Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ Category

Title: Unstoppable: Harnessing Science to Change the WorldProduct Details
Author: Bill Nye
ISBN: 978-1-250-00714-8
Published: 2015 by St. Martin’s Press
Price: $26.99 hardback
(Reviewing the Kindle version)
Length: 352 pages


Yes, another long book review (>6100 words), but this book is loaded with data worthy of an in-depth review.


1: We’ve Got the Whole World In Our Hands
2: The Call to Greatness
3: A Hothouse of Disbelief
4: Putting a Price on Inaction
5: Inputs and Feedbacks
6: Thermodynamics and You
7: Fighting Global Warming with … Bubbles?
8: Talkin’ ‘Bout Electrical Energy Generation
9: Stop the Burn – Don’t Frack that Gas
10: Nuclear Energy: Too Cheap to Meter… Again
11: One More Reactor (No, Make it Two)
12: Power of the Sun
13: Is the Answer Blowing in the Wind?
14: Down to the Wire
15: Let’s Transform the Grid
16: Dude, Where’s My Battery Pack
17: Quest for Storage
18: Bottling Sunshine with Moonshine
19: NASCAR – A Catalyst for Change
20: Got to Get Moving on Moving
21: Moving Our Masses
22: Rise of the Taxipod, Robotruck, and Bioplane
23: The Water-Energy Connection
24: Time to Get the Salt Out
25: Feeding the World
26: Bringing it all Back Home to Bill’s House
27: Quien es Was Verde – or, Keeping Up with the Begleys
28: Bill and Ed in a Fight for the Sun
29: Bill and Ed Get Into Hot Water
30: The Tap is Off and the Garden is Green
31: The Case for Space
32: Building a Better Rocket Equation
33: Do Humans have a Destiny in Space?
34: Setting a Fair Price for a Better Planet
35: The Unstoppable Species



“Climate change is coming, and it is coming right at you. Regardless of where you live on Earth, you will live to see your life or the lives of your kids and their friends change due to the overall warming of the planet.”
Unstoppable, Chapter 1

Bill Nye is no climate change denier. He knows enough of the science to know climate change is a real threat to life on Earth and it must be addressed now.

Bill was in China at a science conference and a student became his guide around Beijing and loaned Bill his father’s bike, as his guide’s family was successful enough to now own a car. That prompted this observation:

“That desire – to get more done with less effort – multiplied by billions of people who burn fossil fuels to satisfy that desire, is the root cause of climate change.”
Unstoppable, Chapter 1

He points out that everyone wants what we have in our country: cars, planes, readily available electricity, more electronic devices, more more more.

I’ve heard climate change deniers state that “God wouldn’t let humans change or damage the world he created.” Poppycock! I always counter with “Did you ever hear about nukes? We have far more than needed to change our climate and wipe out all life – God didn’t prevent them.” Bill points out that another species – cyanobacteria – once changed our climate by producing oxygen, which in turn killed off life that couldn’t tolerate oxygen. We humans aren’t the first to affect our climate, although we can hope we will change it back for the better while we can.

When I was young, our total population was 3 billion, and scientists wondered if we could handle feeding 6 or 7 billion people. We are over 7 billion now, and we do feed them, but now our concern is how adding so many new users of fossil fuels adds to climate change. And as more people are born, that means more fossil fuel users are adding to the carbon dioxide contribution in our atmosphere, and carbon dioxide levels directly impact the temperature of our planet.



“I encourage everyone to reject both of those sentiments (“The climate has always changed in the past and it will always change in the future”, and “We have to save Earth”) and think instead, “We have to save Earth – for us! For us humans!”
Unstoppable, Chapter 2

The first sentiment is a head-in-the-sand view on global warming, and the second is a misunderstanding that the Earth will be destroyed if we do nothing to save it. Both are wrong. We need to act now to counter the effects of global warming, and we need to understand that the effects of global warming could make Earth uninhabitable for humans.

