Conditions of Use
In the preface, the author frames this book as a physics text that is intended to support a general education college course on energy and the environment. I found this textbook to be comprehensive, albeit quite dense. While I appreciate the... read more
In the preface, the author frames this book as a physics text that is intended to support a general education college course on energy and the environment. I found this textbook to be comprehensive, albeit quite dense. While I appreciate the author for covering everything from population dynamics, economic growth, energy resources and technologies to environmental values and psychology all through the lens of physics, this text would be a heavy lift for students in a 100-level course. The text provides a notation section, a glossary, and appendices with "refreshers" on math, equations, and chemistry, but educators considering this text should have an acute awareness of students' baseline proficiencies. This text may be more appropriate for a 200- or 300-level course where students already have strong quantitative skills that will assist them in applying the concepts discussed throughout the text.
Overall, the content presented in the text is accurate and error-free. Some portions of the text come across as skewed toward energy options that the author deems as "important." Educators considering this text should acknowledge and make sure that students are aware of the author's voice and value judgements throughout the text; specifically Chapter 16 Small Players, which summarizes less common renewable energy resources such as geothermal, marine energy, and hydrogen.
Overall, the content is up-to-date and will not quickly become obsolete. Content-wise, there are only a few omissions. The wind energy section does not include a discussion on the offshore wind industry. Updates to the Nuclear Fusion section are also recommended in light of recent (2022) breakthroughs at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California. The text lays a good framework for discussion and definitely lends itself to updates to keep up with energy trends.
I found the book easy to read and it is written in a fairly conversational tone. Many of the students at my institution are ESL/ESOL learners. While some of the technical terms in the textbook may present a challenge for some students, the book provides several wonderful charts, figures, and graphs to convey the pertinent details. I appreciate that the book contains scenarios throughout, as these may be used to prompt class discussions that give students the opportunity to collaborate with each other, talk about what they've learned, and deepen their understanding in spite of linguistic barriers.
The text is consistent throughout the book.
Taken as a whole, the textbook is dense, however I found that the book was organized in such a way that it can be easily broken down into smaller chunks that can be the focus of sub-units over the course of a semester. More so, any of the book's parts (Part I,II, III, or IV) could stand alone as the focus of a semester-long course. I also found that it was very easy to identify portions of the textbook that would fit into special topics courses (e.g., population dynamics and space colonization, renewable energy, environmental phycology and energy, etc.)
Topics are presented in an organized fashion that makes sense and is easy to follow.
The text was relatively easy to navigate and all of the embedded hyperlinks that I selected worked properly. The charts and images throughout the textbook were clear and easy to interpret. Educators considering this text should be aware that the notes in the margin space could be a distraction for some readers or present issues if a student ever needed the assistance of a text-to-speech converter.
No grammatical errors were noted.
While there are places in the text that consider global energy trends, I found this textbook to be very US-centric. I do not consider this to be a positive or a negative, just something educators should be aware of. The Policy vs Individual Action section of the text discusses energy issues in the context of democratic governments and voting. A number of the students at my institution are from originally from countries with authoritarian governments or they may not be eligible to vote in the US. The text refers to people who do not vote as "jerks." This could be interpreted as offensive. Additionally, the term "woke" is used a few times throughout the textbook. Many decades ago, "woke" was a term used mostly in Black spaces to underscore the importance of being aware of patterns of racism and oppression. In recent years, "woke" has been co-opted in harmful ways that have made it a negative political term associated with anything having to do with progressivism.
Being a physics based energy book, I found the coverage of energy's multifaceted nature complete. The book does a great job in addressing energy issues via sustainability's pillars. With the human population fast approaching eight million, it... read more
Being a physics based energy book, I found the coverage of energy's multifaceted nature complete. The book does a great job in addressing energy issues via sustainability's pillars. With the human population fast approaching eight million, it is critical students become aware of the human overpopulation and overconsumption problems and their connection to energy and a healthy planet.
What I read appears to be accurate, although some sections require annual updating. For example, DOE, EPA, EIA, and IEA provide annual updates on energy consumption, and sector end-use. The wind energy section can add a section on the significant increase in off-shore wind projects. Solar electricity costs have decreased significantly in recent years and I recommend providing that information in units of "dollars/watt installed." For the Hydroelectric Energy chapter, I recommend adding information on the impact of climate change-caused drought.
This book could not be more relevant and timely. One suggestions is to add other energy efficient technologies either under the energy chapters or in the Going Forward chapter. I would include: transpired solar collectors (pre-heated ventilation for commercial buildings) and heat recovery ventilators/energy recovery ventilators. While Heat Pumps have their own section, I would add a graphic showing how they work and include some info on heat pump water heaters. Personally relevant to me is how the author enlisted his students for content feedback. Being new to OER, I will do this and believe it will help me develop an more effective and relevant resource. Students are our customers after all!
