Despite unrelenting whimsy, the authors provide solid, well-thought-out, useful information on cutting-edge technology.

SOONISH

TEN EMERGING TECHNOLOGIES THAT'LL IMPROVE AND/OR RUIN EVERYTHING

Ten futuristic developments familiar to readers accompanied by equally astute explanations of the crushing difficulties to be overcome in order to bring the ideas to fruition.

In this husband-and-wife team of authors, cartoonist Zach, creator of the webcomic Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, provides a steady stream of amusing illustrations throughout the book. Ecologist and blogger Kelly belongs to the science-shouldn’t-be-boring school of writing, but readers able to tolerate her joke-filled prose will not regret the experience. Nuclear fusion can provide unlimited clean energy by forcing two hydrogen atoms to combine into one helium atom, a process that requires temperatures and pressures present at the heart of the sun. Achieving this turns out to be extremely difficult and expensive (more than $20 billion spent so far), but the scientists involved have no doubts that it is possible. We don’t have cheap space travel because rockets must carry all their fuel, leaving little room for cargo. An analogy is driving a car around the world pulling a trailer containing all the gasoline. All prophets of future technology must discuss robots, and the authors do their duty (“Build me a Rumpus Room, Metal Servant!”). Everyone knows that genetic engineering may eventually cure diseases and correct our defects; the authors provide the details. Predictions have a terrible record, but they’re irresistible. With good, common sense the authors turn the problems on their heads by discussing the barriers to the marvels to come. In the end, they take for granted that these will happen, so the predictions remain. Even so, they deliver excellent descriptions of the science behind each wonder and the state of current research that may or may not bear fruit.

Despite unrelenting whimsy, the authors provide solid, well-thought-out, useful information on cutting-edge technology.

Pub Date: Oct. 17, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-399-56382-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 8, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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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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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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