Book Review: Sex, Bombs and Burgers by Peter Nowak

Book Cover: Sex, Bombs and Burgers: How War, Pron and Fast Food Created Technology As We Know It, pink text on yellow background


Before y’all can cast any aspersions on my character or taste in books, this is a book I picked up at the Science Museum. Like it says on the cover, Sex, Bombs and Burgers: How War, Porn and Fast Food Created Technology As We Know It by Peter Nowak is a book on how technology developed over the course of the past century.

Like the title says, the book’s focus is three industries- the military, fast food, and pornography, and their role in pushing progress forward. The fact that ARPAnet, developed by the US military, is the precursor to the modern-day World Wide Web is well known, but did you know that the same group of scientists also developed the very first video games? Or that cameras (still and motion) were made cheaper and easier to use by the need to document battles and collect valuable intelligence during wartime? Or that NASA is responsible for a number of advances in processing and storing food because of all the research they did on how to feed astronauts going into space? (Fun fact: Rakesh Sharma had asli Indian khana when he went into space, courtesy of our own space research centre in Mysore.) Or that the porn industry is often the first to jump on new technology (the internet, 3D) in the hopes of increasing profit margins?

Sex, Bombs and Burgers is a great book, packed with information without being too dense, easily accesible and very well written. That said, I didn’t enjoy it as much as I would have otherwise simply because I already knew a lot of what was in the book. Such are the perils of being a bookworm! That said, it’s a fantastic entry-level book for anyone interested in the development of technology in the twentieth century and a stellar example of good science writing.

All in all? Five stars.