I really liked the author’s question for climate change deniers:

“Would you trust a scientist or a politician who insisted, pounding his fist on the table, that there is no connection between smoking cigarettes and lung cancer?”
Unstoppable, Chapter 2

For decades, politicians and special interests (the Tobacco industry) denied cancer and smoking were linked, and the approaches they used for denying the smoking-cancer link are being used for climate change denial. Too many people that believed the politicians and cancer deniers died, trusting those people over scientists. Are you willing to let your children and grandchildren go through that same experience? The difference between climate change denial and smoking-cancer link denial, is that everyone on Earth is affected by climate change – you can’t stay away from second hand climate change the way you could stay away from second hand smoke. And, unlike smoking, you can’t quit climate change denial. We have to reverse the buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

The author points out that, to address climate change, we will need to come up with solutions for energy to replace fossil fuels, better ways to transmit electricity, and better ways to store electricity. We also need to be able to convert seawater to drinkable water, grow more food and transport it using power sources other than fossil fuels.



The author studied astronomy with Carl Sagan when he went to Cornell University. I read Sagan’s books titled ‘Cosmos’ and ‘Pale Blue Dot’, and Sagan’s Cosmos video series is still one of my favorite science series ever produced. I think that explains Bill Nye’s audience friendly approach to discussing science, as Sagan was excellent at making complicated subjects understandable by novices. I forgot was how Sagan developed a computer model that showed how the greenhouse effect warms Earth – fortunately the author describes that and gives a simple yet clear explanation of global warming:

“A carbon dioxide molecule is linear. It’s an atom of oxygen connected to an atom of carbon, connected to an atom of oxygen, all in a row. It’s the right length and of the right atomic flexibility (or floppiness) to allow visible light, with wavelengths ranging between 390 and 700 nanometers (billionths of a meter) to pass right by. But, these molecules block the longer reradiated infrared rays (heat), whose wavelengths are about ten times as long as those of visible light. That heat-trapping ability is a feature of the size and shape of carbon dioxide molecules, and the length of waves they trap or let pass. Yes, this really is somewhat like what happens in a greenhouse.”
Unstoppable, Chapter 3

That is one of the easiest explanations why carbon dioxide is directly involved in global warming. The author goes on to explain that the extra heat trapped by increasing levels of carbon dioxide alters weather patterns and local climates around the world. It’s amazing that climate change, which has scientific consensus for 30 years, is still contested by climate change deniers. It is disappointing that the media allows climate change deniers to quote an article in Newsweek published in 1975, that suggests we were heading for a new ice age, not warming. Newsweek is not a science magazine, and we know a lot more about climate science than they did in 1975, yet this is rarely called out by the media when they let deniers state that as evidence scientists don’t know enough about climate to predict changes. The media should stop giving deniers, especially those without education climate science, equal footing with climate change scientists. And a little more fact checking would dispel these old claims that have long been disproven but are still raised by deniers.

“People who should (or do) know better keep confusing weather with climate. Weather is what happens day to day in one place. Climate is what happens over many years to a large geographic area, or the planet as a whole.”
Unstoppable, Chapter 3

This happened in February 2015, where Sen. James Inhofe brought a snowball to the senate floor and declared it proved global warming was a hoax, because it snowed somewhere. Funny, and quite wrong. This senator doesn’t understand climate change. And the argument that more carbon dioxide is good for plants is wrong, as it ignores that more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere means more retained heat for our planet – not good, as that means some areas of the planet will become too warm or dry for plants to thrive.

Another concern climate scientists have concerns methane, as it has much more effect on global warming than carbon dioxide. Methane is trapped in ice, and will be released as more arctic/antarctic ice melts. Attacks on climate scientists, on the data used, on gases on that cause global warming, and on climate change models serves one thing: to delay a response to global warming.



The author lists costal cities that will be impacted by rising seas, and it’s not good. New Orleans, Miami, San Francisco, San Diego, Los Angeles, New York, Tokyo, Sydney, Venice, Mumbai and Qingdao will need major infrastructure changes to prevent being rendered useless. And these cities will be affected all too soon, as sea surges during storms will impact them long before the sea is thigh for the existing banks and dams. And don’t forget countries like the Netherlands that already have sea level issues. If people need to move inland to get away from the water, where will they go?

Transportation to new homes, food and water and clothing, as well as new equipment for jobs, updating existing infrastructures to accommodate new settlers, and creating new sea ports will cost a lot. And don’t forget, that land can be used for housing, work and food production – if more land is needed for housing, we will lose land that could generate food supplies.

