Skip to main content

Deep Future – Curt Stager ****

This is a most remarkable book. For one thing, it’s a book about global warming that in some senses leaves you feeling optimistic – which surely is pretty well unique in the history of publishing. I’m feeling better about climate change after reading this than I have for years.
It’s not that Curt Stager denies the impact of global warming, nor does he doubt that man-made global warming is happening, but instead he takes the big picture, something no one else has really done. By looking back at what happened in the past, both in terms of warming and cooling, and the impact it had on life at the time, he points out that predictions of doom are probably not realistic. After all, human beings survived the last ice age, a climate change event on a bigger scale than anything man made global warming can hit us with – there is no reason to think that we are going to be wiped out by the upcoming change.
Of course, this doesn’t mean there won’t be an impact, which Stager points out in terms of the changes hitting species. And it doesn’t mean we should let anything go. He points out the differences in what we would have to cope with under different scenarios, and it will be a lot easier to maintain out level of civilization with a lesser impact – so all the effort to reduce global warming is worth it – but we shouldn’t see it as a disaster that will end life as we know it.
In fact there’s even good news. It looks like our global warming efforts will cancel the next ice age, which would have produced a much bigger devastating blow to civilization than anything global warming has to offer. In the long term, assuming human beings survive, it looks like global warming will have been a good thing for the human race.
The only reason this isn’t a five star book is that it doesn’t hold up on readability. Stager’s style is fine, but in the end this has the slight feel of a magazine article that has been expanded to make a book, which means there’s much more detail than we really need or want to know (and, as seems the trend with scientist-written books these days, a bit too much ‘me’ in it from Stager). There’s also one slipup, where hydrogen is referred to as an energy source – it isn’t, it’s an energy storage and transmission medium, the energy to produce the hydrogen has to come from somewhere – in his example, the energy source is solar, with hydrogen used as a store.
Nevertheless, despite the flaws, this is a book that every green campaigner should read, learn and inwardly digest, if only to reduce the chances of getting ulcers. It gives a whole new perspective on global warming.
Hardback:  
Review by Brian Cleg

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

De/Cipher - Mark Frary ****

I was a little doubtful when I first saw this book. Although it has the intriguing tagline 'The greatest codes ever invented and how to crack them' the combination of a small format hardback and gratuitous illustrations made me suspect it would be a lightweight, minimal content, Janet and John approach to codes and ciphers. Thankfully, in reality Mark Frary manages to pack a remarkable amount of content into De/Cipher's slim form.

Not only do we get some history on and instructions to use a whole range of ciphers, there are engaging little articles on historical codebreakers and useful guidance on techniques to break the simpler ciphers. The broadly historical structure takes the reader through basic alphabetic manipulation, keys, electronic cryptography, one time pads and so on, all the way up to modern public key encryption and a short section on quantum cryptography. 

We even get articles on some of the best known unsolved ciphers, such as the Dorabella and the Voynich ma…

Paul McAuley - Four Way Interview

Paul McAuley won the Philip K. Dick Award for his first novel and has gone on to win the Arthur C. Clarke, British Fantasy, Sidewise and John W. Campbell Awards. He gave up his position as a research biologist to write full-time. He lives in London. His latest novel is Austral.


Why science fiction?

For one thing, I fell in love with science fiction at an early age, and haven’t yet fallen out of love with it (although I have flirted with other genres). For another, we’re living in an increasingly science-fictional present. Every day brings headlines that could have been ripped from a science-fiction story. Giant robot battle: Who knew a duel between chainsaw-armed mech suits could be so boring? for instance. Or, Roy Orbison hologram to embark on UK tour in 2018. And looming above all this, like Hokusai’s famous wave, are the ongoing changes caused by global warming and climate change, which is just one consequence of human activity having become the dominant force of change on the planet…

Cosmology for the Curious - Delia Perlov and Alex Vilenkin ***

In the recently published The Little Book of Black Holes we saw what I thought was pretty much impossible - a good, next level, general audience science title, spanning the gap between a typical popular science book and an introductory textbook, but very much in the style of popular science. Cosmology for the Curious does something similar, but coming from the other direction. This is an introductory textbook, intended for first year physics students, with familiar textbook features like questions to answer at the end of each chapter. Yet by incorporating some history and context, plus taking a more relaxed style in the writing, it's certainly more approachable than a typical textbook.

The first main section, The Big Bang and the Observable Universe not only covers basic big bang cosmology but fills in the basics of special and general relativity, Hubble's law, dark matter, dark energy and more. We then move onto the more speculative (this is cosmology, after all) aspects, brin…