An engrossing picture of a new class of weapon that may revolutionize future wars but has not greatly daunted our current...



Battlefield robotics is transforming modern war and saving American lives, according to this enthusiastic account.

Brookings Institution senior fellow Singer (Children at War, 2005, etc) begins with a history of the crude, radio-controlled unmanned vehicles and planes of World Wars I and II. Technology made quantum advances over the following decades, but resistance from military leaders hobbled development. Leading the opposition were U.S. Air Force generals, who took for granted that any respectable warplane had a pilot. By the ’80s the logjam had broken, and the 1991 Gulf War saw the much-publicized use of “smart bombs” as well as unmanned drones buzzing over Iraqi positions to transmit their observations. America’s 21st-century wars feature ingenious battlefield robots that peer around corners, search for the enemy in dangerous caves and inspect roadside bombs while their operators remain at a safe distance. Overhead, vastly improved drones search for suspicious activity and occasionally rain down destruction. The indefatigable author crisscrossed the country, interviewing engineers, soldiers, politicians and generals to deliver a vivid picture of the current controversies and dazzling possibilities of war in the digital age. As recent headlines on civilian deaths from American air attacks in Afghanistan reveal, many kinks remain to be ironed out. Tempering the optimism of the introductory chapters, Singer devotes much of his text to the flaws of these new devices and steep learning curve involved in employing them. He also reminds readers that even the most backward enemies possess a surprising ability to adapt. He points out what every thoughtful reader knows: Confronted by devastating, high-tech American technology, Iraqi insurgents haven’t scurried into oblivion, and the Taliban in Afghanistan are not retreating but advancing.

An engrossing picture of a new class of weapon that may revolutionize future wars but has not greatly daunted our current opponents.

Pub Date: Jan. 26, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-59420-198-1

Page Count: 450

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2008

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Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science...


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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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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