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Featured Children's Book Review

Ford, Gilbert. The Marvelous Thing That Came from a Spring: The Accidental Invention of the Toy That Swept the Nation . (Photography by Greg Endries.) New York, NY: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2016. 40pp. $17.99. 2015015309. ISBN 9781481450652. C.I.P.


Rating: **

in the history of technological design and development. An interesting example is the invention of one of the most popular toys, the Slinky. The design, development, and marketing of Slinky is told by Gilbert Ford in his book: The Marvelous Thing That Came from a Spring. This wonderfully illustrated reader will engage lower elementary school students to discover how this toy came to be invented. It can be used as a resource for motivating students to explore STEM concepts that relate to the toy. Younger students can play and experiment with the motion of Slinky to study STEM concepts such as: the difference between longitudinal and transverse waves; the relationship between potential [stored] energy and kinetic [motion] energy; and operation of antennas. Older students can be challenged to use the Slinky to design experiments to explore wave mechanics. They can model the behavior of sound waves, water waves, and electro magnetic waves. The book can also be used to go beyond STEM curriculum. Besides connecting language arts to STEM curriculum, students can also explore how to market toys. As a retired STEM professor, who started my career as a high school Physics teacher, the Slinky was used in my lessons. Thus, this technological device is definitely much more than a toy.--Thomas T. Liao, State University of New York, Stony Brook, NY


Featured Young Adult Book Review


Yonck, Richard. Heart of the Machine: Our Future in a World of Artificial Emotional Intelligence. New York, NY: Arcade, 2017. 312pp. $25.00. 2016042954. ISBN 9781628727333. Index; C.I.P.


Rating: **

It never occurred to me that if an AI became capable of truly loving a human being, there would be no reason why it could only love one human at a time. Yonk starts out describing the current state of affective computing—the ability of machines to read human emotion and at least simulate emotion of their own. He convincingly explains why this is the next logical and inevitable step in human machine interface. Progress in affective computing is a lot further along and garnering a lot more commercial interest than you might think. Rudimentary robots that read and reflect human emotions exist today. The development of methodologies to use sensors to read human emotion is well underway—from interpreting video and voice to reading brain waves. Applications such as assistants to help autistic people relate to others, and responsive caregivers and companions for the elderly are in the works. After describing the basic technologies required and state of the art, the author uses short scenarios to demonstrate how this all might play out. He discusses the very likely developments that will allow machines to respond to humans as if they were emotionally aware. He considers the impact on society, both good and bad (worst case very bad) of this technology. The author follows with a thoughtful and engaging way to what the future may have in store—from AI with greater intelligence than humans to AI that have real empathy for humans to the merging of humans and machines. Again, the good and the bad; pointing out major issues that society ought to start dealing with now. An enjoyable and thought provoking book.--Alan Zagoria, Senior Consultant, UOP, Durham, NC

Featured Adult Book Review

Owen, David. Where the Water Goes: Life and Death Along the Colorado River. New York, NY: Riverhead Books, 2017. 274pp. $28.00. 2016039410. ISBN 9781594633775. Index; C.I.P.


Rating: **

About 15 years ago, I drove along the Colorado River south from Utah to Yuma, AZ, stopping at the Glen Canyon and Hoover Dams. At that time, both Lake Powell and Lake Mead were both filled to near capacity. Now these reservoirs are well below their capacity. I was also surprised at how small the river is, compared to eastern rivers like the Hudson and Delaware. David Owen’s description of his trip along the Colorado River, from the headwaters in Colorado to essentially its end in northern Mexico, short of the sea, is fascinating. The complex series of dams, reservoirs, canals, power plants, aqueducts, waste water treatment facilities, and wetlands that make up the complex artificial ecosystem that makes large cities and agriculture possible in a desert is described, as is the enormous amount of money the federal government has invested in building and maintaining these facilities. He also outlines the Byzantine series of laws and regulations that allocate water to the various states in the Colorado River watershed, which if every state took its full allocation would result in less than no water in the river. The water stored in Lake Powell and Lake Mead is also used to generate a significant portion of regions electric power, which decreases the storage capacity. However, since this water is returned to the river it does not count against a state’s allocation and can be used again at the next facility down river. Water problems in the west can seem tantalizingly easy to solve. Simply stop watering lawns and golf courses, growing hay for export to China and almond trees; turn off the fountains in Las Vegas. Actually, Las Vegas has become much more efficient in its use of water, by growing vertically, rather than spreading out. Also, changes in irrigation methods have resulted in more efficient use of water. In reality, the problems and solutions of how to allow life to flourish in a desert are far more complex as are the disastrous consequences the region faces if any part the tenuous system fails.--Clarence J. Murphy, Emeritus, East Stroudsburg University, East Stroudsburg, PA