THE CHUNNEL

THE AMAZING STORY OF THE UNDERSEA CROSSING OF THE ENGLISH CHANNEL

+ A journalist's revealing overview of the construction, engineering, and financial, political, and technical resources required to build the railway tunnel that now connects the sceptered isle of England with continental Europe by way of France. Drawing on a wealth of sources, including interviews with principals who got the immensely expensive job done, Newsday correspondent Fetherston provides a start-to-finish account of the so-called Chunnel project, which opens with a brief review of the false starts and alternative proposals that had been made over the years. He goes on to recount how Margaret Thatcher and Franáois Mitterand created a binational commission to study the possibility of an underwater link. Despite the Tory prime minister's insistence that no government money be spent, spirited opposition from ferry interests, the stock market crash of 1987, and other obstacles, the enterprise gained sufficient momentum and funding (from lenders in two dozen countries) for work to begin. Owing to a notably hostile operating environment as well as marked differences in national construction practices and standards, the Anglo-French contracting consortium experienced ongoing difficulties. In the fall of 1990, however, British and French excavators achieved a significant breakthrough, meeting at a midpoint beneath the English Channel. Now in service, the Chunnel encompasses three continuous tubes (each more than 49 kilometers in length) from Folkestone to Coquelles, plus dozens of cross-passages and chambers whose uses range from equipment storage through train switching. Despite signs of popularity with shippers and tourists, the spectacular submarine facility has yet to prove economic; plagued by past cost overruns and a staggering debt burden, in fact, the Chunnel remains years- -perhaps decades—from break-even. A tellingly detailed rundown on a remarkable undertaking that could prove either an eighth wonder of the modern world or one of commercial/industrial history's great white elephants. (69 illustrations)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-8129-2198-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Times/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1997

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An authoritative, engaging study of plant life, accessible to younger readers as well as adults.

THE INCREDIBLE JOURNEY OF PLANTS

A neurobiologist reveals the interconnectedness of the natural world through stories of plant migration.

In this slim but well-packed book, Mancuso (Plant Science/Univ. of Florence; The Revolutionary Genius of Plants: A New Understanding of Plant Intelligence and Behavior, 2018, etc.) presents an illuminating and surprisingly lively study of plant life. He smoothly balances expansive historical exploration with recent scientific research through stories of how various plant species are capable of migrating to locations throughout the world by means of air, water, and even via animals. They often continue to thrive in spite of dire obstacles and environments. One example is the response of plants following the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Three decades later, the abandoned “Exclusion Zone” is now entirely covered by an enormous assortment of thriving plants. Mancuso also tracks the journeys of several species that might be regarded as invasive. “Why…do we insist on labeling as ‘invasive’ all those plants that, with great success, have managed to occupy new territories?” asks the author. “On a closer look, the invasive plants of today are the native flora of the future, just as the invasive species of the past are a fundamental part of our ecosystem today.” Throughout, Mancuso persuasively articulates why an understanding and appreciation of how nature is interconnected is vital to the future of our planet. “In nature everything is connected,” he writes. “This simple law that humans don’t seem to understand has a corollary: the extinction of a species, besides being a calamity in and of itself, has unforeseeable consequences for the system to which the species belongs.” The book is not without flaws. The loosely imagined watercolor renderings are vague and fail to effectively complement Mancuso’s richly descriptive prose or satisfy readers’ curiosity. Even without actual photos and maps, it would have been beneficial to readers to include more finely detailed plant and map renderings.

An authoritative, engaging study of plant life, accessible to younger readers as well as adults.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-63542-991-6

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Other Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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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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