And rising seas will result in flooding, which means water-born diseases and mosquito-born diseases, which will cost lives and time and money to address. And parasites normally unable to handle cold weather will flourish in new warmer climates. If we do nothing, the costs to address these problems will be overwhelming.



“A lump of coal is nearly pure carbon. When you burn it, each carbon atom hooks up with two oxygen atoms from the atmosphere to make carbon dioxide, CO2. An oxygen atom weighs one-third more than a carbon atom, so the greenhouse gases add up quickly. When you burn one kilogram of coal, you get 3 2/3 kilos of carbon dioxide.”
Unstoppable, Chapter 5

That’s a lot of gas that retains heat. In 2014, our atmosphere topped 400 parts per million for the first time in history. The author points out that the amount of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere isn’t the problem: the rate of change is. The rate that carbon dioxide is being added to the atmosphere is accelerating because there are more of us each day. More people means more need for power and food and transportation, meaning more carbon dioxide.

Bill describes a feedback loop in climate science: adding heat increases water evaporation. Warmer air holds more moisture than cooler air, so as air warms up, more moisture is evaporated. And water vapor traps heat too, so this addition of water vapor to the air demonstrates a positive feedback in climate science. When water reaches a certain altitude, clouds form, and clouds reflect sunlight into space, causing the Earth to get less sunlight and less heat. This effect of reflecting heat by clouds is negative feedback. But that isn’t all. Clouds low in the atmosphere reflect heat, but clouds high in the air actually reflect heat back down to the Earth, so high altitude clouds have a positive feedback.

Another example of feedback is arctic ice. When arctic ice exists, it reflects sunlight, which is negative feedback. When arctic ice melts, the darker seas absorbs more sunlight and heat, which is a positive feedback. And warmer seas mean more ice melts, so even more positive feedback. Not good. And warmer seas means disruption in sea currents, causing changes in air and ice and sea elsewhere, causing an even bigger positive feedback.



“But if your theory is found to be against the second law of thermodynamics (the law that entropy always increases) I can give you no hope; there is nothing for it but to collapse in deepest humiliation.”
Sir Arthur Eddington, Unstoppable Chapter 6

“The energy of motion is converted to the energy of heat all the time in just about everything we do. …
It (the Second Law) constrains all the efforts to reduce greenhouse emissions. In short, it is the foundational challenge to anyone who wants to improve the way we live without increasing the amount of energy we use.”
Unstoppable, Chapter 6

This chapter highlights one of the limits affecting the fight against global warming. Heat released as inefficient use of motion energy. There is only so far we can go to improve efficiency. Fascinating read and the one I’ve enjoyed most, so far.



This chapter deals with geoengineering, a proposed way to address global warming. The author explains that clouds and arctic/antarctic snow and water allow Earth to reflect around 30% of the solar energy that us, so we retain 70%. As we get warmer, there is less ice to reflect solar energy and so Earth gets hotter – not good.

One proposal to reduce the amount of solar energy the Earth retains is to inject bubbles into water. That works because bubbles are more reflective that calm water, and so the water with bubbles would reflect more solar energy. Another benefit of adding bubbles is that it reduces the amount of water lost to evaporation – very important in a world with dwindling natural resources like potable water. The author points out that, while this isn’t currently done intentionally, it could be worth the effort very soon.

If injecting bubbles could be done economically, and on a wide enough scale, it could reduce the solar energy we retain and help fight global warming. Other things that could help geoengineer Earth include adding more trees and more green growing things in the seas, as well as genetically engineer food sources to be lighter in color.



This chapter shows we as a society have dependence on electricity, and that we need to reduce the carbon used to generate that electricity.

“Electricity is actually a moving energy field, the pure energy of the cosmos, and that field travels at the speed of light.”
Unstoppable, Chapter 8

“Volts measure electrical pressure, amps measure flow, watts measure power. Power over time equals the total amount of energy. That’s why your electric utility bills you in terms of watt-hours.”
Unstoppable, Chapter 8



Coal generates power, but with a huge carbon footprint. so cleaner burning natural gas could be a temporary bridge to newer ways to generate electricity. Bill Nye points out that natural gas is, at best, a temporary solution and we need to leave it underground, due to release of methane into the atmosphere. Methane is even more of a heat trap than carbon dioxide, and methane can leak into the air when fracking to extract natural gas.

