A book with built-in appeal to both scientific minds and those thinking about sustainable transportation options.

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THE POWERHOUSE

INSIDE THE INVENTION OF A BATTERY TO SAVE THE WORLD

The history and progression of the lithium-ion battery and its critical role in modern technology.

LeVine (Putin’s Labyrinth: Spies, Murder, and the Dark Heart of the New Russia, 2008, etc.) examines the rechargeable battery market and the race among scientific developers to find the next consumer-changing breakthrough. His research centers primarily on development engineer Jeff Chamberlain and his work with the Argonne National Laboratory, an Illinois-based federal research center countering problematic industrial challenges with clean energy solutions. As lead engineer of Argonne’s Battery Department, the thrust of Chamberlain’s work has been the manufacturing of an electric car battery that addresses consumer concerns: safety and “performance in distance and acceleration.” With the aid of well-researched historical data and moderately accessible scientific detail, LeVine structures his narrative around those responsible for bringing the premise and the science behind the electric car “from the lab to the factory,” expanding the niche market of the product from a “social purchase” for “buyers wishing association with the green movement” to a product ushering in an electric age which “would puncture the demand for oil.” The author depicts Chamberlain, in addition to other battery scientists and solid-state physicists and Argonne technologists, as concurrently building and capitalizing from one another’s technology, and LeVine examines the intricate dynamics of geopolitics, internal conflict and fierce industry competitiveness with equal acuity. The narrative culminates with the dramatics behind Argonne’s bid to win the U.S. Department of Energy’s battery Hub competition. A suitable companion to the documentary Who Killed the Electric Car? (2006), LeVine has produced a readable resource on the forward-thinking advances and challenges facing newer advancements in modern automobile technology.

A book with built-in appeal to both scientific minds and those thinking about sustainable transportation options.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2015

ISBN: 978-0670025848

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Dec. 7, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2014

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Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...

THINKING, FAST AND SLOW

A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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

A SHORT HISTORY OF NEARLY EVERYTHING

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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