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ENERGY EXPLAINED

VOLUME 2: ALTERNATIVE ENERGY

An easy-to-understand guide for those interested in alternative energy.

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Energy policy and production isn’t considered a hot topic for conversations at parties, but as the authors of this book on alternative energy—a companion to their previous book on fossil fuels—would argue, maybe it should be.

As with the previous volume, Janardhan and Fesmire create a high-level overview of energy policies and technologies. This time they focus on alternative energy production, which includes “green” methods such as wind, solar and tidal energy as well as nuclear power. However, as none of these methods except nuclear currently represent a sizable percentage of U.S. power generation, the focus in this volume is more on the technologies involved and various programs used to encourage research and investment. In addition, the authors also devote a substantial number of pages to discussing conservation, efficiency and the different infrastructure issues that stand in the way of adopting other methods, such as the need for more and higher-capacity transmission lines. Despite the numerous issues at play, many of which would require in-depth education and experience to understand fully, the authors manage to distill the essential concepts into easily understandable chunks and explain those concepts in a conversational, playful way that is high on wit and low on snark. While many of the pop culture references will date fairly quickly—some already have—the authors resist the urge to make the writing impenetrable to later generations by using context and a light touch that keeps their prose from being too firmly rooted in the present. Clear explanations, a thoughtful overview of many issues and a carefully modulated authorial voice work together to keep reader interest from flagging. The result is a second volume that works as well as the first in presenting relevant information on energy issues succinctly and well.  

An easy-to-understand guide for those interested in alternative energy. 

Pub Date: Nov. 16, 2010

ISBN: 978-1442203723

Page Count: 255

Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield

Review Posted Online: Jan. 24, 2012

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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