An important book by a visionary with his feet planted on the ground.

MANKIND BEYOND EARTH

THE HISTORY, SCIENCE, AND FUTURE OF HUMAN SPACE EXPLORATION

The director of Duke University's Environmental Laboratory offers an exciting evaluation of the potential for colonizing Mars by the end of the century.

Piantadosi (The Biology of Human Survival: Life and Death in Extreme Environments, 2003) reviews the history of the space program, with special emphasis on the biological challenges of human space exploration in a zero-gravity environment. In his view, establishing a manned moon base is a critical first step. “To get to Mars,” he writes, “astronauts must function in deep space for years and will face huge challenges in doing so.” While the moon is readily accessible, a population living on Mars would face the significant constraints imposed by distance and orbital mechanics. A Mars-based society would need to be self-sufficient, with fail-safe life-support systems in place (even a temporary loss of power would be catastrophic.) Further, colonists on the moon or Mars would face increased exposure to cosmic radiation, the loss of bone and muscle density, and possible challenges to their cardiovascular and immune systems. Despite the lower cost and reduced risk of the unmanned space program, Piantadosi believes that America (“the unquestioned leader in space since Project Apollo”) should also maintain its commitment to manned space exploration in order to keep its technological edge. While robots on the moon are already gathering important scientific information, only humans have the flexibility and imagination to allow scientists to pursue the unexpected. The author also considers the prospect of going beyond Mars to colonize the outer planets and beyond in the foreseeable future. He puts forth the lesson that the difficulties involved offer “the best incentives we have to take the best possible care of Spaceship Earth.”

An important book by a visionary with his feet planted on the ground.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-231-16242-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Columbia Univ.

Review Posted Online: Sept. 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2012

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A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

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NO ONE IS TOO SMALL TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE

A collection of articulate, forceful speeches made from September 2018 to September 2019 by the Swedish climate activist who was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Speaking in such venues as the European and British Parliaments, the French National Assembly, the Austrian World Summit, and the U.N. General Assembly, Thunberg has always been refreshingly—and necessarily—blunt in her demands for action from world leaders who refuse to address climate change. With clarity and unbridled passion, she presents her message that climate change is an emergency that must be addressed immediately, and she fills her speeches with punchy sound bites delivered in her characteristic pull-no-punches style: “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.” In speech after speech, to persuade her listeners, she cites uncomfortable, even alarming statistics about global temperature rise and carbon dioxide emissions. Although this inevitably makes the text rather repetitive, the repetition itself has an impact, driving home her point so that no one can fail to understand its importance. Thunberg varies her style for different audiences. Sometimes it is the rousing “our house is on fire” approach; other times she speaks more quietly about herself and her hopes and her dreams. When addressing the U.S. Congress, she knowingly calls to mind the words and deeds of Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy. The last speech in the book ends on a note that is both challenging and upbeat: “We are the change and change is coming.” The edition published in Britain earlier this year contained 11 speeches; this updated edition has 16, all worth reading.

A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

Pub Date: Nov. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-14-313356-8

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2019

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A quirky wonder of a book.

WHY FISH DON'T EXIST

A STORY OF LOSS, LOVE, AND THE HIDDEN ORDER OF LIFE

A Peabody Award–winning NPR science reporter chronicles the life of a turn-of-the-century scientist and how her quest led to significant revelations about the meaning of order, chaos, and her own existence.

Miller began doing research on David Starr Jordan (1851-1931) to understand how he had managed to carry on after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake destroyed his work. A taxonomist who is credited with discovering “a full fifth of fish known to man in his day,” Jordan had amassed an unparalleled collection of ichthyological specimens. Gathering up all the fish he could save, Jordan sewed the nameplates that had been on the destroyed jars directly onto the fish. His perseverance intrigued the author, who also discusses the struggles she underwent after her affair with a woman ended a heterosexual relationship. Born into an upstate New York farm family, Jordan attended Cornell and then became an itinerant scholar and field researcher until he landed at Indiana University, where his first ichthyological collection was destroyed by lightning. In between this catastrophe and others involving family members’ deaths, he reconstructed his collection. Later, he was appointed as the founding president of Stanford, where he evolved into a Machiavellian figure who trampled on colleagues and sang the praises of eugenics. Miller concludes that Jordan displayed the characteristics of someone who relied on “positive illusions” to rebound from disaster and that his stand on eugenics came from a belief in “a divine hierarchy from bacteria to humans that point[ed]…toward better.” Considering recent research that negates biological hierarchies, the author then suggests that Jordan’s beloved taxonomic category—fish—does not exist. Part biography, part science report, and part meditation on how the chaos that caused Miller’s existential misery could also bring self-acceptance and a loving wife, this unique book is an ingenious celebration of diversity and the mysterious order that underlies all existence.

A quirky wonder of a book.

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6027-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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