- Paperback: 242 pages
- Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (December 16, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1119942535
- ISBN-13: 978-1119942535
- Product Dimensions: 6.7 x 0.6 x 9.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 13.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 14 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #204,395 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Making the Modern World - Materials and Dematerialization 1st Edition
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Vaclav Smil receives 2015 OPEC Award for Research
“Summing Up: Recommended. Academic, general, and professional readers.” (Choice, 1 October 2014)
“Vaclav Smil keeps turning out amazing books. Making the Modern World, I just finished, and it’s pretty fantastic.” (Interview with Bill Gates, 22 January 2014)
“This makes the book particularly suitable for students, and not just those in obviously-related disciplines: it’s a good example of fact-based reasoning, one material we can always use more of.” (Chemistry & Industry, 1 January 2014)
From the Back Cover
How much further should the affluent world push its materialconsumption? Does relative dematerialization lead to absolutedecline in demand for materials? These and many otherquestions are discussed and answered in Making the ModernWorld: Materials and Dematerialization.
Over the course of time, the modern world has become dependenton unprecedented flows of materials. Now even the most efficientproduction processes and the highest practical rates of recyclingmay not be enough to result in dematerialization rates that wouldbe high enough to negate the rising demand for materials generatedby continuing population growth and rising standards of living.This book explores the costs of this dependence and the potentialfor substantial dematerialization of modern economies.
Making the Modern World: Materials and Dematerializationconsiders the principal materials used throughout history, fromwood and stone, through to metals, alloys, plastics, and silicon,describing their extraction and production as well as theirdominant applications. The evolving productivities of materialextraction, processing, synthesis, finishing, and distribution, andthe energy costs and environmental impact of rising materialconsumption are examined in detail. The book concludes with anoutlook for the future, discussing the prospects fordematerialization and potential constraints on materials.
This interdisciplinary text will provide useful perspectives forreaders with backgrounds including resource economics,environmental studies, energy analysis, mineral geology, industrialorganization, manufacturing, and material science.
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Smil carefully documents their ungainly mass as dependent on the price of oil, like a biologist charting the size of pigeons and the acorn crop they feed on. This part of the story leaves Smil crestfallen. This disappointment after what can be done by de-materialization. In a later chapter Smil disagrees with our perennial mongers of shortages. “We are soon to run out of …..” our real dilemma is more complicated for our end will not come from exhaustion. We can mine scrap, dig deeper, invent substitutes. We suffer self inflicted damage; struggle to make ourselves fat and unhappy. Reading his rebuttals to those predicting exhausting oil, gas, phosphate, copper etc. I found another worry; running out of Vaclav Smil. Born in 1948 how many more years of wisdom can we expect?
This book is not perfect, Smil is a carrier of a modern sickness, the over use of initials. This leaves the reader out in a wilderness; what does this mean? How can the author be proud of switching to code when he could remain with well understood English?
Smil displays a polymath’s knowledge of technology, economics, history, and policy. Be warned: The book is filled with data, and must be read thoroughly. Expect a whirlwind of units for mass, power, and energy. The data are not always presented attractively: Often they are recited in the text, making dense reading. Arrangements in graphs or tables would make a mush easier way to absorb the massive amount of information presented and interpreted.
Starting with the use of all materials over the course of human history, Smil concentrates on the prevalent materials of our material culture: Metals (steel, aluminum), biomass (timber, paper), plastics, glass and cement, fertilizers, industrial gases, and semiconductors (silicon.)
I found reading this book an exhilarating experience: I literally could not put it down, and I heavily annotated my copy. The arguments were compelling and well substantiated. My main criticism has to do with not bringing into the picture the technical capabilities of modern composites and catalysts, and with the apparent lack of the materials selection ideas presented by Mike Ashby and his colleagues at Cambridge in the last twenty years.
I would also identify a full absence of discussing sustainability, especially as driven by the possibility of global climate change. Clearly absolute dematerialization and global climate change have little to do with relative dematerialization, given the fact we all live in a finite world enclosed by a finite atmosphere. Relative dematerilization may be good for national policy but not so for global issues facing our collective humanity.