Contents

Prologue 
Introduction

PART ONE: ENGINEERS OF SERENDIPITY

1. HOW LOONSHOTS WON A WAR
Life on the edge
The Dorchester . . . How not to fight a war . . . Gathering storm . . . Massacre . . . “One at a time, please” . . . Eight Nobel Prizes.
The first two rules.

2. THE SURPRISING FRAGILITY OF THE LOONSHOT
Akira Endo and the heart of stone
“It’s not a good drug unless it’s been killed three times” . . . Fungi don’t run . . . Saved by chickens . . .  A $90 billion coincidence.
Beware the False Fail.

3. THE TWO TYPES OF LOONSHOTS: TRIPPE VS. CRANDALL
Jet engines vs. frequent fliers
The pie industry . . . The dangerous virtuous cycle . . . Wars, loonshots, and cuckoo clocks . . . “He went from Jesus to Judas.”
Watch your blind side.

4. EDWIN LAND AND THE MOSES TRAP
When leaders anoint the holy loonshot
Han Solo’s escape . . . Disappearing fish . . . “Why can’t I see it now?” . . . Photons, electrons, and Richard Nixon.
Notes on falling in love.

5. ESCAPING THE MOSES TRAP
Buzz and Woody rescue a 747, invent the iPhone, and explain system mindset
“Eight megabytes of sexual satisfaction” . . . Isaac Newton vs. Steve Jobs . . . Ugly Babies and the Beast . . . How to win at chess.
Summary: The first three rules.

 

PART TWO: THE SCIENCE OF SUDDEN CHANGE

6. PHASE TRANSITIONS, I: MARRIAGE, FOREST FIRES, AND TERRORISTS
When gradual shifts cause sudden transformations
Jane Austen, physicist . . . From gas masks to forest fires . . . How to be simple . . . Six degrees of Kevin Cricket. . . . When terror goes viral.

7. PHASE TRANSITIONS, II: THE MAGIC NUMBER
Why size matters
Mormons, murder, and monkeys . . . The Invisible Axe . . . A thought experiment . . . The tug-of-war . . . The innovation equation.

8. THE FOURTH RULE
Raise the magic number
Web of DARPA . . . A giant nuclear suppository . . .  Six degrees of red balloons . . . A toothpaste problem . . . A shredding problem.
Postscript: From Nobels and nudges to nurturing loonshots.

 

PART THREE: THE MOTHER OF ALL LOONSHOTS

9. WHY THE WORLD SPEAKS ENGLISH
The Needham Question . . . Eight minutes that changed the world . . . Movies, drugs, and empires . . . Loonshot life support . . . Why England? … The three greatest loonshot nurseries in history.

AFTERWORD: LOONSHOTS VS. DISRUPTION 
The transistor . . . Walmart . . . IKEA . . . The truth about drug discovery.

Acknowledgments
Glossary
Appendix A. Summary: The Bush-Vail Rules
Appendix B. The Innovation Equation
Illustration credits
Source notes
Endnotes

 

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