Readers yearning for stories of human space travel must follow developments in China, the only nation with an active manned...

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MARS ROVER CURIOSITY

AN INSIDE ACCOUNT FROM CURIOSITY'S CHIEF ENGINEER

Although lacking the glamour of manned space flight, unmanned probes have accomplished great things, and this book delivers a thoroughly satisfying description of one of the greatest.

Aided by journalist Simon (co-author, with Kevin Mitnick: Ghost in the Wires: My Adventures as the World's Most Wanted Hacker, 2011, etc.), Manning, NASA’s chief of engineering for the Mars Program Office, recounts Curiosity’s tortuous development, from the rover’s 2004 proposal to the Aug. 5, 2012, landing and subsequent triumph that “revolutionized the art of planetary exploration.” No one took success for granted, aware that more than half of the probes sent to Mars have failed. The eight-month voyage presented few problems; not so the critical EDL, or entry-descent-landing, process, which required a Rube Goldberg–esque series of parachutes, rockets and thrusters that carefully deposited the rover and then flew away. Compared to previous rovers (the tiny 1997 Sojourner, modest 2003 Spirit and Opportunity), Curiosity is massive: five times heavier and 10 times more complex than its predecessor. Comparable to the Manhattan project, the development took longer and faced problems unknown to those who built the atom bomb. Many features couldn’t be tested, and budgetary limitations meant that defects were often left in place if they were unlikely to affect the mission. Most readers know how it turned out. The engineers were not so lucky, and the authors deliver a nail-biting, nuts-and-bolts chronicle of seemingly endless technical and political problems overcome by brilliant, obsessive engineers who worked day and night and continue to do so.

Readers yearning for stories of human space travel must follow developments in China, the only nation with an active manned space program. Those who appreciate the purely scientific results of planetary exploration will love this lively, intelligent account of a dazzling achievement.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-58834-473-1

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Smithsonian Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 26, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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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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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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