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Energy in Nature and Society: General Energetics of Complex Systems (MIT Press) First Edition (1st printing) Edition

4.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0262693561
ISBN-10: 0262693569
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Editorial Reviews

Review

The economist Julian Simon once called energy the 'master resource.' With this marvelously erudite, wonderfully detailed book, Vaclav Smil once again shows that when it comes to insightful discussions of the myriad complexities and consternations of the master resource, he is, without question, the master.

(Robert Bryce, energy journalist and managing editor of Energy Tribune)

Vaclav Smil's appreciation of energy systems combines Thomas Edison and Franz Kafka. He celebrates innovation and progress but also vividly shows the strange fates and fall-out of what appear to be some of humanity's best machines.

(Jesse H. Ausubel, Director, Program for the Human Environment, The Rockefeller University)

Energy in Nature and Society is filled with facts, measurements, and brief but accurate descriptions of dozens of techniques, which when combined, force facts to make sense.

(Alfred W. Crosby BioScience)

Energy in Nature and Society is unique in its value and its comprehensive coverage of all energy matters; it should be on the bookshelves of all professionals in science, social science, economics, and history.

(CHOICE)

Vaclav Smil's appreciation of energy systems combines Thomas Edison and Franz Kafka. He celebrates innovation and progress but also vividly shows the strange fates and fall-out of what appear to be some of humanity's best machines.

(Jesse H. Ausubel , Director, Program for the Human Environment, The Rockefeller University)

About the Author

Vaclav Smil is a Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of Manitoba. He is the author of more than thirty books, including Harvesting the Biosphere: What We Have Taken from Nature and, most recently, Made in the USA: The Rise and Retreat of American Manufacturing both published by the MIT Press. In 2010 he was named by Foreign Policy as one of the Top 100 Global Thinkers. In 2013 Bill Gates wrote on his website that "there is no author whose books I look forward to more than Vaclav Smil."
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Product Details

  • Series: MIT Press
  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: The MIT Press; First Edition (1st printing) edition (December 21, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262693569
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262693561
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #506,409 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I bought the book "blind", since MIT Press have not enabled "Look Inside". If you are in two minds about the book, here is the Table of Contents to help you make up your mind:

1. The Universal Link: Energetics, Energy, and Power
1.1 Evolution of Energetics: From Aristotle to Einstein
1.2 Approaches to Understanding: Concepts, Variables, Units

2. Planetary Energetics: Atmosphere, Hydrosphere, Lithosphere
2.1 Sun: The Star and Its Radiation
2.2 Energy Balance of the Earth: Radiation Fluxes
2.3 Hydrophere and Atmosphere: thermal and Mass Fluxes
2.4 Water and Air in Motion: Kinetic Fluxes
2.5 Geoenergetics: Heat, Plate Tectonics, Volcanoes, Earthquakes

3. Photosynthesis: Bioenergetics of Primary Production
3.1 Photosynthetic Pathways
3.2 Global Primary Productivity
3.3 Productivities of Ecosystems and Plants
3.4 Phytomass Stores
3.5 Autotrophic Scaling

4. Heterotrophic Conversions: Consumer Bioenergetics
4.1 Metabolic Capacities
4.2 Ectotherms and Endotherms
4.3 Locomotion
4.4 Biomasses and Productivities
4.5 Heterotrophs in Ecosystems

5. Human Energetics: People as Simple Heterotrophs
5.1 Energy Sources and Basal Metabolism
5.2 Requirements and Uncertainties
5.3 Thermoregulation
5.4 Limits of Human Performance
5.5 Gathering, Hunting, and Fishing

6. Traditional Food Production: Humans as Solar Farmers
6.1 Extensive Practices
6.2 Permanent Cropping
6.3 Muscles, Implements, Machines
6.4 Cropping Intensification
6.5 Traditional Agricultures

7. Preindustrial Complexification: Prime Movers and Fuels in Traditional Societies
7.1 Animal Power: Human and Animal Muscles
7.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A scholarly work relatively free of advocacy, except for advocating sticking to the facts. You will find more pages meticulously diagnosing the history of the energetics of agriculture, transportation and steel making than you will pages forecasting what future energy trends will be, or should be. The author reviews the history of some of these forecast attempts. Here is a sample from page 358: "Reasons for the large number of wrong forecasts can be found in the herdlike behavior of forecasters smitten by prevailing moods". "The U.S. Atomic Energy commission's 1974 forecast had 260 GW installed in the United States by 1985, and 1.2 TW in 2000. The actual 2000 number was 81.5 GW, and there were no clear prospects for fusion." "The same adjectives used to extol nuclear generation - inexhaustible, cheap, nonpolluting - reappeared in glowing descriptions of renewable energetics published during the 1970s as the advocates of small-scale, decentralized energy production promised a new, morally superior millennium devoid of nuclear and fossil fuel sins." And on page 362: "...by the year 2000...new renewables contributed just 3.2 EJ, only one-tenth of Lovins's forecast."

The author wants to avoid falling into Lovins's and the AEC's trap. Nevertheless, scientifically sound constraints on future activity are offered without hesitation, for example: the potential for hydroelectric development, the limits of photosynthesis and geothermal fluxes. But on page 384, the author perhaps becomes polemical: "The ultimate makeup of a new global energy system that may dominate in the second half of the twenty-first century will not resemble currently fashionable scenarios." Notice the choice of words: "will not" rather than "may not".
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Vaclav Smil does data collection and research combined with years of viewing globes confrontation with man from an economists viewpoint that is like no other. Conclusions are harsh, but realistic. Reading his books in sequence is the best way to understand the links and relevance of every piece.
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