The canary-in-the-coal-mine image is a powerful one, and this book carries a potent message sure to resonate with...

IN SEARCH OF THE CANARY TREE

THE STORY OF A SCIENTIST, A CYPRESS, AND A CHANGING WORLD

Field research into why yellow-cedar trees are dying and how people dependent on it are coping with a changing environment.

In her debut, Oakes, a conservation scientist at the Wildlife Conservation Society, presents a “blend of ecology and social science,” looking for answers to scientific questions through meticulous, rigorous research on the Alexander Archipelago off the southeastern coast of Alaska. She also spent hours interviewing Alaskans coping with a rapidly shifting environment. Hardy, diligent, and empathetic, the author makes vividly clear the difficulties of conducting multiyear field research on a remote archipelago. The book, she writes, “chronicles my effort to answer what happens in the wake of yellow-cedar death, not only to uncover the future of these old-growth forests, but to share lessons that apply to people on other parts of the planet….If we start looking at the local picture and the ways in which we all depend on nature in various ways every day, solutions emerge. I witnessed this in Alaska.” For armchair readers, this provides an unforgettable picture of just how scientists work in the field. Readers looking for a thorough understanding of the decline of the yellow-cedar tree will not be disappointed. The data are here, collected and painstakingly recorded by intrepid young people living rough, sometimes in tents and sleeping bags, eating dehydrated food, and slogging through chilly bogs in rain and fog. In between, there are the author’s trips back to Stanford, where she was a graduate student and is now an adjunct professor. It’s clear that Oakes is deeply concerned about what climate change—of which the decline of the yellow-cedar is but one marker—will mean in her lifetime and in the more distant future. How will we continue to adapt in the face of frightening changes?

The canary-in-the-coal-mine image is a powerful one, and this book carries a potent message sure to resonate with conservationists.

Pub Date: Nov. 27, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5416-9712-6

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2018

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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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THE GREAT BRIDGE

THE EPIC STORY OF THE BUILDING OF THE BROOKLYN BRIDGE

It took 14 years to build and it cost 15 million dollars and the lives of 20 workmen. Like the Atlantic cable and the Suez Canal it was a gigantic embodiment in steel and concrete of the Age of Enterprise. McCullough's outsized biography of the bridge attempts to capture in one majestic sweep the full glory of the achievement but the story sags mightily in the middle. True, the Roeblings, father and son who served successively as Chief Engineer, are cast in a heroic mold. True, too, the vital statistics of the bridge are formidable. But despite diligent efforts by the author the details of the construction work — from sinking the caissons, to underground blasting, stringing of cables and pouring of cement — will crush the determination of all but the most indomitable reader. To make matters worse, McCullough dutifully struggles through the administrative history of the Brooklyn Bridge Company which financed and contracted for the project with the help of the Tweed Machine and various Brooklyn bosses who profited handsomely amid continuous allegations of kickbacks and mismanagement of funds. He succeeds in evoking the venality and crass materialism of the epoch but once again the details — like the 3,515 miles of steel wire in each cable — are tiresome and ultimately entangling. Workmanlike and thorough though it is, McCullough's history of the bridge has more bulk than stature.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1972

ISBN: 0743217373

Page Count: 652

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 12, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1972

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