An illuminating and rewarding exposition on the links between scientific discovery and daily life.

READ REVIEW

ELECTRIC UNIVERSE

THE SHOCKING TRUE STORY OF ELECTRICITY

A historical look at our knowledge of electricity and the ways we use it.

Bodanis (E=mc2, 2000, etc.) begins with the 19th-century researchers who, with only rudimentary understanding of electricity, found ways to make it perform miracles. Joseph Henry, teaching in an Albany boys’ school, began experimenting in the 1820s with the newly discovered electromagnet. He quickly realized that an electrical pulse could carry a signal down a wire—the key principle of the telegraph. Samuel Morse turned the idea (which others had played with over the years) into a practical device by 1844. Three decades later, Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone extended the principle to the spoken word. Theory, catching up with practice, deduced that particles of electricity—electrons—carried the signals along wires at nearly the speed of light. Other experimenters—Faraday, Kelvin, Clerk Maxwell, Hertz—learned that electrical pulses generate a field that spreads not just along wires but through space. The first practical result was radio, which Bodanis plausibly argues changed history more than any previous electrical device. Another technical breakthrough was waiting around the corner in the form of the semiconductor, which made possible the manufacture of small, inexpensive electrical devices, ultimately including the modern computer. Bodanis continues his survey with the biological role of electricity as chemical ions carry signals through the nervous system and the rest of the body. By regulating the amount of certain ions, researchers can design new medicines to treat diseases formerly beyond the reach of science. Bodanis sometimes overreaches in attempting to show the impact of inventions on society—rock ’n’ roll gained its foothold in youth culture well before the widespread use of transistors either in radios or in musical instruments. But his accounts of the lives of inventors and theorists are riveting nevertheless, including his quotations from Hertz’s journals.

An illuminating and rewarding exposition on the links between scientific discovery and daily life.

Pub Date: Feb. 15, 2005

ISBN: 1-4000-4550-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2005

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

more