I found the book to be very clear and readable. Technological terms are defined and/or explained.
The book's organization and formatting is very consistent and easy to follow.
The book's chapter layout, sections, and subsections make is easily digestible and not too overwhelming - even for students new to the energy topic.
I found the chapters are in a logical order for this topic with each flowing naturally into the next.
I like the interface and format so much that I plan to use it as a template for developing my own Open Educational Resource! I jumped around in several sections in order to write this review and had no issues navigating.
I saw no grammatical errors.
I found nothing insensitive or offensive. If anything, I found it neutral while even addressing sensitive issues such as human overpopulation. Energy topics can be cultural when you look closely and are addressed via fish/salmon (subsistence living ) issues with dams/hydroelectric energy, etc. I like how the "call-out" boxes provide students an opportunity to engage in personal exploration of a topic. These exercises could turn into classroom discussions where culture frames the viewpoint.
I found this book while looking for existing OERs that I could possibly use for an Energy-Efficient HVAC technologies course. While the content will not work for the course, I plan to use the format as a template. That said, I will considering adapting it for an Energy & Sustainability course I also teach.
This text presents the problem of energy usage on a planet with finite resources in a novel way. Developing the thinking process beginning with considering the absurdity of infinite continued growth through a process that explains the physics of... read more
This text presents the problem of energy usage on a planet with finite resources in a novel way. Developing the thinking process beginning with considering the absurdity of infinite continued growth through a process that explains the physics of energy, the current situation, and the limitations imposed by the human psyche, the author finally discusses the need for a plan and the difficulty of creating one. Nice work to encourage critical thinking and problem solving over equation hunting, memorizing, and pattern matching.
While the author certainly has a point of view, the resources cited are credible and relevant. I found no errors, inconsistencies, or questionable material in the book.
With the climate in crisis, the current relevance of such a book is inarguable. Much of the data presented is from governmental resources, which can be updated as needed. Whether this will always be a relevant topic is unclear, but certainly for the next few decades, the text is on point for setting up the problem, discussing the information known, and suggesting solutions.
The author’s writing style is accessible and readable. The addition of margin notes, a glossary, and an outstanding Appendix makes the information completely accessible to a wide audience. Each chapter concludes with an upshot, which clarifies the central theme of that chapter.\r\nAppendix A: Math and Equations. The syntax is confusing. “What about sqrt10 ~ 3?3“ The 3 after the question mark refers to a footnote or sidenote with further detail. In the text it looks like you are asking if the square root of 10 is approximately 3 cubed and the question mark is out of place. Compare to a3 = 8r^3, you can’t tell the difference between reference 3 and power of 3 in the text. Perhaps parentheses could be used for the reference number to a margin note, since square brackets are used for citations.
I found no inconsistencies in terminology or framework.
This book is highly modular and pieces of it could be used in other courses with little disruption. The use of margin notes assists with that. Parts of the glossary might be useful if using only specific modules, but each piece is mostly stand-alone. \r\nAppendix A is a useful module that might be useful in many different contexts. It includes a useful reference for reviewing Math and Equations in one module, for those who may be less familiar or even afraid of math, and Chemistry in another module, for information and review at a very basic level. Since they are in the appendix, either can be used only if needed, and might be useful to reference in other courses. Both are readable and very accessible to a broad audience.
The book is organized in such a way as to develop a mindset for the final argument to be made. Including a section on How to Use This Book is a brilliant strategy that makes it much easier to maneuver around a digital book. It is invaluable for understanding how to use the digital edition and how it differs from the print version. The structure is logical and the information flows nicely.
All the links I tried worked correctly. There are many hyperlinks to other parts of the textbook, as well as to definitions. The definitions have links to pages in the text where the term or phrase can be found. Very nicely done. \r\nUse of margins for notes, figures, tables, etc. prevents the endless scrolling up and down, bouncing back and forth, etc., usually required to view a footnote or endnote and then return to your place in the text.
I found no grammatical errors or awkward wording throughout the entire book.
Including basic information on Math and Chemistry without being condescending is done well in the appendices in this book. The text is empathetic to those who may not be inclined or comfortable with math and science. In general, I found that most of the explanations and problems are not culturally insensitive, but this is not my area of expertise. This is a place where the book might need a closer look by an expert in cultural sensitivity. Some of the problems are very American, and people from other countries might not be familiar with the culture. I found one problem that asked to make a calculation from the time Columbus sailed to America. It might be worth changing the referenced starting time to some other date in history.
