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

GLOBAL WEIRDNESS

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

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 17, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2012

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

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SEVEN BRIEF LESSONS ON PHYSICS

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. 8, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2015

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Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science...

A SHORT HISTORY OF NEARLY EVERYTHING

Bryson (I'm a Stranger Here Myself, 1999, etc.), a man who knows how to track down an explanation and make it confess, asks the hard questions of science—e.g., how did things get to be the way they are?—and, when possible, provides answers.

As he once went about making English intelligible, Bryson now attempts the same with the great moments of science, both the ideas themselves and their genesis, to resounding success. Piqued by his own ignorance on these matters, he’s egged on even more so by the people who’ve figured out—or think they’ve figured out—such things as what is in the center of the Earth. So he goes exploring, in the library and in company with scientists at work today, to get a grip on a range of topics from subatomic particles to cosmology. The aim is to deliver reports on these subjects in terms anyone can understand, and for the most part, it works. The most difficult is the nonintuitive material—time as part of space, say, or proteins inventing themselves spontaneously, without direction—and the quantum leaps unusual minds have made: as J.B.S. Haldane once put it, “The universe is not only queerer than we suppose; it is queerer than we can suppose.” Mostly, though, Bryson renders clear the evolution of continental drift, atomic structure, singularity, the extinction of the dinosaur, and a mighty host of other subjects in self-contained chapters that can be taken at a bite, rather than read wholesale. He delivers the human-interest angle on the scientists, and he keeps the reader laughing and willing to forge ahead, even over their heads: the human body, for instance, harboring enough energy “to explode with the force of thirty very large hydrogen bombs, assuming you knew how to liberate it and really wished to make a point.”

Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science into perspective.

Pub Date: May 6, 2003

ISBN: 0-7679-0817-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Broadway

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2003

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