GLOBAL WEIRDNESS

SEVERE STORMS, DEADLY HEAT WAVES, RELENTLESS DROUGHT, RISING SEAS AND THE WEATHER OF THE FUTURE

For students and the genuinely curious, this is an ideal introduction to the facts about global warming.

An intelligent primer on what experts know about global climate change, what they don’t know, and what the future could bring.

Written by scientists and journalists at Climate Central, a nonpartisan advocacy group, the book begins with what everyone, climate-change skeptic included, accepts: Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere traps the sun’s heat. While natural phenomena (volcanoes, fires, decay) produce carbon dioxide, the burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil, gas) has added so much extra that levels have reached record highs and continue to rise. The consequences include rising temperatures, rising sea levels, increasing ocean acidity and shifting, unstable weather and rain patterns. Alarmist scenarios abound, but these scientists admit that it’s not clear what the future holds or how fast changes will occur because the Earth does not respond passively to increasing temperature. All agree, however, that burning fossil fuels is a bad idea. They explain that easy solutions (high-tech advances) are nowhere in sight, tolerable solutions (conservation, renewable energy) are only modestly effective, and powerful solutions (regulation and taxes) are painful. Not a call to action, the book is lucidly written and thoughtful, but skeptics likely won’t read it. Since fighting climate change requires government action, conservatives tend to dismiss it. President Obama, no skeptic, treats the topic as electoral poison and limits himself to uncontroversial actions such as urging international cooperation.

For students and the genuinely curious, this is an ideal introduction to the facts about global warming.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-307-90730-1

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: May 16, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2012

WHY FISH DON'T EXIST

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

A quirky wonder of a book.

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. 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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SEVEN BRIEF LESSONS ON PHYSICS

An intriguing meditation on the nature of the universe and our attempts to understand it that should appeal to both...

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  • Kirkus Reviews'
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Italian theoretical physicist Rovelli (General Relativity: The Most Beautiful of Theories, 2015, etc.) shares his thoughts on the broader scientific and philosophical implications of the great revolution that has taken place over the past century.

These seven lessons, which first appeared as articles in the Sunday supplement of the Italian newspaper Sole 24 Ore, are addressed to readers with little knowledge of physics. In less than 100 pages, the author, who teaches physics in both France and the United States, cogently covers the great accomplishments of the past and the open questions still baffling physicists today. In the first lesson, he focuses on Einstein's theory of general relativity. He describes Einstein's recognition that gravity "is not diffused through space [but] is that space itself" as "a stroke of pure genius." In the second lesson, Rovelli deals with the puzzling features of quantum physics that challenge our picture of reality. In the remaining sections, the author introduces the constant fluctuations of atoms, the granular nature of space, and more. "It is hardly surprising that there are more things in heaven and earth, dear reader, than have been dreamed of in our philosophy—or in our physics,” he writes. Rovelli also discusses the issues raised in loop quantum gravity, a theory that he co-developed. These issues lead to his extraordinary claim that the passage of time is not fundamental but rather derived from the granular nature of space. The author suggests that there have been two separate pathways throughout human history: mythology and the accumulation of knowledge through observation. He believes that scientists today share the same curiosity about nature exhibited by early man.

An intriguing meditation on the nature of the universe and our attempts to understand it that should appeal to both scientists and general readers.

Pub Date: March 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-399-18441-3

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Dec. 7, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2015

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