The author explains how fracking has evolved over time, from vertical to horizontal fracking. Some states ban fracking, while other states like Oklahoma embrace fracking. The thing is, Oklahoma started experiencing earthquakes after extensive fracking, and now sees earthquakes at level 5 of the Richter scale where none were experienced in the pre-fracking days. Cities and buildings have been damaged enough to warrant evacuation, and the lessons learned in Oklahoma should be recognized by other states using fracking for natural gas extraction.

Tar sands, like those proposed to be carried by the Canadian Keystone pipeline, are far more dangerous to our environment. That is why I was surprised one of President Trump’s first acts as president was to approve the pipeline previously rejected by President Obama. As of July 2017, the Canadian company wanting the Keystone pipeline is reconsidering the need for it. Hopefully Canada will be more environment-friendly than our current Trump administration.

With the Trump administration’s anti-environment, pro-fossil fuel stance, Trump’s EPA director has been rolling back or refusing to implement regulations designed to protect the environment passed during President Obama’s term. What should scare reasonable people, is EPA head Scott Pruitt’s decision to ignore regulations to control methane pollution ( The courts have recognized the validity of these regulations established during President Obama’s administration and have sided with our world against the Trump administration, but one has to wonder why Trump’s administration is so bent on harming our planet. If you die from pollution, how much good does it do to have more money?



Chapter 10 focuses on nuclear energy – cleaner power plants than coal/gas fired plants, but with their own risks. The author explains how nuclear energy produces power, but isn’t sold on it as a bridge technology from fossil fuels to a clean power system.



The author gives a simple and clear explanation on the fundamentals of nuclear power plants and the risks they pose. Bill suggests a reactor with thorium may be safer than uranium or plutonium, and he discusses fusion, which has been discussed but not possible for forty years. Fusion would be clean and cheap, but not something we can handle right now.



Chapter 12 covers solar power: how it works, how efficient it is, and why it is a good carbon-free source of energy. We need better and less expensive solar panels on more homes, and that should happen over time. Bill points out that solar panels used in space are 40% efficient, whereas the ones homeowners can afford are around 15% efficient. Unfortunately, the US only produces about .4% of its power by solar energy and we need to make a lot more to replace coal-powered electricity to make a dent in our climbing carbon dioxide levels.

When I was young, people talked about having solar panels in space to gather energy and send it to Earth. Bill points out the difficulties with that approach and shows how individual power systems for buildings or a city would be more feasible.



Wind power. Clean energy and the US currently produces ~4.5% of its electricity from the wind. I’ve seen the wind farms in Iowa, many large windmills I’ve never seen stopped whenever I pass nearby. We could have more, and our previous administration encouraged wind power development over coal (a favorite of our current administration).

The author makes a great point about the feasibility of wind power replacing coal powered electricity. Costs for wind power have dropped to 2.1 cents per kWh (kilowatt hour), whereas coal-powered electricity costs 1.2 cents per kWh, so the cost increase for wind powered electricity is not unmanageable.

Bill describes how some hobbyists have rigged a propellor on the top of a boat to catch the wind, and linked it to a propellor under water to drive the boat through the sea. He says that this type of sail boat can drive straight into the wind (something anyone that ever sailed on a traditional sail boat will tell you is impossible). I’ve never seen these myself, but they sound really interesting.

Unlike solar power, wind power typically isn’t reliable during the middle of the day, when electrical energy needs are highest. And the wind does stop, and wind isn’t available everywhere, but the low cost and no carbon footprint of it make wind power a valid candidate to replace much of our coal-based electricity in the US.



Getting power from where it is generated to where it is used isn’t free nor simple. There are limitations to the efficiency of power being transferred. This chapter explains the details why there is power lost during transmission, so you understand why we need to get more efficient to reduce losses (and, in turn, reduce how much electricity we need to generate).



Chapter 15 covers the power grid – how we distribute power from different sources like hydroelectric dams, to cities and homes. The important items for discussion here are magnetism and electricity: two of my fav topics. Bill says that increasing efficiency and reduces losses by electrical devices will reduce our need for electrical power. He also explains how transformers work, stepping up and down voltage as needed. But don’t let that cause you to skip this chapter. Bill gets into power transmission issues, buckminsterfullerene and nanotubes of carbon atoms. Nanotubes made of carbon atoms would provide almost no power loss of electricity over long distances, but we can’t make them very long now (50 nm max) – Bill points out that solving this problem would be huge and would change the world.



