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The Knowledge: How to Rebuild Our World from Scratch Hardcover – April 17, 2014

ISBN-13: 978-1594205231 ISBN-10: 159420523X

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Press HC, The (April 17, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 159420523X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594205231
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #905 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Dartnell, a UK Space Agency research fellow and award-winning science writer, specializes in the field of astrobiology, including how microorganisms could survive on Mars. It’s no wonder, then, that this renowned young scientist is fascinated by survival tactics, the underlying theme of this ambitious inquiry into how people might be able to rebuild the world as we know it if an apocalypse came to pass. As much as any writer could cover the history of technology in 300 pages, Dartnell presents a good case. His account quickly progresses from raising crops to ­making soap, shearing and spinning wool, mining coal, generating electricity, and building radios. Of course, since this is all speculation, it’s hard to predict what people would be able to scavenge and what will be left intact or who might be on earth besides yourself. Dartnell doesn’t address questions of governing this survivors’ society or how people would collaborate on rebuilding or how hopeless some will feel without Google and smartphones. Still, Dartnell’s vision is a great start in understanding what it took to build our world. --Laurie Borman

Review

The Wall Street Journal:
The Knowledge is a fascinating look at the basic principles of the most important technologies undergirding modern society… a fun read full of optimism about human ingenuity. And if I ever see mushroom clouds on the far horizon, this might be a good book to reach for.”

Boston Globe:
“[Dartnell’s] plans may anticipate the destruction of our world, but embedded in them is the hope that there might be a better way to live in the pre-apocalyptic world we inhabit right now.”

New York Post:
“A stimulating read, a grand thought experiment on re-engineering the food, housing, clothing, heat, clean water and every other building block of civilization.”

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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Excellent book, highly recommended for any curious mind.
Librarian
Like any good book, it underscores the importance of things I often take for granted, and it makes me want to learn even more.
Dame Droiture
Unfortunately, this is not one that I would choose as it lacks the specific details that such a book would require.
Thomas M.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 39 people found the following review helpful By C. Richard VINE VOICE on March 22, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I always wondered what it would be like if all of a sudden we had some great disaster, and we'd have to reboot our civilization. This is way more complicated than it might first appear. I'm an engineer and though I know how to do a lot of things, I do not have the knowledge to make some very basic things that I would certainly like to have after such a disaster. At least not before I saw this book.

For example, could I make soap? If you think about it, soap would be really important in the dirty world we would find ourselves living in after the disaster. Fairly unsophisticated people made it for themselves for hundreds of years. Do you know the recipe? The ingredients might be fairly easy to find (assuming you know the list) with the possible exception of lye. Making that is a bit of a challenge - do you know how? Maybe going to a library that had paper books on science and engineering would help - if there was one around. Remember, the internet (and electricity) would be non-existent. If I had a copy of the book being reviewed here or had studied it very well before the disaster, I'd know how to make the lye needed. By the way, excess lye can result in some very harsh soap - that is another issue that has to be worked out by the soap maker. One more challenge in the brave new world perhaps.

There are numerous other basic things we take for granted that we'd have to figure out how to make after the disaster. Would you know what to do? I'm not so sure I would without having read this or a similar book(s), and I am an engineer. The book here provides us with the know how to make the basic items we would need in an initial reboot. It's nice to find a reference that tells us so much in so few pages.
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Dame Droiture VINE VOICE on April 3, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I am not a "Prepper," but I am really enjoying this book. Initially, Dartnell's goal to explain nearly every major technological aspect of human existence -- agriculture, textile-making, and even producing electricity -- seemed *too* ambitious, I think he does a very nice job ... particularly given the book's length. (One would expect a book like this to be made up of several massive tomes, not a 200+ page paperback.) Granted, a few of the rebuilding processes are outlined in very limited terms: I was perhaps able to grasp his section on purifying water, for example, if only because of the numerous "survivor-style" television shows I have seen (such as "Survivorman" with Les Stroud). But for other things, such as growing crops, I think that Dartnell's truncated explanations are the way to go. Since growing conditions will vary so much from place to place, there is probably not much he could do otherwise; thus he provides the reader with the very basics. For agriculture, again, how to separate the wheat from the chaff, how to grind it into flour, etc. These are things that most members of our very specialized societies have forgotten how to do, either from leaving the tasks to machines, or to other people.

In a way, the book is sort of a wake-up call for the very "problem" of specialization -- a ton of people who each know how to do only a few very particular tasks, most of which (at least in industrialized societies) will not help them one whit in the face of even a temporary disaster, environmental or otherwise. Given how much I actually learned while reading this book, I was retrospectively shocked (or even ashamed) to realize just how much I did not know -- just how many things I use each day were/are the results of the labor and knowledge of others.
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30 of 34 people found the following review helpful By A. D. Boorman VINE VOICE on March 17, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
THE KNOWLEDGE

The author, Lewis Dartnell is a "for real" scientist. He graduated from Oxford University with a degree in Biology. He has earned a PhD in ‘Computer modelling and experimental work on the astrobiological implications of the martian subsurface ionising radiation environment.’ He is a researcher for the UK Space Agency and his current research work is in Astrobiology. I lay all of this out to establish that this guy has very serious credibility as a scientist.

I imagine that his research writing is very dry and pedantic, as research writing often tends to run that way. Fortunately, this book is written in a light and conversational tone. The reader feels talked to, not lectured.

This is an interesting book. For science fiction fans, particularly fans of apocalyptic scenarios, from Fallout to the Road, to the Walking Dead, this is really useful reading.
The knowledge is designed to be a how-to book for rebuilding the technology that would be wiped out in a global catastrophe. It's kind of fun. The author assumes that the reader enters the text with only a basic understanding of science. Starting out with the basics of immediate survival (food, water, shelter/clothing, medicine, power) Dartnell clearly lays out the situation and general solutions of how to meet those survival needs.

Dartnell posits that careful rationing and use of the existing resources would provide humanity with a 'grace period' in which to re-establish the basic skills needed for industrial society to reassert itself.

He then goes into discusses the issues involved in re-industrialization, power, chemistry, mass production, mass communications, etc with a mixture of hard reality and optimism.
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