Immensely readable and informative.

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LONG FOR THIS WORLD

THE STRANGE SCIENCE OF IMMORTALITY

Pulitzer Prize winner Weiner (Science Writing/Columbia Univ.; His Brother’s Keeper: A Story from the Edge of Medicine, 2004, etc.) offers a gripping account of the science of aging.

The young field of gerontology, writes the author, is growing rapidly now that modern equipment allows biologists to closely study the molecular machinery of human cells. Yet the complex problem of aging remains a major challenge for researchers. If gerontologists are able to figure it out, life spans could take a big jump. (Average life expectancy has risen from about 20 in the Stone Age to 80 in today’s developed world.) In this wonderfully crafted book, Weiner explores the history of humankind’s yearning for longevity and the theories of gerontologists now working to help people live longer and alleviate the suffering of old age. The main narrative thread follows 47-year-old Aubrey de Grey, a voluble, arrogant, bearded British scientist who believes aging is a disease that can be cured through proper cleaning and repair of the body. By day a computer programmer, de Grey has emerged as a well-known figure at the fringe of gerontology, arguing at conferences and in journals that if we take action against seven types of cellular decay (repairing worn-out body parts, preventing the growth of cancers, etc.), humans could live forever. Moreover, this “general and impresario in the War on Aging” believes the breakthrough can be achieved within 25 years. Most academic scientists dismiss de Grey’s claims as wildly optimistic, but many recognize his insights and even co-author papers with him. Demystifying the workings of the mitochondria that power our cells, the author brings to life the various theories of aging advanced by researchers such as gerontologist Ana Maria Cuervo, who agrees with de Grey that “the key to the problem of aging may well lie in a kind of sophisticated detoxification of our cells.” Weiner’s lucid, brightly paced narrative brims with snapshots of scientists, stories of experiments and informed speculations on what the conquest of aging would mean for the human experience.

Immensely readable and informative.

Pub Date: July 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-06-076536-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2010

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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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As much a work of philosophy as of physics and full of insights for readers willing to work hard.

THE ORDER OF TIME

Undeterred by a subject difficult to pin down, Italian theoretical physicist Rovelli (Reality Is Not What It Seems: The Journey to Quantum Gravity, 2017, etc.) explains his thoughts on time.

Other scientists have written primers on the concept of time for a general audience, but Rovelli, who also wrote the bestseller Seven Brief Lessons on Physics, adds his personal musings, which are astute and rewarding but do not make for an easy read. “We conventionally think of time,” he writes, “as something simple and fundamental that flows uniformly, independently from everything else, uniformly from the past to the future, measured by clocks and watches. In the course of time, the events of the universe succeed each other in an orderly way: pasts, presents, futures. The past is fixed, the future open….And yet all of this has turned out to be false.” Rovelli returns again and again to the ideas of three legendary men. Aristotle wrote that things change continually. What we call “time” is the measurement of that change. If nothing changed, time would not exist. Newton disagreed. While admitting the existence of a time that measures events, he insisted that there is an absolute “true time” that passes relentlessly. If the universe froze, time would roll on. To laymen, this may seem like common sense, but most philosophers are not convinced. Einstein asserted that both are right. Aristotle correctly explained that time flows in relation to something else. Educated laymen know that clocks register different times when they move or experience gravity. Newton’s absolute exists, but as a special case in Einstein’s curved space-time. According to Rovelli, our notion of time dissolves as our knowledge grows; complex features swell and then retreat and perhaps vanish entirely. Furthermore, equations describing many fundamental physical phenomena don’t require time.

As much a work of philosophy as of physics and full of insights for readers willing to work hard.

Pub Date: May 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-1610-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: April 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

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