I chose to review the book “Present at the Future” by Ira Flatow, a book that covers a plethora of modern technology topics and their origins. Ira Flatow is a science journalist AND the host of a radio talk show, “Talk of the Nation: Science Friday”. He is also the author of Rainbows, Curve Balls, and They All Laughed.
The book covers a huge amount of small topics, covers the myths associated with them, and then explains the scientific truth behind each one of them. One example of this would be the teaching of Bernoulli’s principle in school to explain why airplanes fly, when in actuality it is Newton’s third law of motion: “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” Air goes down, the plane moves up.
In this book Ira says that he wants to share the “aha” moment with everyone. Flatow takes interviews that he has done on his radio show and converts them into interesting analyses of scientific topics. To me, the book was about questioning things that we have been told. To step back and examine things closer, to find out the truth on our own.
“Present At The Future” covers many topics. The book begins with different intellectual discussions on the brain. Flatow discusses how are brains begin as we develop. He then moves on to topics that cover memory loss, the effects of music on the brain, addiction and why we need sleep. The next part in the book moves on to cosmology. In this section, the universe, dark matter, and string theory are discussed. Then Flatow moves on to global warming. Here he discusses the effects on coastal cities and our obligations as human beings in this matter. Next, global warming is covered as the book moves to energy topics, topics such as nuclear energy benefits and draw backs. Then the condensed black energy source we know as coal is discussed, followed by the power of wind and the potential it has to blow most other sources of energy right out of the air.
As the book progresses into the second section it has a small, but not too small, chapter on nano-technology. This chapter discusses what nano-technology is and what it can lead to in the fields of science and engineering. Then Flatow flies into discussions of space and the science of leaving the earth behind. Flatow adds some deeper subjects into the book as he discusses the problems in our oceans and our very limited knowledge of them and what they might hold as a solution to global warming. Then there are the divisive subjects of science and religion and how they actually might fit together, this is a subject that we are all familiar with and everyone seems to hold their own opinion about.
The final section in the book starts off by giving us insight to some of our recent scientific pioneers such as Jane Goodall and Steve Wozniak and their contributions to the world we currently live in. We then follow the Segway of the book right into cyberspace, with discussions on bandwidth, the internet, network neutrality, and quantum computing. Flatow comes back to earth to discuss interesting things like why your shower curtain sticks to you in the shower, why airplanes really fly, and the bubbles in champagne. These are things we all really want to know, but probably never really think about. Finally, we are left with discussions on cloning, stem cell research, and how these things could be parlayed into possible human immortality.
I found the book to be very interesting. Every page seemed to capture a new part of my imagination. The hardest part about reading the book was having to put it down to work on other things that I had to do. The analytical look at all of the subjects followed by their impacts on everyday life seemed to be the perfect way to discuss so many topics in one book. Although there was no chronological or subject type order to follow, the book never seemed to be a hodge podge of thrown together facts. Instead it seemed more like meaningful short stories that discussed the very past, present, and future of humanity.
I would recommend this book to everyone. Whether you are interested in science or not, the practical applications of all of the subjects will keep you interested from the introduction to the afterword. “Present At The Future” was not a hard read at all and seemed to keep everything on a level that most people will understand. This book was definitely a good read, and I would recommend it to everyone because I think that Flatow definitely brings across the “aha” moment for every subject he discusses.
Title: “PRESENT AT THE FUTURE”
Author: Ira Flatow
Length: 362 pages
Publisher: Harper Collins
Reading time: 10 hours
Reading rating (1=very difficult, 10=very easy): 7
Overall rating (1=average, 4= outstanding): 4