I was quite impressed with this book and will consider using it for a class in the future. I will also consider using some of the modules to supplement materials in other classes.
The book sets off on its excursion through our knowledge of, and our philosophy of, the energy dilemma of our times with a set of basic contexts of our time. We learn a bit about the math of exponents and its application to energy. The limits of... read more
The book sets off on its excursion through our knowledge of, and our philosophy of, the energy dilemma of our times with a set of basic contexts of our time. We learn a bit about the math of exponents and its application to energy. The limits of economic growth are discussed, along with the biggest limiter, population growth. Finally, there is the topic, rarely mentioned in an environmental growth - space travel and colonization. Many people say we should clean up our house before we go messing up other houses - none so provocatively as here.
Then we focus on the main topic - fossil fuels. This is followed by a reasoned consideration of alternative energies - each of these is given a discussion of its pros and cons.
Finally, a look to the future and what might humans come up with. The last chapter is on Adaptation Strategies. This might seen to be advocating getting comfortable with failure to accomplish much. This is possible, but it is also focused on individual choices and efforts and on the fact that there may be no one single answer that will relieve all the problems we see.
The index, the appendices, and the glossary appear to be quite thorough.
In looking at the many focused sections, they all seem to five a thorough grounding in the subject matter. There are definitions and examples, along with side-notes that add brief explanations and in-column boxes that develop related ideas. There was no sign of errors in the presentations; nor was there any indication of bias in any of the topics. The approaches to opposing energy issues, such as nuclear energy, solar energy, and fossil fuels were all reasonable, laying out the histories and probable futures.
Some sections might be rapidly outdated, such as the Nuclear Energy section - what =, for instance, would happen here if some new, eco-friendly nuclear reactor were designed and were proven to be better than anything currently in use? Even that would take some number of years.
But, for the rest of the text, the information is solidly true for many years. This is a book that is aimed at popular understanding of the major issues of today. The environment is changing, but it is changing slowly enough for what is presented here to be true for a long time. Long enough to educate many about the hazards we are confronting.
In this review, the text was found to be quite readable. The style is pleasant and the amount of jargon is truly minimal The difficult words are clearly explained in the sizable glossary.
The author's style is consistent from chapter to chapter. The explanations are easy to follow; this indicates a similar depth of understanding of the different topics by the author.
The various topics are confined to individual chapters. There are 4 main sections, each with 4, 5, 8, and 3 chapters each; each chapter has 3 to 11 sections. It would be easy to lay out many different courses with related themes by making judicious selections from the many sections provided here.
The text begins with basic underlying concepts, such as growth, economy, and population. It moves to the current fossil fuel-based energy environment and the climate crisis resulting from that. Next it considers alternatives to the main current energy source. Finally, it considers the future. The flow is easy to follow.
In this review, there were no interface issues noted. It was easy to move around in the online pdf text. The images and the charts were easy to read and had no evident flaws.
There were no evident grammatical flaws.
There were no cultural faux pas evident in this text.
Table of Contents
- I. Setting the Stage: Growth and Limitations
- II. Energy and Fossil Fuels
- III. Alternative Energy
- IV. Going Forward
About the Book
Where is humanity going? How realistic is a future of fusion and space colonies? What constraints are imposed by physics, by resource availability, and by human psychology? Are default expectations grounded in reality?
This textbook, written for a general-education audience, aims to address these questions without either the hype or the indifference typical of many books. The message throughout is that humanity faces a broad sweep of foundational problems as we inevitably transition away from fossil fuels and confront planetary limits in a host of unprecedented ways—a shift whose scale and probable rapidity offers little historical guidance.
Salvaging a decent future requires keen awareness, quantitative assessment, deliberate preventive action, and—above all—recognition that prevailing assumptions about human identity and destiny have been cruelly misshapen by the profoundly unsustainable trajectory of the last 150 years. The goal is to shake off unfounded and unexamined expectations, while elucidating the relevant physics and encouraging greater facility in quantitative reasoning.
After addressing limits to growth, population dynamics, uncooperative space environments, and the current fossil underpinnings of modern civilization, various sources of alternative energy are considered in detail— assessing how they stack up against each other, and which show the greatest potential. Following this is an exploration of systemic human impediments to effective and timely responses, capped by guidelines for individual adaptations resulting in reduced energy and material demands on the planet’s groaning capacity. Appendices provide refreshers on math and chemistry, as well as supplementary material of potential interest relating to cosmology, electric transportation, and an evolutionary perspective on humanity’s place in nature.
About the Contributors
Thomas W, Murphy Jr, UC San Diego