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How the World Really Works: A Scientist’s Guide to Our Past, Present and Future by [Vaclav Smil]

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How the World Really Works: A Scientist’s Guide to Our Past, Present and Future Kindle Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 1,039 ratings

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About the Author

Vaclav Smil is Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of Manitoba. He is the author of over forty books on topics including energy, environmental and population change, food production and nutrition, technical innovation, risk assessment, and public policy. No other living scientist has had more books (on a wide variety of topics) reviewed in Nature. A Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, in 2010 he was named by Foreign Policy as one of the Top 100 Global Thinkers. --This text refers to the hardcover edition.


"A new masterpiece from one of my favorite authors... [How The World Really Works] is a compelling and highly readable book that leaves readers with the fundamental grounding needed to help solve the world's toughest challenges."--Bill Gates

"You can agree or disagree with Smil--accept or doubt his 'just the facts' posture--but you probably shouldn't ignore him. . . In Smil's provocative but perceptive view, unrealistic notions about carbon reduction are partly, and ironically, attributable to the very productivity that societies achieved by substituting machine work, powered by fossil fuels, for draft animals and human laborers."--The Washington Post

[It is] reassuring to read an author so impervious to rhetorical fashion and so eager to champion uncertainty. . . Smil's book is at its essence a plea for agnosticism, and, believe it or not, humility -- the rarest earth metal of all. His most valuable declarations concern the impossibility of acting with perfect foresight. Living with uncertainty, after all, "remains the essence of the human condition." Even under the most optimistic scenario, the future will not resemble the past. --The New York Times

How the World Really Works represents the highly readable distillation of this lifetime of scholarship... Mr. Smil looks over the horizon of the future with humility and calmness, foreseeing 'a mixture of progress and setbacks, of seemingly insurmountable difficulties and near-miraculous advances.'"--Wall Street Journal

"The renowned energy scientist ... aims to [recenter] materials rather than electronic flows of data as the bedrock of modern life -- largely through examining what he calls the four pillars of modern civilization: cement, steel, plastics and ammonia." --The New York Times Magazine

A scientific panorama of our well-being and how it can be sustained in our current tumultuous times and beyond. [Smil] aims to combat the widespread "comprehension deficit" about basic scientific facts, and he seeks to "explain some of the most fundamental ruling realities governing our survival and our prosperity." That aim is marvelously achieved...[this is] an exceptionally lucid, evenhanded study of the scientific basis of our current and future lives."--Kirkus, STARRED review

--This text refers to the hardcover edition.

Product details

  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B08SGC3TD3
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Penguin (27 January 2022)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • File size ‏ : ‎ 1555 KB
  • Text-to-Speech ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Screen Reader ‏ : ‎ Supported
  • Enhanced typesetting ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • X-Ray ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Word Wise ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 325 pages
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,039 ratings

About the author

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Vaclav Smil is currently a Distinguished Professor in the Faculty of Environment at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada. He completed his graduate studies at the Faculty of Natural Sciences of Carolinum University in Prague and at the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences of the Pennsylvania State University. His interdisciplinary research interests encompass a broad area of energy, environmental, food, population, economic, historical and public policy studies, and he had also applied these approaches to energy, food and environmental affairs of China.

He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (Science Academy) and the first non-American to receive the American Association for the Advancement of Science Award for Public Understanding of Science and Technology. He has been an invited speaker in more than 250 conferences and workshops in the USA, Canada, Europe, Asia and Africa, has lectured at many universities in North America, Europe and East Asia and has worked as a consultant for many US, EU and international institutions. His wife Eva is a physician and his son David is an organic synthetic chemist.

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Top review from Australia

Reviewed in Australia on 11 March 2022
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Rw Lawson
4.0 out of 5 stars It will educate the ill informed
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 14 February 2022
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Mr. Adrian Mcmenamin
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential reading, but depressing and sometimes odd
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 20 March 2022
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Mr. G. Lawrence
4.0 out of 5 stars Important but a bit of a tough read
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 6 March 2022
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N. P. Record
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant exposition of stuff people don't know
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 5 April 2022
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3.0 out of 5 stars Some important conclusions plus lots of padding.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 22 July 2022
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