A meticulous primer on achieving a WWS energy transition emphasizing the engineering—the easy part.

How to solve our climate, energy, and pollution crises with today’s tools.

Few readers will disagree with Jacobson, a Stanford professor whose work “forms the scientific basis of the Green New Deal,” when he points out that “burning things—coal, gas, oil, and biomass—has produced the prosperous world that we in the West inhabit” but also dismal environmental damage. A steady stream of solutions pour off the presses, mostly describing futuristic technology or nations cooperating to a degree never seen in history. In fact, Jacobson maintains, 95% of the technologies that we need are already commercially available, and we know how to build the rest. Everyone, the author included, agrees that the world must move away from combustion and toward electrification and learn to provide direct heat and energy through clean, sustainable sources—namely, wind, water, and solar, or WWS. Happy not to encounter another voice of doom or utopian fantasy, readers may settle back to enjoy this common-sense narrative, but they will need to pay close attention. While Jacobson discusses ways to speed adoption of cost-effective systems that are now competing successfully in the marketplace, mostly he delivers technical descriptions of how they work and the science behind them—e.g., the design and operation of a run-of-the-river hydropower plant versus a conventional facility. Readers distant from high school physics and chemistry will relearn the basics of electricity, photovoltaic cells, semiconductors, and power grids. In this expert, densely detailed, and mostly realistic text, Jacobson offers some surprises. For example, battery- and fuel cell–powered cargo vessels and airplanes are now in advanced development. In the final chapter, the author examines policies essential to building a 100% clean infrastructure. These descriptions are heavily technical, and the author admits that overcoming political hurdles will be a greater challenge. The book includes a foreword by Bill McKibben.

A meticulous primer on achieving a WWS energy transition emphasizing the engineering—the easy part.

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2023

ISBN: 9781009249546

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Cambridge Univ.

Review Posted Online: Nov. 7, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2022


Alternately admiring and critical, unvarnished, and a closely detailed account of a troubled innovator.

A warts-and-all portrait of the famed techno-entrepreneur—and the warts are nearly beyond counting.

To call Elon Musk (b. 1971) “mercurial” is to undervalue the term; to call him a genius is incorrect. Instead, Musk has a gift for leveraging the genius of others in order to make things work. When they don’t, writes eminent biographer Isaacson, it’s because the notoriously headstrong Musk is so sure of himself that he charges ahead against the advice of others: “He does not like to share power.” In this sharp-edged biography, the author likens Musk to an earlier biographical subject, Steve Jobs. Given Musk’s recent political turn, born of the me-first libertarianism of the very rich, however, Henry Ford also comes to mind. What emerges clearly is that Musk, who may or may not have Asperger’s syndrome (“Empathy did not come naturally”), has nurtured several obsessions for years, apart from a passion for the letter X as both a brand and personal name. He firmly believes that “all requirements should be treated as recommendations”; that it is his destiny to make humankind a multi-planetary civilization through innovations in space travel; that government is generally an impediment and that “the thought police are gaining power”; and that “a maniacal sense of urgency” should guide his businesses. That need for speed has led to undeniable successes in beating schedules and competitors, but it has also wrought disaster: One of the most telling anecdotes in the book concerns Musk’s “demon mode” order to relocate thousands of Twitter servers from Sacramento to Portland at breakneck speed, which trashed big parts of the system for months. To judge by Isaacson’s account, that may have been by design, for Musk’s idea of creative destruction seems to mean mostly chaos.

Alternately admiring and critical, unvarnished, and a closely detailed account of a troubled innovator.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2023

ISBN: 9781982181284

Page Count: 688

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 12, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2023


A straightforward, carefully detailed presentation of how ``fruit comes from flowers,'' from winter's snow-covered buds through pollination and growth to ripening and harvest. Like the text, the illustrations are admirably clear and attractive, including the larger-than-life depiction of the parts of the flower at different stages. An excellent contribution to the solidly useful ``Let's-Read-and-Find-Out-Science'' series. (Nonfiction/Picture book. 4-9)

Pub Date: Jan. 30, 1992

ISBN: 0-06-020055-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1991

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