A surprisingly optimistic case for hydrogen as a source of clean energy.

THE HYDROGEN REVOLUTION

A BLUEPRINT FOR THE FUTURE OF CLEAN ENERGY

Not another climate change polemic but an enthusiastic argument for hydrogen’s role in reversing it.

In his first book, Alverà, CEO of an energy infrastructure company with natural gas pipelines across Europe and the Middle East, writes a lively account of hydrogen’s chemistry and technical possibilities. The lightest gas, hydrogen occupies the first place on the periodic table. Burned with oxygen, it produces clean heat; its only waste product is water. What could be better? There are a few problems, but many are solved, and Alverà delivers clear explanations of those that aren’t along with an astute analysis of the possibilities. A businessman, he states a blunt fact: Clean energy will not take over until it’s as cheap as dirty energy. That’s less ominous than it sounds. Wind and solar are already cheaper in many areas and expanding rapidly. However, “green electricity, so useful in our homes and in our cars, doesn’t cut it in the manufacturing industry.” It can’t replace chemicals in dirty manufacturing processes, and using electrical heating to reach high temperatures remains too expensive. While wind and solar electricity are always intermittent, hydrogen works all the time. Transmitting power by wire is expensive and wasteful. Pipelines are much cheaper, and existing pipes are already carrying hydrogen, which generates its electricity in fuel cells that are far more compact than batteries. Emission-free cars may be the wave of the future, but their batteries, currently weighing more than 1,000 pounds, can’t scale up to propel long-haul trucks, oceangoing ships, and planes. Regarding cost, Alverà points out that wind and solar became competitive largely because mass production and competition drove the price down. Ten years ago, hydrogen cost $24 per kilogram; today, it’s between $4 and $5.5 per kilogram. The author predicts it will reach $2 within five years, “the tipping point at which it becomes competitive with fossil fuels.”

A surprisingly optimistic case for hydrogen as a source of clean energy.

Pub Date: Nov. 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5416-2041-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2021

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Gates offers a persuasive, 30,000-foot view of a global problem that, he insists, can be prevented given will and money.

HOW TO PREVENT THE NEXT PANDEMIC

The tech mogul recounts the health care–related dimensions of his foundation in what amounts to a long policy paper.

“Outbreaks are inevitable, but pandemics are optional.” Thus states the epidemiologist Larry Brilliant, a Gates adviser, who hits on a critically important point: Disease is a fact of nature, but a pandemic is a political creation of a kind. Therefore, there are political as well as medical solutions that can enlist governments as well as scientists to contain outbreaks and make sure they don’t explode into global disasters. One critical element, Gates writes, is to alleviate the gap between high- and low-income countries, the latter of which suffer disproportionately from outbreaks. Another is to convince governments to ramp up production of vaccines that are “universal”—i.e., applicable to an existing range of disease agents, especially respiratory pathogens such as coronaviruses and flus—to prepare the world’s populations for the inevitable. “Doing the right thing early pays huge dividends later,” writes Gates. Even though doing the right thing is often expensive, the author urges that it’s a wise investment and one that has never been attempted—e.g., developing a “global corps” of scientists and aid workers “whose job is to wake up every day thinking about diseases that could kill huge numbers of people.” To those who object that such things are easier said than done, Gates counters that the development of the current range of Covid vaccines was improbably fast, taking a third of the time that would normally have been required. At the same time, the author examines some of the social changes that came about through the pandemic, including the “new normal” of distance working and learning—both of which, he urges, stand to be improved but need not be abandoned.

Gates offers a persuasive, 30,000-foot view of a global problem that, he insists, can be prevented given will and money.

Pub Date: May 3, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-53448-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2022

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A quirky wonder of a book.

WHY FISH DON'T EXIST

A STORY OF LOSS, LOVE, AND THE HIDDEN ORDER OF LIFE

A Peabody Award–winning NPR science reporter chronicles the life of a turn-of-the-century scientist and how her quest led to significant revelations about the meaning of order, chaos, and her own existence.

Miller began doing research on David Starr Jordan (1851-1931) to understand how he had managed to carry on after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake destroyed his work. A taxonomist who is credited with discovering “a full fifth of fish known to man in his day,” Jordan had amassed an unparalleled collection of ichthyological specimens. Gathering up all the fish he could save, Jordan sewed the nameplates that had been on the destroyed jars directly onto the fish. His perseverance intrigued the author, who also discusses the struggles she underwent after her affair with a woman ended a heterosexual relationship. Born into an upstate New York farm family, Jordan attended Cornell and then became an itinerant scholar and field researcher until he landed at Indiana University, where his first ichthyological collection was destroyed by lightning. In between this catastrophe and others involving family members’ deaths, he reconstructed his collection. Later, he was appointed as the founding president of Stanford, where he evolved into a Machiavellian figure who trampled on colleagues and sang the praises of eugenics. Miller concludes that Jordan displayed the characteristics of someone who relied on “positive illusions” to rebound from disaster and that his stand on eugenics came from a belief in “a divine hierarchy from bacteria to humans that point[ed]…toward better.” Considering recent research that negates biological hierarchies, the author then suggests that Jordan’s beloved taxonomic category—fish—does not exist. Part biography, part science report, and part meditation on how the chaos that caused Miller’s existential misery could also bring self-acceptance and a loving wife, this unique book is an ingenious celebration of diversity and the mysterious order that underlies all existence.

A quirky wonder of a book.

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6027-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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