Chapter 16 covers electric-powered cars. In 2007 I worked with a guy that had an electric car and he was proud of it. Unfortunately, he had a short drive (under 20 miles each way) and had to charge his car once he arrived at work and again when he arrived home. It may have been quite, but he told me the cost to replace the batteries would be more than buying a new car. Newer cars do much better these days, and the author is right that we should do more to move to electric cars.



This chapter covers the many many different types of power storage containers (batteries) we’ve used in the past and present. Interesting material, but near the end of the chapter Bill talks about gravity storage pistons, which are simple but potentially huge ways to store power for use when the sun or wind are unavailable. Fascinating subject and the first I’ve seen about it. Really really good information.



In chapter 18, Bill discusses how batteries are not the only means of storing power for off-hour consumption. Food like corn gets energy from the sun, and in turn can be fermented into ethanol, which can be drank or burned. Unfortunately, sun-to-corn-to-ethanol is not efficient (2% according to the author) so it isn’t a good standalone solution over fossil fuel. Sugar from sugarcane can also provide stored power – more than 2x what corn provides – and sugar can be fermented and produce alcohol too.

Bill brings up catalytic converters also. I remember when they were introduced and how some opposed them as too expensive and not likely to help with pollution. As we know today, and as Bill points out, they made a big difference in reducing pollution and weren’t too expensive for their intended purpose. The same arguments many deniers and fossil fuel industry shills make today about reducing carbon dioxide output – and the deniers are as wrong today as they were in the 70s.



I’m not a NASCAR fan. No problem with people that like it. Never developed a taste for it. Bill talks about NASCAR and how they use old auto tech to make races exciting, and (showing my age) I understood as I remember a time when cars had carburetors and pushrods. At least he didn’t bring up records yet (if you don’t know what they are, you are not old and you know how to use Google).



“almost a third of all energy we use in the United States goes to transportation. We use almost as much energy moving ourselves and our goods around as we use to produce or create those goods in the first place.”
Unstoppable, chapter 20

Bill points our our inefficiency moving power as a great place to start to address global warming. The author mentions that trains are 4x more efficient than a truck – a neat tidbit of knowledge – so trains are better at movement than trucks.



This chapter covers mass transit, pointing out that subways are far more efficient at movement than cars. The only unfortunate situation is that mass transit away from the New England area of the US (not including Chicago) usually relies on buses for mass transit, not trains or subways. I agree with Bill that riding public transportation lets passengers read or use their smart phones – something car drivers shouldn’t do while on the road (but, unfortunately, too often do while driving).

One year I worked as a consultant for a client that had showers onsite for the employees, as they encouraged their people to bike to work to conserve gas and reduce pollution. I wish this was the stance of more companies. For a while, many companies allowed their people to telecommute, but that policy comes and goes over time, and it has been cut back the past two years in the technology field.

Bill talks about the need for helmets when biking and I agree. I wear one when I bike outside, on a mountain bike or a road bike, and I wear a helmet when I ride a motorcycle. Being safe means more than looking cool to me. Biking is a great way to exercise, so any laws passed making it more convenient are ones I’ll always vote for – I hope you do too.



This chapter covers automated cars. We’ve seen stories about self-driven cars the past few years, and Bill believes this will happen and become the major method of transportation within cities in the future. That would make Elon Musk happy.

The idea of flying cars appealed to me, until I earned a pilot license. Ground school and CFIs proved that flying takes a lot more mental work than driving a car. Too many people mentally disengage while driving to talk, text, or play games – you can’t do that in a plane and survive long. Self-piloting planes (or helicopters, like Iron Man used in Captain America: Civil War) would be far safer.



Navy ships and subs distill their own water while at sea, whereas cruise ships lack the power needed to distill water, so they use membranes to filter out particles from water. The author points out that this second method would work for cities needing water. This was what I thought, when I considered the recent droughts affecting California, and I suspect this type of solution will happen sooner rather than later.



