Saturday, May 28, 2011

Physics of the Future by Michio Kaku - Book Review

The Future is Science

Though the book is titled `Physics of the Future', Michio Kaku covers all relevant Science and Technology. In separate chapters he looks at the future of Computers, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Nanotechnology, Energy and Space Travel over the next one hundred years. In each chapter he splits the future into three sections - Near Future (Present to 2030), Mid Century (2030 to 2070) and Far Future (2070 to 2100). Based on interviews with over 300 scientists and visits to many of the cutting edge labs across the world, Mr.Kaku brings the latest in Science to our reading rooms.

There are an infinity of possible Futures. Ranging from Ray Kurzweil's Singularity to orthodox Doomsday scenarios, we can conjure up any vision to our liking. But irrespective of the future one can dream about, it will be Science that will be driving it. Whether it will be computers smarter than humans, self driving cars, nanobots curing diseases or space colonies, Mr.Kaku shows us where the Science now has reached in each area and the challenges ahead.

The book ends with the future of Wealth and of Humanity. Written in a very easy to understand form, the book is fun to read. Especially useful is the prediction of the Near Future which I feel is critical for all planning and decision making. I liked this book better than the author's earlier `Physics of the Impossible'. A lot of the basic content is the same, but this book is more relevant.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Here on Earth by Tim Flannery - Book Review

To heal a wounded Earth

Global warming is a `hot' topic nowadays and there have been many books on this subject. However Tim Flannery takes a different approach.

Starting from the very beginning of Earth's creation, Tim takes us through the complete story of our planet and the biography of our species. Though a natural disaster like an earthquake or tsunami would look like catastrophic event to us and other living beings, the earth has been affected throughout its history by many violent events. Some are very rare like an asteroid impact while others like climate cycles and flooding seem more regular and part of systemic process. These events either directly or indirectly seem to have driven the evolution of life from microcellular organisms to finally the human species, over the last three billion years. During this time many species came and went including the powerful dinosaurs. However till humans started settling down by inventing agriculture about ten thousand years ago, no species have created a serious impact on the earth's ecosystem on a global scale.

In the last few thousand years, wittingly or not, humans started changing the earth's ecosystem drastically. Not only did this result in the extinction of a large number of life forms like the mammoths and the bisons, but significant changes to the climate started taking place. With the industrial revolution a couple of hundred years ago, our species multiplied many fold and the energy needed to sustain our civilization is creating so much waste that our planet is unable to bear it.

Is our Earth a living being? Whether we believe that or not, but it is our home and it sure is getting wounded. How do we heal it? Unfortunately there are no easy fixes - but Tim explores various ways by which we can take control and move in the right direction before it gets too late. He explains the science in a very simple and straightforward manner and I would recommend this book strongly to all who are worried about our future.