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The Engines of Progress by Mark Reutter — Winter Crime and Punishment | The Wilson Quarterly
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The engines of progress
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White Non-Fiction Books. Materials Science and Engineering by William D. Callister Non-Fiction Books. Engineering Materials 1 by Michael F. Ashby Non-Fiction Books. Juran's Quality Handbook by J. Juran Non-Fiction Books. Roark Non-Fiction Books. In Prime Movers of Globalization , Vaclav Smil offers ahistory of two key technical developments that have driven globalization: the high-compressionnon-sparking internal combustion engines invented by Rudolf Diesel in the s and the gas turbinesdesigned by Frank Whittle and Hans-Joachim Pabst von Ohain in the s.
The massive diesel enginesthat power cargo ships and the gas turbines that propel jet engines, Smil argues, are more importantto the global economy than any corporate structure or international trade agreement. Smil comparesthe efficiency and scale of these two technologies to prime movers of the past, including the sailand the steam engine. The lengthy processes of development, commercialization, and diffusion thatthe diesel engine and the gas turbine went through, he argues, provide perfect examples of gradualtechnical advances that receive little attention but have resulted in epochal shifts in globalaffairs and the global economy.
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These engines have made ocean shipping and intercontinental air travel so cheap that they have changed the face of our planet. Marshall McLuhan's dreams of a Global Village have become true in unimagined ways. Being an engineer myself, I admire the way Smil portrays the human Cinderellas of the industrial world: the unsung engineers who made momentous advances in the reliability and efficiency of their machines.
Smil's book makes me proud of my profession. Smil's account of the engineering advances throughout the late 19th and 20th centuries - advances that brought the world large marine diesels and gas turbines - is first-rate history, both thorough and compelling.
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