Mangroves are trees that can handle salty water – they filter out salt for useful water, and eject the salt on their leaves. The author points out that this is what we need to create – a system emulating mangroves. There is a material – graphene – that would work, but the cost of production and utilization could be a problem.



“the economic sector that uses the most of Earth’s resources and produces the largest environmental change is our agriculture. Our farms produce greater volumes of more greenhouse gases than all of our cars, trucks, trains, ships and airplanes combined.”
Unstoppable, chapter 25.

With a growing population, this means even more climate change. And we waste too much food. Most of my neighbors don’t eat leftover food, so it goes in the trash. We had leftovers in my family when I was growing up, so I have no issue using leftover food for lunches. The author talks about using GMFs (Genetically Modified Foods) that need less food and water to grow more food, and GMFs have have fans and dis-tractors for many years, but eventually we will need to rely on them to feed our people.



Bill looks for ways to use less energy in his own home. He uses solar power and talks about paying $10 every other month for an electricity bill. Now that is incredible. And he uses other systems to reduce power needs for lights and heating water. What is amazing is that he estimates he saves a tremendous amount of power usage for less than it costs for a nice SUV, and that savings is paid for in 10 years. If only more people did as much as Bill – maybe this will motivate more people to do the same.



Bill talks about his eco-friendly competition with neighbor Ed Begley Jr., and this is the type of competition we need to see more often if we want to beat global warming. Striving for more efficient uses of power and resources can only help: us save money and the planet save resources and energy used to gather those resources.

Bill had a reflector installed in his fireplace, which reflects more heat into the room. When I spent some time in a Scottish castle, it had one too, and the amount of heat that a few logs gave to the room was impressive. I sat back 20 feet from the fire and could still feel the warmth.



This chapter covers solar power panels and the cost benefits. His solar cells generate more power than he needs, so that power is sold back to the power company and he receives the money instead of a bill. Bill’s solar panels are 15% efficient, but I found a company online that says it gets 22.1% efficiency from their solar cells, which is a nice improvement.



The author uses solar power to heat water for his home, which is a cost saver. He also installed tankless water heaters, which I too have looked into, which instantly heat water and save money as there is no need to wait for running water to heat up. A good idea, and I plan to install solar heating and tankless water heaters in my next home for sure.



The author had a garden installed and used a system with multiple zones and a rain sensor to improve efficiency. I had a sprinkler system with the same arrangement (zones and rain sensor) installed after I built my home, and saw a 40-50% decrease in water used (according to water bills) than when using regular mobile sprinklers. It helped to be able to time the sprinklers to work during the middle of the night, and to be able to control the amount of water sent to each zone.



Finally, some numbers that intrigue me: space flight. The author shows why calculus is needed for rocket science: because burning fuel changes the weight of a space craft constantly. According to Bill, a 100% efficient rocket needs 500 million joules to life one ton of cargo to 62 miles (the beginning of space). To get into orbit, you need twice that amount of energy. To get into geosynchronous orbit (1 day for each time around the Earth), it takes 5000 million joules of energy. This energy does not count the rocket mass and fuel itself.

Air pressure against a rocket decreases as altitude increases.

“When the decreasing static pressure and increasing dynamic pressure reach a maximum, it is called max-q.”
Unstoppable, chapter 31

Max-q is dangerous for the rocket as the pressure on the nose of the space craft is maximum. The location where a space craft is launched is important as well, since launching near or at the equator means the Earth’s rotation will add to a craft’s orbital velocity.

Returning to Earth means getting rid of the energy used to get into orbit. When in low Earth orbit (like the ISS), one ton of payload must dissipate 30 billion joules of energy, and the easiest way to do that is use the friction of the atmosphere to convert energy into heat (the reason for good heat shields on space craft).

There. Bill provides the information you need to plan how much fuel you need to get your own space craft to space and back again.



The author states that most rockets use rocket fuel called RP-1 (Rocket Propellant #1), which is refined kerosene with chains of carbon atoms. All particulates are removed (which explains why the first launch in ‘The Astronaut Farmer’ failed so badly). Liquid hydrogen (used in Apollo and the space shuttle) contains more energy than RP-1.

A nice surprise in this chapter is the simple yet clear explanation of ion propulsion (xenon gas atoms propelled by electrical grid out of the craft, pushing it forward as the xenon leaves the craft. Since ion engines develop slow but constant power, they currently can only be used once in space, so you still need RP-1 to get to space.

