Sunday, November 29, 2015

Energy from Heaven and Earth - Book

I am behind in book reviews here. I have finished this book a few months ago but never got the chance to write my thoughts about it. 

The book is actually a collection of Edward Teller's 1975 lectures. He gave a series of lectures as a part of his Harvey Prize requirement.

The dedication on the first page actually was a big surprise to me. Teller dedicated the book to N. A. Rockfeller saying that "..whose vision and initiative, had they only been followed, would have made this book unnecessary." 

There are 5 "parts" in the book each of which consists of several chapters. I really like the way the chapters are arranged. They follow a nice logic: from simple to difficult; from past to future. 

In these chapters, especially in the beginning, you can get a nice summary of how the universe started and the origin of energy. I don't think it's too technical. I believe anyone can easily understand the nuclear reactions and how they yield energy with Teller's excellent explanations. 

If you follow the news and read a little bit of science, people constantly talk about global warming, record CO2 levels etc. I believe this book will help you to ask more scientific questions and evaluate the data and plans in a more scientific way. Should we focus on environment first or on improving our living standards? Can we get enough energy from sun, wind, waves? Ethics vs. science? You can find some clues to these dilemmas. I have to say I am with Teller on many issues.

I strongly suggest people read this book. Even though it was written in 1980, it is still much more relevant to 2015 than many more "popular" scientists' thoughts. 

It is also interesting to read his thoughts on bacteria that converts biomass into fuel, solar cells and devices like photoelectric cells. 

Some quotes:

In a peculiar way I am indebted to the antinuclear forces that staged the great nuclear debate of 1976 in California. Confucius said that if you walk between a wise man and a foolish one, you should learn from both.
I do not advocate a nuclear option. I believe that nuclear energy is an important component of the solution.

The next ice age may well arrive in five thousand years, unless technology finds a way to prevent it.

In the beginning there was matter and heat but no usable energy.

Geothermal energy....this source is no more abundant than coal. We may exhaust it in a few centuries.

Gloomy stories we may hear about out dying planet are most likely wrong.

How do living plants turn into fossil fuels? I have gone to the best geologists and the best petroleum researchers, and I can give you the authoritative answer: no one knows.

Environmentalists may take notice that small is not necessarily beautiful or clean.

Arabs reputedly cannot agree with anybody, least of all with other Arabs.

If one wastes energy, one should pay for it.

California is the most ultra-American of all American states. California's waste is prodigious. 

Electricity ...the most expensive form of energy.

Minimizing energy input is not the main purpose of industry.

It has been remarked that Moses managed to find the only spot in the Middle East where there is no oil.

In today's climate opinion, to be big is to be unpopular.

King Coal has lost his throne to the Sheikhs of Araby.

..a coal-burning electric generating station is apt to emit more radioactivity than a corresponding nuclear plant.

[about CO2] there is possibly not enough oil in the world to make a real difference.

Szilard told me "I found the neutrons"

The alchemists proved that secret science is no science. In the long run we cannot keep secrets, and we should not try.

If scientists consider themselves an elite with responsibility for the world resting on their shoulders, they will no longer be scientists.

The scientist's prime responsibility is scientific knowledge. The scientist's second responsibility is to turn knowledge into practical applications. Finally, the scientist should explain his findings so that everyone can understand. The nonscientific world then can choose to use or misuse the new knowledge.

Best earthquake experts in the US. are found among the members of Jesuit order.

To prophets of the apocalypse, reactors are precursors of the end of the world.

It seems that even in California the nuts are in a minority.

We have not yet gotten to the point where we are willing to sacrifice a tourist attraction to our economic needs.

The very word "patent" means the opposite of secret. But our present patent law is archaic.

No comments:

Post a Comment