engineering Follies

Edited by Bill Fawcett
New York : Harper, c2009

Engineering TA174 .I83 2009

It Looked Good on Paper is a remarkable compendium of wild schemes, mad plans, crazy inventions, and truly glorious disasters. Every phenomenally bad idea seemed like a good idea to someone.  How else can you explain the Ford Edsel or the sword pistol—absolutely absurd creations that should have never made it off the drawing board? It Looked Good on Paper gathers together the most flawed plans, half-baked ideas, and downright ridiculous machines throughout history that some second-rate Einstein decided to foist on an unsuspecting populace with the best and most optimistic intentions. Some failed spectacularly. Others fizzled after great expense. One even crashed on Mars. But every one of them at one time must have looked good on paper, including:

  • The lead water pipes of Rome
  • The Tacoma Narrows Bridge—built to collapse
  • The Hubble telescope—the $2 billion scientific marvel that couldn’t see
  • The Spruce Goose—Howard Hughes’s airborne atrocity: big, expensive, slow, unstable, and made of wood
  • With more than thirty-five chapters full of incredibly insipid inventions, both infamous and obscure, It Looked Good on Paper is a mind-boggling, endlessly entertaining collection of fascinating failures.

Bill Fawcett is the author and editor of more than a dozen books, including You Did What?  It Seemed Like a Good Idea . . . How to Lose a Battle, and You Said What? He lives in Illinois.