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Inviting Disaster, by technology and history writer James R Chiles, is an unusual book: it appeals to the prurient desires that keep us riveted to highway accidents, while knowledgeably discoursing on the often preventable mistakes that caused them. At its heart are the colourful stories behind more than 50 of the most infamous catastrophes that periodically chilled the advance of the industrial age, both those well remembered (the 1986 Challenger explosion, for example) and those now largely forgotten (a 1937 gas explosion at a Texas school that killed 298). But along with lively depictions of these deadly devastations and white-knuckle calamities--the Maine battleship, Apollo 13 and Three Mile Island among them--Chiles offers an informed analysis of the unfortunate chain of events that brought them about. And by grouping like incidents to show how fatal "system fractures" eventually developed through a combination of human error and mechanical malfunction, he also suggests how we might sidestep such tragedies in the future. In so doing he fashions these spectacular accounts of failed planes, trains, ships, bridges, dam s, factories and other conveyances and facilities, into a cautionary tale about the progress we are making to "learn the way of the machine (and) act before an otherwise routine day rises to disaster". --Howard Rothman [via]