Book Review: 101 Outer Space Projects for the Evil Genius

Category: Children’s Book
Reviewed by: Allen G. Taylor
Title: 101 Outer Space Projects for the Evil Genius
Author: Dave Prochnow
Reading Level: Pre-teen to adult
NSS Amazon link for this book
Format: Paperback
Pages: 300
Publisher: McGraw-Hill
Date: April, 2007
Retail Price: $24.95
ISBN: 0071485481

The Evil Genius series of books is a tongue-in-cheek reference to those bad old science fiction movies that followed the original Frankenstein movie, which featured a mad scientific genius, bent on world domination, developing something frightfully dangerous.

This book isn’t really about world domination, or even about frightfully dangerous inventions. It is specifically about projects the ordinary person can do with ordinary resources, all of which have some connection to outer space. Some of the projects described are potentially dangerous, if you don’t exercise common sense, and follow the cautions given in the book. A number of the projects are appropriate for the technically inclined pre-teen audience, while others are clearly designed for adults who have at least some experience building things.

The book is divided into eleven chapters, covering eleven different aspects of space exploration. The areas covered are:

  • Navigating, both on Earth and in space
  • Building and launching model rockets
  • Exploring the heavens via software and images from space
  • Building radio receivers that detect the emissions of Jupiter and the Sun
  • Participating in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence via SETI@HOME
  • Viewing the night sky
  • Building telescopes
  • Building planetary rovers
  • Building a space station (launch not included)
  • Building a home planetarium
  • Making convincing fake UFO photos

That last topic definitely qualifies the book for its Evil moniker. Genuine UFO buffs believe the hoaxers give the whole field a bad name.

The book is profusely illustrated. A step-by-step description of each project is given, and each step is accompanied by a photo of the current stage of construction. Unfortunately, the figures are not as good as I would have liked. They are black and white photos, taken by the author and printed on medium-quality paper. In many cases details described in the text are washed out. This is not a major problem, as the figures are clear enough for the reader to tell what is going on.

Projects that I found particularly interesting were:

  • Putting a CCD image sensor in a model rocket, complete with parachute recovery system, built from easily obtainable parts.
  • Astrophotography, using an SLR camera, a big lens, and software that tells where to point it.
  • Building several different radios that can be tuned to the sounds of space, from inexpensive kits.
  • Assembling several different classes of telescope from kits.
  • Mounting a camera on a telescope for images of planets and nebulae.
  • Building a CCD camera from scrounged parts.
  • Building high-capability programmable robot rovers using parts taken from toy vehicles.

Some of the projects described are stand-alone efforts, but in other cases, items built in earlier projects are used in the construction of a more complex project.

Out of the 101 projects described in the book, there are bound to be several that NSS members are likely to enjoy building, regardless of age or skill level. There are things that kids can do by themselves, things that a child and parent can work on together, and things that clearly fall into the adult class. Fun for all ages!

© 2008 Allen G. Taylor

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