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Present at the Future: From Evolution to Nanotechnology, Candid and Controversial Conversations on Science and Nature Paperback – Bargain Price, August 26, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Host of the NPR program Science Friday, Flatow converts his interviews into this survey of contemporary currents in science. Each article bears traces of its broadcast origin, featuring one or several individuals and Flatow's reportage of what they say, backed by Flatow's contextual explanation of great questions within his interviewee's area of expertise. The brain, the cosmos, nanotechnology, and stem-cell research are some hot topics, and Flatow ably draws out scientists' differing viewpoints, as with a duel pitting string theorist Brian Greene against string critic Lee Smolin (The Trouble with Physics, 2006). Global warming's front-page status is represented, but was Flatow's best "get" on this subject a San Francisco minister rather than a real scientist? Better balanced is his treatment of energy, which covers advantages and disadvantages of coal, nuclear, solar, wind, and biofuel sources. Totaling about 30 topics, Flatow's collection also exhibits an eclectic bent, such as the explanation for why shower heads pull shower curtains inward. Cultivating the curiosity essential to finding science interesting, Flatow produces a varied introduction to the topic. Taylor, Gilbert --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Ira Flatow is the host and executive producer of Talk of the Nation: Science Friday®. He is the author of Rainbows, Curve Balls, and They All Laughed. He lives in Connecticut.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Paperbacks; Reprint edition (August 26, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060732652
  • ASIN: B004JZWVK4
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,852,726 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Nick D on August 3, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Overall the book was worth reading but just barely. As another reviewer mentioned, there doesn't seem to be any real rhyme or reason to the layout of the book in terms of what is covered where.

More significantly it is just not very well written. Here is the sentence that had me laughing out loud:

"Sitting on the panel, beside the usual film folks, was Dr. James Watson, the famous codiscoverer, with Dr. Francis Crick, of the three-dimensional structure of the DNA molecule, 50 years before." (p.203)

This is not the only instance of convoluted writing.

There also are problems in the editing of the book.
For instance, on p. 109:
"Remember our energy numbers? Remember that corn ethanol gives you a return of 1.25 energy units for each energy unit you put into growing, harvesting, and turning the corn into ethanol?"

Well, no in fact I don't. Because he hasn't mentioned it until p. 114

"Their results were startling. Ethanol returns 25 percent more energy than it takes to put into it. So if you put 100 units of every into growing, harvesting, and turning corn into alcohol, you get a yield of 125 units of energy."

In conclusion, there are some interesting ideas in this book but they are marred by some poor writing and editing.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By She's A Reader on January 25, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I'm a big fan of popular science books--new theories and advances pop up all the time, and it's hard to keep up with them otherwise. "Present at the Future" is definitely one of the better offerings out there, both in terms of the scope of the fields covered and in the clarity of its explanations. In fact, Flatow picks such interesting topics and discusses them so well that I often found myself wishing he's explanations had gone even more in-depth. The fact that he didn't is not a handicap however; the broad range of topics will expose readers to a lot of new potential interests they can then pursue further in other sources.

My only quibble with the book is Flatow's alarming tendency to start a paragraph with a quote, write four or five sentences, and then recycle the exact same quote--which struck me as somewhat sloppy. Surely the experts he interviewed provided him with more than one usable soundbite. But honestly, it's a very small flaw in an otherwise excellent book.
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By Jennifer Krauser on November 10, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Great book. Delivery was very quick too.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By kc-lam on December 19, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is vividly written and accessible to laymen or beginners who are interested in science and nature. Topics range from evolution to nanotechnology,but they are only very briefly covered. The most interesting ones include: Sleep and Learning; It's a Dark World After All; Forests and Fields of Alcohol; The New Small Is Big; Dolly Plus Ten; The Misbehaving Shower Curtain; Why an Airplane Flies; Stem Cells, Cloning and the Quest. Given the bargain price, the book is worth the money!
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