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New Release: Hedy’s Folly

By Richard Rhodes
Doubleday | 272pgs
Release Date: November 29, 2011

Summary:
Award winning author Richard Rhodes tells the surprising true story of the scientific contribution actress Hedy Lamarr made to the war effort during the 1940′s in his new book Hedy’s Folly: The Life and Breakthrough Inventions of Hedy Lamarr, the Most Beautiful Woman in the World. Beneath the surface, considerably more than just a pretty face, the sexy starlet had harbored a deep interest in all things mechanical from a very early age. The growing atrocities in Europe and an introduction to musician George Antheil, who shared Larmarr’s penchant for invention, prompted the pair to tackle the unlikely subject of a torpedo guidance system. They devised a system in which a plane could control a torpedo remotely, with each device maintaining communication while simultaneously cycling through different radio frequencies, preventing the enemy from breaking contact by jamming a single channel. This idea, known as spread-spectrum radio, was decades ahead of its time, and could not be implemented with the rudimentary torpedo technology of World War II, but is the basis for much of today’s widespread technology, such as WiFi, Bluetooth and GPS.

What critics are saying:
Rhodes, who has written about the World War II era before, most notably in his Pulitzer Prize winning book The Making of the Atomic Bomb, has received solid reviews for his latest take on The Greatest Generation. “Compared to his other works, like the magisterial (and quite hefty) The Making of the Atomic Bomb, this book breezes by in 272 chatty pages. Rhodes succeeds in the most vital thing—capturing the spirit of a willful woman who wanted recognition for more than her pretty face—but he skims over the deeper questions that Lamarr’s life story raises about the nature of creative genius,” writes Sam Kean in a review for the Huffington Post.

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