Physical Insights

An independent scientist’s observations on society, technology, energy, science and the environment. “Modern science has been a voyage into the unknown, with a lesson in humility waiting at every stop. Many passengers would rather have stayed home.” – Carl Sagan

Energy from Heaven and Earth

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Has anyone read this book? If not, I recommend it. It’s one of those books that, despite being nearly thirty years old, seems to remain astonishingly relevant to this day.

For some readers, depending on what you may think of or know of the famous or slightly infamous Edward Teller, some of the points of the book may come across as a little surprising. Energy conservation is not enough. Coal is not enough. Nuclear energy is not enough. … turn down the thermostat… we can reduce our energy requirements for heating by wearing sweaters or warm underclothing. In fact, there are parts of this book where you’d be forgiven for thinking you’re reading the contemporary works of Romm, or Lovins, or Caldicott, where issues like domestic energy use is discussed.

From the origins of petroleum and fossil fuels, to the origins of fission fuels in the collapse of heavy stars, to the oil embargo and OPEC, to the expected detailed treatment of nuclear fission and fusion energy systems, to an impassioned call for reductions in domestic energy use – it’s all here, it’s all fully relevant today, and it’s all very interesting.

ENERGY FROM HEAVEN AND EARTH — Edward Teller — W H Freeman, 1979, 322 p., illus., “In which a story is told about energy from its origins 15 billion years ago to its present adolescence — turbulent, hopeful, beset by problems and in need of help.” Past, present, near and distant future uses of energy are discussed, together with energy policies. A model for the future is included.

A recommended piece of reading.

Written by Luke Weston

September 5, 2008 at 9:35 am

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