9 thoughts on “Inventing Accuracy (Inside Technology): A Historical Sociology of Nuclear Missile Guidance

  1. says:

    If you re interested in this sort of thing, buy this book because it s pretty much the only one written on the topic.The title might sound strange until you really get into it, as he makes the case that missile accuracy in the ICBM era was largely a matter of policy, not technical need, and that it might be completely illusory in action It suggests that differences in Soviet and US accuracy was not a side effect of technology, but desire, the sociology of the problem In this respect I think he proves his case.There s also a good deal of good information on various historical debates The Problem of Polaris is discussed in some depth, for instance, which is worth mentioning because I remain unconvinced to this day that the USAF s answer to the problem is any convincing today than it was in the 1950s Ground based ICBMs remain, in my eyes, completely superfluous, and when one considers the recent exposes showing those systems in almost laughably bad condition, one can only conclude their existence is purely political in nature.There are a number of problems, however.For one, there is little technical discussion of the systems, and it lacks any sort of detailed overview of the problem as a whole It focuses on the needs and desires of the people involved than the systems they developed to meet those needs Fine as far as it goes, but then the times technology does sneak in it always seems to be just hanging there without support.Another issue is that this is a very detailed book about the US missile systems It has very little information on the Soviet side of things That s not entirely surprising given the date it was written, but this hides certain considerations The book does discuss the tradeoff of accuracy for explosive power, and what this meant for the Soviet fleet However it misses one very important specific example it has been suggested that the R 36 s huge throw weight was intended to drop a bomb large enough to ensure that the command silo of a Minuteman squadron was hit, thereby taking out a dozen missiles for the cost of one This is not mentioned, but it would seem to be a perfect illustration of the entire debate Further, although there were few official sources available at the time, there was plenty of understanding of Soviet systems in the field that could have been included.The book ends in a tantalizing, but ultimately unsatisfying, manner It suggests that the accuracy the US spent so much time and money developing might have been all for naught That s because that accuracy is dependant not only on the equipment itself, but the environment it flies through, and that later one can only be truly understood by flying that flight path So, it might be the case that the USs missiles simply wouldn t fall within the required limits if a hot war occurred.Well I m certainly no expert on this, but I am aware that they have been launching ICBMs from California out to Kwaj since the 1950s, so the equipment itself is probably well understood As to the second part, I m also aware that both NASA and the DoD ran extensive programs to map the gravity fields of the Earth over decades I suspect that the data collected in those missions is enough to have some confidence in the performance over flight paths constructed bitwise from the actual paths of the sats I don t think this book discusses this in nearly enough depth to draw conclusions one way or the other, and frankly this seems to be the most important part of the work.

  2. says:

    Il faut vraiment avoir un int r t lev pour lire ce livre au complet.

  3. says:

    There is a online video spread amongst new missile combat crew members at Vandenberg Air Force Base, explaining how the missile guidance system finds its target The missile knows where it is, by knowing where it isn t Most missileers laugh the explanation off as a joke, but as you ll find in Donald MacKenzie s book, Inventing Accuracy, that joke isn t too far off from the truth.Keep in mind that the book is a historical sociology of guidance, so many areas and types of missile systems are covered Simple systems within the German V 2, to the floating ball thingy with laser ring gyros from the MX Peacekeeper missile are talked about TERCOM and GPS guided air launched cruise missiles ALCMs are covered briefly, as taking cruise missiles over the poles tends to require a vastly different type of mapping and guidance.As a researcher, I found this book was a boon for details Thoroughly footnoted and end noted, I found rabbit holes to run down with each page I turned If you want to know the how s and why s to missile system guidance, this will give you the story behind the story If you want to know why your missiles went into PIGA Leveling, the best you ll find in here is the definition of PIGA Pendulous Integrating Gyroscopic Accelerometer , not the math or physics behind it.Bottom line if you re interested in a history of missile guidance, get the book If you re a math geek, this ain t going to help you much and there are other formula laden books that will excite you.FYI, missileers for the PIGA leveling question, just trust your Technical Data in your Dash 22.

  4. says:

    If you re interested in technical history of computing and or military guidance systems how can you not love this odd treasure chest of a book It feels like your grandfather taking you through his attic, giving you brief descriptions of most of it and a few lovingly remembered deep dives into things he worked on and cared about.This is four books in one The first half of the book is a summary of every computer system ever built in the 1940 s, 50 s and 60 s It s like having a guide as you walk through the backroom of the Computer History Museum in Mountain View.The next part of the book is a detailed survey of all U.S cruise and ballistic missile programs from 1940 s until today Then finally a survey of all Soviet Russian cruise and ballistic missile programs from 1940 s until today.Overlaid on the cruise and ballistic missile programs is a description of the guidance systems of each one There are details from the authors personal experience in designing these systems not found anywhere.Read it in conjunction withInventing Accuracy A Historical Sociology of Nuclear Missile Guidance Inside Technology

  5. says:

    This book is absolutely superb.It lays out with considerable clarity what the interplay between the science, technology, application and the politics of inertial navigation systems is was will be These four strands are typically co mingled into every technology in the world today The author has put in serious effort to untangle the threads and lay it all out.With so many discussions in the public arena today about the DF 21D system and its impact on posture in the Taiwan Straits, the South China Sea, the East China Sea and the Sea of Japan, it is good to have a place to revisit the founding ideas in inertial navigation It is certainly productive to use the analytical layout of this book to critically examine information about the DF 21D and other high hypersonic platforms.The only concern I have is that this work casts a rather uncomfortable light on experiments that measure G, the gravitational constant Hopefully discerning readers would see that the scientific necessity of such efforts is independent of any applications.This book is ideally suited for advanced readers, I can t recommend it as an exploratory read for people unfamiliar with the subject matter.

  6. says:

    While this book is mainly about ICBM guidance systems, the procedures and political battles which are described will be familiar to anyone who has worked on a large technology project.The most interesting parts of the book revolve around how the Navy submarine missile program changed from a survivable, non threatening deterrent force into a first strike system which actually provides less warning than land based ICBMs.I was recently watching a TV history of the moon landings, and they had a section about the inertial guidance system used in the Apollo program, compete with gyroscope cages spinning around It was quite odd to see the TV version of this book.Highly recommended.

  7. says:

    Authoritative, well planned executed, though sometimes it s easy to get lost in the author s florid prose run on sentences Excellent non technical overview of the challenges solutions to developing accurate ICBM guidance during the Cold War If you are interested in the development of military technology then this book belongs in your library A

  8. says:

    One of the classics of the history of science Mackenzie tells the story of guidance systems, the technology and the historical context and motivations for that work.

  9. says:

    Gave a serous and concise record of the history of the ICBM guidance field Stayed on subject.

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