An admirable complement to the author’s previous book and equally satisfying for those willing to read carefully.


Having recounted the mechanics of the big picture in A Universe from Nothing (2012), theoretical physicist Krauss (Director, Origins Project/Arizona State Univ.) delivers a companion volume that fills in the little—often very little—stuff.

Throughout human history, all cultures explained, usually incorrectly, the cosmos, our visible world, and man itself, but, as the author writes, “humanity took a major step toward modernity when it dawned on our ancestors’ consciousness that there is more to the universe than meets the eye.” From electromagnetism and the concept of space-time, which makes sense, to the minuscule quantum world, which doesn’t, these are not in short supply. Although no true believer, Krauss launches with “in the beginning there was light” but adds that gravity deserves equal billing before proceeding with a rich, definitely not-dumbed-down history of physics. Newton and Galileo revealed how things moved, but no individual achievement is likely to surpass Einstein’s; he improved the picture with a spectacular unification of space, time, and gravity. Krauss slows after the period around 1920, when quantum mechanics revealed new, confusing phenomena, and matters have not improved much since, as physicists struggle, with varying success, to explain an oddball collection of particles and forces, culminating in the discovery of the Higgs particle by the most complicated machine every built, the Large Hadron Collider. This revealed that physicists were more or less on the right track but faced plenty of unanswered questions. Krauss has never been one to reduce science to a Nova-style magic show, so readers will need to maintain close attention to properly absorb his explanations of concepts such as the weak force, Higgs field, and symmetry breaking.

An admirable complement to the author’s previous book and equally satisfying for those willing to read carefully.

Pub Date: March 21, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4767-7761-0

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Dec. 7, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

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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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A quirky wonder of a book.



A Peabody Award–winning NPR science reporter chronicles the life of a turn-of-the-century scientist and how her quest led to significant revelations about the meaning of order, chaos, and her own existence.

Miller began doing research on David Starr Jordan (1851-1931) to understand how he had managed to carry on after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake destroyed his work. A taxonomist who is credited with discovering “a full fifth of fish known to man in his day,” Jordan had amassed an unparalleled collection of ichthyological specimens. Gathering up all the fish he could save, Jordan sewed the nameplates that had been on the destroyed jars directly onto the fish. His perseverance intrigued the author, who also discusses the struggles she underwent after her affair with a woman ended a heterosexual relationship. Born into an upstate New York farm family, Jordan attended Cornell and then became an itinerant scholar and field researcher until he landed at Indiana University, where his first ichthyological collection was destroyed by lightning. In between this catastrophe and others involving family members’ deaths, he reconstructed his collection. Later, he was appointed as the founding president of Stanford, where he evolved into a Machiavellian figure who trampled on colleagues and sang the praises of eugenics. Miller concludes that Jordan displayed the characteristics of someone who relied on “positive illusions” to rebound from disaster and that his stand on eugenics came from a belief in “a divine hierarchy from bacteria to humans that point[ed]…toward better.” Considering recent research that negates biological hierarchies, the author then suggests that Jordan’s beloved taxonomic category—fish—does not exist. Part biography, part science report, and part meditation on how the chaos that caused Miller’s existential misery could also bring self-acceptance and a loving wife, this unique book is an ingenious celebration of diversity and the mysterious order that underlies all existence.

A quirky wonder of a book.

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6027-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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