Regular price: $31.93

Free with 30-day trial
Membership details Membership details
  • A 30-day trial plus your first audiobook, free
  • 1 credit/month after trial – good for any book, any price
  • Easy exchanges – swap any book you don’t love
  • Keep your audiobooks, even if you cancel
  • After your trial, Audible is just $14.95/month
In Cart

Publisher's Summary

The first-ever inside look at DARPA - the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency - the maverick and controversial group whose futuristic work has had amazing civilian and military applications, from the Internet to GPS to driverless cars

America's greatest idea factory isn't Bell Labs, Silicon Valley, or MIT's Media Lab. It's the secretive, Pentagon-led agency known as DARPA. Founded by Eisenhower in response to Sputnik and the Soviet space program, DARPA mixes military officers with sneaker-wearing scientists, seeking paradigm-shifting ideas in varied fields - from energy, robotics, and rockets to peopleless operating rooms, driverless cars, and planes that can fly halfway around the world in just hours. DARPA gave birth to the Internet, GPS, and mind-controlled robotic arms. Its geniuses define future technology for the military and the rest of us.

Michael Belfiore was given unprecedented access to write this first-ever popular account of DARPA. Visiting research sites across the country, he watched scientists in action and talked to the creative, fearlessly ambitious visionaries working for and with DARPA. Much of DARPA's work is classified, and this book is full of material that has barely been reported in the general media. In fact, DARPA estimates that only 2 percent of Americans know much of anything about the agency. This fascinating read demonstrates that DARPA isn't so much frightening as it is inspiring - it is our future.

©2009 Michael Belfiore; (P)2009 Random House

What members say

Average Customer Ratings


  • 4.0 out of 5.0
  • 5 Stars
  • 4 Stars
  • 3 Stars
  • 2 Stars
  • 1 Stars


  • 4.2 out of 5.0
  • 5 Stars
  • 4 Stars
  • 3 Stars
  • 2 Stars
  • 1 Stars


  • 4.0 out of 5.0
  • 5 Stars
  • 4 Stars
  • 3 Stars
  • 2 Stars
  • 1 Stars
Sort by:
  • Overall
  • Roger
  • Orlando, Florida United States
  • 07-24-10


This is an outstanding book on the nature and past projects of DARPA. Thankfully it goes far beyond the tired "DARPA created the Internet" and spends the bulk of its time on much more interesting and more recent projects.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Andy
  • Westport, CT, United States
  • 04-14-10

government doing it right!

Hi energy story about the genesis and activities of DARPA. Just shows you how effective an organization can be when the people involved are so very interested in finding creative ways to solve problems and to seize opportunities.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Tim
  • Fremont, NE, United States
  • 05-22-11

Good Read, but too much depth - not enough breadth

I picked this book up after hearning the author interviewed on the Jim Bohanan Show.

First of all - I liked the book - there was a lot of interesting history about how the internet was invented and conceived by DARPA, as well as GPS and other "game-changing" technologies. The book also had a lot of information on DARPA's origins.

The second section of the book dealt with things that DARPA is currently working on, but mainly the things that could have as huge an impact as the internet or GPS. They discuss robotic surgery, automated driving, biofuels and solar energy for example.

The issue that I had with the book it that it seemed (to me) to go into way too much detail about the current research, and left out other things that might have been very interesting, due to the depth of coverage, that at times, drug on and on. I personally (and other readers may differ) would have preferred less "in depth" coverage and more examples of things being researched.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

A geeks idea of great reading

Yes, I am a geek and yes this book satisfies my tech itch completely. I have always wanted to work for NASA because I thought they were at the cutting edge of physics and science… but now I want to work for DARPA!
This book tells just enough about the history of the technology we use everyday, as well as those we will use tomorrow. Great listen!

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • Walter
  • Wheaton, IL, United States
  • 10-24-11

Truth that's better than science fiction

The internet was originally the ARPA-net. America's most under-appreciated agency has transformed our lives in many different ways and areas and will continue to do so. This is one government department whose budget should never be cut. Read this book to find out why.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall


A few slices of insight on program management & leadership are buried deep under a pile of self-indulgent hero worship & uncritical analysis.

This is popcorn listening. I want to call it the equivalent of a episode of oprah. It takes a sexy topic and shines absolutely no light on it. I managed to trundle through the entire program, but I don't feel any better for crossing the finish line.

7 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Erika
  • Walnut Creek, CA, USA
  • 11-20-09

If You Like 'Wired' Magazine...

This book is filled with unbelievable "no way!" information about what really goes on at DARPA. Author Michael Balfiore writes for 'Wired' and the book has a techno-lyrical style that is at once appealing and coma-inducing. As much as I wanted to listen, I kept falling asleep. Maybe it was the narrator. Oh....

6 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Chris
  • Willits, CA, United States
  • 03-01-10

Great listen

Great listen - a postive message about government and hope for the future.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • Rex
  • Rosetta, South Africa
  • 10-08-12

Keep up the good work!

Would you consider the audio edition of The Department of Mad Scientists to be better than the print version?

I have not seen the printed version. The audio was great!

What did you like best about this story?

It gives me heart that money is being spent on true research. Our planet can only really progress if we harness the power of the imagination. DARPA's flying insects are amazing!

What does Michael Belfiore bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Dont know

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

No, it was great to listen in chunks

Any additional comments?

heartwarming story

  • Overall

Really Nothing New Here

I'm getting sick of science books that are nothing more than the authors magazine article(s) window dressed with an extra couple hundred pages. The book is no where near that insightful and the author will fail to impress anyone with a WIRED Magazine, or Popular Science subscription, which I believe is the target audience for this book, right.

2 of 4 people found this review helpful