All things Beaufort considered, including derivative poetry and even symphonic music.




NPR contributor Huler was browsing a dictionary in 1983 when he first became obsessed with the language of the Beaufort Scale’s wind definitions: the “the best, clearest and most vigorous descriptive writing I had ever seen.”

Frantically seeking wider knowledge of the man who penned such classics as Beaufort Force 9 (“Strong gale, chimney pots and slates removed”), Huler begins by tracking down the works of Francis Beaufort (1774–1857), the Irish-born admiral who served the British navy for 68 years and gave his name to the graduated scale of wind strength (not speed) still used today. An indepth body of research ensues in which any number of thinkers, including Aristotle, 16th-century Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe, and Daniel Defoe (in 1704) are found to have preceded Beaufort in trying assign a numeric scale to wind force. Beaufort was solely concerned with defining wind for those with most to gain from it, seamen; the land-based perspective version that ensnared Huler with its poetic meters was compiled in 1906, it turns out, from observations by a group of British coastal weather watchers. Yet Beaufort sticks, not only because of his slavish attention to detail, but as a symbol of the rise of information-based hydrography in a navy that truly ruled the waves. He rubbed shoulders with the likes of Bligh, recommended that the Beagle’s captain sign on an untried young naturalist named Charles Darwin for an exploratory Pacific cruise, and fought with pistol and saber at sea and on land until his hip was broken by a sniper’s ball in the Mediterranean. Note to Russell Crowe’s agent: role comes with immense baggage; Beaufort’s compulsion to observe and report all extends to diary entries about an affair with his sister while a widower in his 60s.

All things Beaufort considered, including derivative poetry and even symphonic music.

Pub Date: Aug. 10, 2004

ISBN: 1-4000-4884-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2004

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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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As much a work of philosophy as of physics and full of insights for readers willing to work hard.


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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