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Captured by Aliens: The Search for Life and Truth in a Very Large Universe

by Joel Achenbach

What we have learned or suspect about the universe.

The Grand Idea: George Washington's Potomac and the Race to the West

by Joel Achenbach

How the nation expanded as a result of Washington's work and ideas.

A Hole at the Bottom of the Sea

by Joel Achenbach

It was a technological crisis in an alien realm: a blown-out oil well in mile-deep water in the Gulf of Mexico. For the engineers who had to kill the well, this was like Apollo 13, a crisis no one saw coming, and one of untold danger and challenge. A suspense story, a mystery, a technological thriller: This is Joel Achenbach's groundbreaking account of the Deepwater Horizon disaster and what came after. The tragic explosion on the huge drilling rig in April 2010 killed eleven men and triggered an environmental disaster. As a gusher of crude surged into the Gulf's waters, BP engineers and government scientists--awkwardly teamed in Houston--raced to devise ways to plug the Macondo well. Achenbach, a veteran reporter for The Washington Post and acclaimed science writer for National Geographic, moves beyond the blame game to tell the gripping story of what it was like, behind the scenes, moment by moment, in the struggle to kill Macondo. Here are the controversies, the miscalculations, the frustrations, and ultimately the technical triumphs of men and women who worked out of sight and around the clock for months to find a way to plug the well. The Deepwater Horizon disaster was an environmental 9/11. The government did not have the means to solve the problem; only the private sector had the tools, and it didn't have the right ones as the country became haunted by Macondo's black plume, which was omnipresent on TV and the Internet. Remotely operated vehicles, the spaceships of the deep, had to perform the challenging technical ma-neuvers on the seafloor. Engineers choreographed this robotic ballet and crammed years of innovation into a single summer. As he describes the drama in Houston, Achenbach probes the government investigation into what went wrong in the deep sea. This was a confounding mystery, an engineering whodunit. The lessons of this tragedy can be applied broadly to all complex enterprises and should make us look more closely at the highly engineered society that surrounds us. Achenbach has written a cautionary tale that doubles as a technological thriller.

A Hole at the Bottom of the Sea: The Race to Kill the BP Oil Gusher

by Joel Achenbach

It was a technological crisis in an alien realm: a blown-out oil well in mile-deep water in the Gulf of Mexico. For the engineers who had to kill the well, this was like Apollo 13, a crisis no one saw coming, and one of untold danger and challenge. A suspense story, a mystery, a technological thriller: This is Joel Achenbach's groundbreaking account of the Deepwater Horizon disaster and what came after. The tragic explosion on the huge drilling rig in April 2010 killed eleven men and triggered an environmental disaster. As a gusher of crude surged into the Gulf's waters, BP engineers and government scientists--awkwardly teamed in Houston--raced to devise ways to plug the Macondo well. Achenbach, a veteran reporter for The Washington Post and acclaimed science writer for National Geographic, moves beyond the blame game to tell the gripping story of what it was like, behind the scenes, moment by moment, in the struggle to kill Macondo. Here are the controversies, the miscalculations, the frustrations, and ultimately the technical triumphs of men and women who worked out of sight and around the clock for months to find a way to plug the well. The Deepwater Horizon disaster was an environmental 9/11. The government did not have the means to solve the problem; only the private sector had the tools, and it didn't have the right ones as the country became haunted by Macondo's black plume, which was omnipresent on TV and the Internet. Remotely operated vehicles, the spaceships of the deep, had to perform the challenging technical ma-neuvers on the seafloor. Engineers choreographed this robotic ballet and crammed years of innovation into a single summer. As he describes the drama in Houston, Achenbach probes the government investigation into what went wrong in the deep sea. This was a confounding mystery, an engineering whodunit. The lessons of this tragedy can be applied broadly to all complex enterprises and should make us look more closely at the highly engineered society that surrounds us. Achenbach has written a cautionary tale that doubles as a technological thriller.

It Looks Like A President Only Smaller

by Joel Achenbach

It Looks Like a President Only Smalleris the hilarious, eviscerating diary of one of the most amazing contests in American political history -- from the presidential primaries in New Hampshire, to the fat-cat convention parties in Philadelphia and Los Angeles, to the bizarre vote-counting debacle in Florida. The diarist is a veteran Washington Post reporter, satirist, and explainer of the inexplicable. This is his summary of the historic Supreme Court decision in Bush v. Gore: "In keeping with the Court's ambition to provide an unambiguous and unanimous decision in Bush v. Gore and thereby legitimate the outcome of the 2000 presidential election, we present herein a majority opinion signed by Justices Rehnquist, Scalia, Thomas, O'Connor, and Kennedy, with a partial dissent to the majority by Justices Rehnquist, Scalia, and Thomas, a full dissent by Justices Stevens, Souter, Breyer, and Ginsburg, a partial dissent to the full dissent by Justices Breyer and Souter, a needling, invective-filled dissent to the partial dissent to the majority opinion from Scalia, and a spitwad [attached] from Justice Stevens... The Court will note that it did manage on Tuesday afternoon to assemble a respectable 6-3 majority in favor of the Chinese take-out." As Joel Achenbach trails Campaign 2000, he channels the unfocused rage of the street protesters, gleefully infiltrates celebrity-choked Hollywood bashes, and roams the remote highways of the battleground states. Whether ruminating on the Confederate flag controversy in South Carolina, rewriting breaking news in the form of a le Carré novel, or mimicking the dyspeptic voice of the editor of the (fictional) newsletter Chad Watch, Achenbach fashions a page-turning comedy that takes the measure of America at the millennium.

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