Wednesday, 20 February 2019

LOOKING AT THE BIG PICTURE - PROFESSOR VACLAV SMIL'S OUTLOOK ON ENERGY EVOLUTION

Dr Vaclav Smil, a Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of Manitoba, Canada and author of thirty interdisciplinary books and 500 papers is one of the big picture people and foremost thinkers on energy and environment. Bill Gates, in his blog GatesNotes, called Smil his favourite writer and this has led to his popularity among science aficionados.

Here I review a couple of books from his sprawling oeuvre: Energy Transition: History, Requirements, Prospects (2010) and Energy and Civilization: A History (2017).

Friday, 1 February 2019

HEALING DISEASES WITHOUT DRUGS OR SURGERY - A LOOK AT DEAN ORNISH'S BOOKS

Dean Ornish, M. D., is the founder and president of the nonprofit Preventive Medicine Research Institute and professor of medicine at the University of California, San Diego. He received his medical training at Baylor College of Medicine, Harvard Medical College and Massachusetts General Hospital. He has published his work in eminent scientific and medical journals such as Journal of the American Medical Association, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, The Lancet, etc.

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

THE CAUSES OF INEQUALITY - REVIEW OF ACEMOGLU AND ROBINSON'S "WHY NATIONS FAIL"

Renowned economists, Daron Acemoglu (of MIT) and James A Robinson (now of University of Chicago) have written a sweeping account of world history for the general audience - Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty (2012). Their main objective is to answer the questions: Why is there inequality in the world? Why are some countries rich and some poor?

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

GETTING RICH THE SLOW AND SURE WAY – REVIEW OF MONIKA HALAN’S “LET’S TALK MONEY”

It was only in my late thirties that I got interested in my finances. Prior to that, especially in my PhD years, I was pretty lackadaisical about how much I was saving. One of my professors used to say: “Some people know how money works; some people know how ideas work.” That, pretty much, summed up my own opinions on money.

When I was thirty seven, I chanced upon the book Rich Dad, Poor Dad (1997) by Robert Kiyosaki. It proved to be a wake-up call for me. For one, it showed that money itself is just an idea and if we make up our mind we could do well in the money game as well.

Wednesday, 26 September 2018

TALE OF A SCIENTIFIC CONVERT - REVIEW OF MARK LYNAS'S "SEEDS OF SCIENCE"

This is the age of big questions: Will AI dominate the world? Will we find a suitable alternative to fossil fuels? Will Big Data make us lose our privacy? And will Genetic Engineering (GE) and Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) give rise to Frankenstein-like chimeras?

These questions do not have simple answers. They require a modicum of scientific learning even to appreciate all the implications. A person who has been fully educated in the arts and humanities may find himself or herself flip-flopping on the issues.

Sunday, 19 August 2018

THE VISION OF GLOBAL WARMING THROUGH THE EYES OF LOMBORG – A LOOK AT BJORN LOMBORG’S BOOKS

A decade ago I read the book Earth in the Balance (1992) written by former US Vice President Al Gore. It talks about how “industrial civilization as presently organized, is colliding violently with our planet’s ecological system”

It details the gradual destruction of the world’s rainforests, of the ozone layer, of fertile agricultural land, of the climate balance and warns that things could only go worse. It left a significant imprint on my mind. What kind of world are we leaving our children, I thought to myself. This dismal mood continued until recently when I chanced upon Bjorn Lomborg’s The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World (2001).

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

ROAD TO PERDITION - REVIEW OF TOM G PALMER'S "AFTER THE WELFARE STATE"

While the concept of "welfare state" is as old as Ashoka's reign, it is only in modern times that it has received renewed favour. In modern times many European countries such as Germany, Finland, Sweden, Norway, France, Belgium etc. have been classified as welfare states. In these countries government looks after health care and education and takes steps to bring down inequality among the people as well as root out poverty and unemployment.

Surely, this is a laudable, kind-hearted thing to do? Tom G Palmer's edited book After the Welfare State (2012) points out that there are dangers and misconceptions lurking behind this idealistic vision.