Bill also talks about solar sail power. NASA launched their own NanoSail-D into orbit in 2011. The Planetary Society successfully launched LightSail in 2015, and they intend the next generation of this to launch in 2018.

The takeoff weight for airplanes is around 10% fuel, while the takeoff weight for space craft is 90%. Lighter materials affect both airplanes and space craft, and would lower takeoff fuel requirements.



“this common goal – to leave the world better than we found it.”
Unstoppable, chapter 33

As global warming is a modern threat, just as dangerous as ISIS and other terrorists, our generation needs to solve the global warming threat to our planet. That would make the world a better place – for us and for our children and grandchildren. We also need to explore space to learn more about life here and out there.

Mars facts that interest maybe just me in this chapter: atmospheric consists of carbon dioxide, air pressure is .7% that of Earth, average noontime high temperature is -40 C/F. Space craft can only depart for Mars every 26 months (due to orbits of Earth and Mars)



A carbon fee or carbon tax will work, if conservatives stop opposing it. This is the best way to tie economic considerations into carbon emissions, and it could be our best hope to reduce greenhouse gases.



“When I decided to write this book, I did it with one enormous goal in mind: I want to help change the world.”
Unstoppable, chapter 35

The issues and optional ways to address them are well covered in this book. Reasonable people being logical should have no issue with Bill’s suggestions, unless they have a special interest agenda that provides economic incentive to ignore the dangers of global warming. That incentive means that some of our politicians and policy makers put the interest of the fossil fuel industry ahead of their own families, friends and fellow countrymen. Is money worth more that human life? It shouldn’t be, but unfortunately it is.

Global warming is real. Doesn’t matter your political or religious affiliation, facts are facts. Radio and internet personalities, political scientists, and people drawing paychecks from think tanks paid by companies promoting fossil fuel use do not know better than people with advanced degrees in science. If that bothers you, you are being unreasonable and are fooling yourself.

I’ve seen vicious attacks on climate scientists by trolls on Twitter, whose arguments were worthless but these trolls were blinded by hate and refused to be reasonable and refused to accept that uneducated people cannot know as much about a subject as subject matter experts with advanced education on climate science. Why trolls with no or little hight school education feel like they can challenge these people on climate science is beyond me.

Either we fight this battle now, or allow our children and grandchildren to face much greater (and potentially unbeatable) challenges that we do at this time.



This book is well written, flows well and breaks down technical items enough for anyone (except senators on the payroll of fossil fuel companies) to understand the danger of global warming and the technical difficulties we must overcome to make changes to reduce our carbon output.

This book educates and informs people that really want an education on climate science. Deniers should read it as it disproves denier excuses intended to delay our fight against global warming. I can’t see how an honest denier could read this book and still fail to understand the dangers of global warming. I’d think even someone with an advanced degree in political science would understand the science explained in this book, clearly enough to realize they are hurting, not helping humanity.

I give it 5 stars out of 5 and recommend purchasing it. Students and adults will learn a lot about science, and it is not partisan. It is real, it is true, and it must be a wake up call to people trying to harm our world by fighting the fact that global warming is the biggest danger to our species right now.

By Mike Hubbartt, © Copyright 2017, All Rights Reserved.MassiminoSpaceman

Title: Spaceman
Author: Mike Massimino
ISBN: 978-1101903544 (hardback)
Published: October 4, 2016 by Crown Archetype
Price: $28.00 hardback/$11.50 paperback/$13.99 Kindle (7/17)
(Reviewing the Kindle version)
Length: 336 pages

Mike Massimino was an NASA astronaut from 1996 to 2014, and he flew twice in the Space Shuttle, both times to work on the Hubble space telescope. Let’s look at his book.

