BOOK REVIEW - RUST: The Longest War by Jonathan Waldman
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In the "Now For Something Completely Different" Department, there's a new book out titled Rust: The Longest War by Jonathan Waldman covering one of our favorite topics.
Among the many existential questions such as whether it is better to burn out or fade away, we ponder whether in fact rust never sleeps. As we learn, rust may never sleep, but can hibernate.
Jonathan Waldman writes: “Rust is ubiquitous. It seizes up weapons, manhandles mufflers, destroys highway guardrails, and spreads like a cancer in concrete. Rust, represents the disordering of the modern and yet a rust-free world would be a world without metal.”
From a book review in washingtonpost.com by Michael Upchurch:
“Rust: The Longest War,” Waldman’s first book, is as obsessive as it is informative. Waldman, an environmental journalist, loves a fancy turn of phrase and can be overly discursive at times, yet he takes us deep into places and situations that are too often ignored or unknown. He makes metal — especially iron — seem as willful and self-defeating in its chemical reactions as a flighty teenager hopped up on hormones. And he makes oxygen resemble a mayhem-minded criminal waiting in the wings to destroy all your modes of transportation and tarnish your lovely silver service while it’s at it.More existential questions relating to Neil Young -- among other vital topics -- on last night's Thrasher's Wheat Radio on WBKM.org.
As Waldman’s thorough case histories show, rust can be a “ruthless enemy.” First up is the Statue of Liberty, which, because its builders didn’t fully understand the intentions of its original designers, got to a point in the 1980s where its torch was at “definite risk of structural failure,” and a third of its framing rivets were “loose, damaged, or missing.” Our national symbol of freedom had to spend years in a cage of scaffolding before the problems could be set right.
Another chapter, in which Waldman sneaks into Ball Corporation’s “Can School,” highlights just how much of a chemist you have to be to make sure the inner coatings of metallic cans don’t poison or spoil the taste of the food or beverages they contain.
Waldman’s sweeping survey encompasses the development of stainless steel, the underutilized promise of galvanization, the challenge of keeping oil pipelines corrosion-free and much more. In the book’s lengthiest chapter, he tracks the progress of a “smart pig” — a 16-foot-long 10,000-pound robot, equipped with 112 magnetic sensors — down the 800-mile length of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System as it looks for any kind of anomaly (dents, corrosion, weld misalignments) that could produce a leak.
"Rust: The Longest War" by Jonathan Waldman (Simon & Schuster) Waldman revels in technical vocabulary, piling up lists of “surfactants,” “extenders,” “thixotropic agents” and other mystery ingredients. He’s also drawn to offbeat personalities — rust photographer Alyssha Eve Csük, Pentagon “rust ambassador” Dan Dunmire, stainless-steel crusader Harry Brearley — who enliven his narrative.
The book could use an index and, especially for its chapters on rust history, a bibliography. Some of Waldman's quirks (including keeping constant tabs on who has a mustache) are distracting. But for the most part, he provides an energetic take on a scourge that gnaws at the fabric of the industrial world, and he even closes with suggestions on ways to combat it.
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