An evaluation of the potential energy technologies of the future that draws on a sports metaphor to choose a winner.

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The Future of Clean Energy

WHO WINS AND WHO LOSES AS THE WORLD GOES GREEN

A debut book examines the most likely energy developments of the next decades.

In this science and policy volume, Schwendiman uses the Super Bowl as the organizing metaphor for a discussion of the competing visions of the future of energy in the United States. Technologies belong to either the Fuel Conference (gasoline, ethanol) or the Electricity Conference (nuclear, solar) and face off against each other as the author evaluates their potential as primary power sources in the 21st century and beyond. The book comes down firmly in favor of both nuclear power and ethanol production and does not hesitate to make sweeping pronouncements: “Nuclear energy is the solution to all electricity problems in the world.” The supporting arguments are largely persuasive, although many of the book’s citations point to news articles and industry publications as opposed to independent research. Schwendiman favors the small modular reactor, a compact form of the device that overcomes many of the objections to large-scale nuclear plants. He makes largely compelling arguments for the technology’s safety, although his tendency to attribute the problems of Chernobyl and Fukushima to shortcomings in Soviet and Japanese cultures is less convincing. The book also examines the futures of wind, hydroelectric power, solar energy, and natural gas and finds them far less viable in the long run. Schwendiman is clearly knowledgeable about both the scientific and financial aspects of the energy processes described in the volume, although he sometimes oversimplifies the data, as in a graph of oil prices showing a smooth curve increasing from 1985 to 2050 that ignores the price fluctuations to date. Although this work is not authoritative enough to put an end to debates over the future of energy or inspire universal enthusiasm for nuclear power and ethanol, it does an excellent job of organizing current knowledge of the technologies and their potential for meeting the world’s energy needs.

An evaluation of the potential energy technologies of the future that draws on a sports metaphor to choose a winner.

Pub Date: Dec. 30, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4969-4042-1

Page Count: 216

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: June 13, 2016

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Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...

THINKING, FAST AND SLOW

A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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A deftly argued case for a new kind of socialism that, while sure to inspire controversy, bears widespread discussion.

CAPITAL AND IDEOLOGY

A massive investigation of economic history in the service of proposing a political order to overcome inequality.

Readers who like their political manifestoes in manageable sizes, à la Common Sense or The Communist Manifesto, may be overwhelmed by the latest from famed French economist Piketty (Top Incomes in France in the Twentieth Century: Inequality and Redistribution, 1901-1998, 2014, etc.), but it’s a significant work. The author interrogates the principal forms of economic organization over time, from slavery to “non-European trifunctional societies,” Chinese-style communism, and “hypercapitalist” orders, in order to examine relative levels of inequality and its evolution. Each system is founded on an ideology, and “every ideology, no matter how extreme it may seem in its defense of inequality, expresses a certain idea of social justice.” In the present era, at least in the U.S., that idea of social justice would seem to be only that the big ones eat the little ones, the principal justification being that the wealthiest people became rich because they are “the most enterprising, deserving, and useful.” In fact, as Piketty demonstrates, there’s more to inequality than the mere “size of the income gap.” Contrary to hypercapitalist ideology and its defenders, the playing field is not level, the market is not self-regulating, and access is not evenly distributed. Against this, Piketty arrives at a proposed system that, among other things, would redistribute wealth across societies by heavy taxation, especially of inheritances, to create a “participatory socialism” in which power is widely shared and trade across nations is truly free. The word “socialism,” he allows, is a kind of Pandora’s box that can scare people off—and, he further acknowledges, “the Russian and Czech oligarchs who buy athletic teams and newspapers may not be the most savory characters, but the Soviet system was a nightmare and had to go.” Yet so, too, writes the author, is a capitalism that rewards so few at the expense of so many.

A deftly argued case for a new kind of socialism that, while sure to inspire controversy, bears widespread discussion.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-674-98082-2

Page Count: 976

Publisher: Belknap/Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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