Conditions of Use
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