SHIP OF GOLD IN THE DEEP BLUE SEA

The truly fascinating tale of the first successful deep-water ocean salvage operation is a tribute to good, old-fashioned American ingenuity and grit—with a big dose of Titanic-like adventure to boot. In 1857, the SS Central America sank in 9,000 feet of water off the Carolina coast. Lost were nearly 500 California miners and their gold. It was the biggest maritime disaster in US history at that time, and the huge gold loss contributed to the financial panic of 1857. Because ocean explorers lacked the technology to work in blue water, the wreck lay undisturbed for 130 years. Then came Tommy “Harvey” Thompson, an innovative engineer and maverick thinker from Columbus, Ohio. Using sophisticated search theory and historical research to locate the wreck, Thompson and his talented helpers then designed and built a pathbreaking recovery robot (something the US government had failed to do, despite a huge expenditure of research dollars) in only months, using off-the-shelf components, on a shoestring budget, and in top secrecy. Kinder (Light Years: An Investigation into the Extraterrestrial Experiences of Eduard Meier, 1987) alternates between Thompson’s decade-long quest to gather the necessary investors and technicians and a gripping re-creation of the doomed ship’s voyage based on survivors’ accounts. (Unlike the Titanic, the Central America tragedy occasioned great heroism; male passengers bailed relentlessly for hours and other ship crews risked their lives to evacuate women and children.) The driven genius Thompson and his crew brought a scientific approach to ocean salvage sorely missing in the operations of the typical hit-and-run treasure hunters who plunder shallow water wrecks. Greater than average scientific, financial, and archaeological dividends are their rewards. Kinder’s well-told tale of the Central America recovery (which represents nothing less than the opening of a new frontier in the deep ocean) is one of the great scientific adventure stories of our times. (First printing of 150,000; $250,000 ad/promo; Book-of-the-Month Club/Quality Paperback Book Club main selection; author tour)

Pub Date: June 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-87113-464-0

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1998

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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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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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