Book Chapters

Prologue: A Science Fiction Monster (do NOT skip this section)
Ch 1: A Perfect Good
Ch 2: Most All-Around
Ch 3: Who You Gonna Get?
Ch 4: The Smart-Kid Olympics
Ch 5: Force Feedback
Ch 6: Human Factors
Ch 7: Disqualified
Ch 8: Yes or No
Ch 9: There’s Mach 1
Ch 10: If You Have a Problem
Ch 11: Spacewalker
Ch 12: Shackleton Mode
Ch 13: Seeing Beyond the Stars
Ch 14: Ready to Go
Ch 15: Weightless
Ch 16: Earth is a Planet
Ch 17: Maybe this is Heaven
Ch 18: The Story of Space
Ch 19: February 1, 2003
Ch 20: Why We Go
Ch 21: From the Ashes
Ch 22: One Last Job
Ch 23: Line 28
Ch 24: Grounded
Epilogue: Around the Next Corner

And now, my review

Don’t skip the prologue, or you will miss some well written material.  Mike’s description of his first time outside the space shuttle Columbia, as they waited to lift off to head to the Hubble, made me feel like I was there:

“The shuttle was making these ungodly sounds.  I could hear the fuel pumps working, steam hissing, metal groaning and twisting under the extreme cold of the fuel, which was hundreds of degrees below zero.  Rocket fuel burns off at very low temperatures, sending huge billows of smoke pouring out.  Standing there, looking up, I could feel the power of this thing.  It looked like a beast waiting there for us.”

– Mike Massimino, Spaceman Prologue

Now that is descriptive writing!

Mike talks about his childhood, seeing Neil Armstrong become the first man to walk on the moon, which made him want to be an astronaut.  During his senior year of high school, Mike decided to go on to Columbia for his undergraduate degree.  He interned before graduating and a mentor at Sperry encouraged him to go on to graduate school to find something he was passionate about, to do with his life.  He saw one of my favorite movies, “The Right Stuff“, which made him realize he really wanted to try to become an astronaut.  He decided his best bet to become an astronaut meant he needed to get a graduate degree (or two) from MIT.  He took a job and decided to wait a year or two before starting grad school, but while he was at work he saw the news about the space shuttle Challenger exploding, and he realized he needed to go ahead and start grad school at MIT.  While there, he started working on skills he needed to become an astronaut, which included scuba diving and getting a private pilot license.

After completing two Masters degrees, Mike decided he needed more education to stand out to NASA, so he started on a program Ph.D at MIT.  It was difficult, and he failed his first qualifying oral exam.  He was on his honeymoon in Portugal when he thought about the early ocean explorers that took risks and never quit, so he realized he needed to try again.  I too had issues in college when I was younger, but later in life I returned and earned my undergrad degree in Computer Science.  That graduation ceremony is one of my own personal high points in life.  Like Mike, I encourage people to not give up and continue to try, as accomplishing a major life goal is always worthwhile.

Before reading Mike’s bio, I figured that a man with a Ph.D from MIT that became an astronaut and had two shuttle missions working on the Hubble might be arrogant and full of himself.  I was wrong.  In this book, Mike credits the people around him that helped him become what he wanted.

“I owe everything I’ve ever accomplished to the people around me – people who pushed me to be the best version of myself.”

– Mike Massimino, Spaceman Ch 6

It is inspirational to see someone with such a impressive career be that humble.  You don’t need to be a superman to become an astronaut – you need to work long and hard and with focus to become one.  I should add that Mike prepared differently for his second Ph.D oral exam and passed it.

After earning his Ph.D, Mike took a job with McDonnell Douglas and moved to Houston to be near NASA.  He applies and goes through the astronaut selection process, passing everything but the eye exam.  Now that his vision was a disqualifying issue, he decided to fix it instead of giving up.  He sees an eye doctor and starts vision training.  Working hard, following the advice of his doctor and friends, his vision improved enough and after reapplying, was accepted into the NASA astronaut program.  At last, he was in.

Mike undergoes new astronaut orientation and talks about flying T-38s.  I’d assumed all astronauts are pilots, but that isn’t true.  Mission specialists like Mike fly in the back seat – they get to do maneuvers including aerobatic, as well as handle the radio and navigate, but they don’t do take offs or landings.  Bummer.

“There are a couple of things you do on your first flight, kind of like your initiation.  The first thing is to go weightless.  The second thing you do is break the sound barrier.  When we reached <mach> 1.0, I said, ‘There’s Mach 1,’ in my best Chuck Yeager impression.

I loved flying.  I could not get enough of it.  Backseaters had to log a minimum of twenty-five training hours in the T-38 every quarter.  I was always near the top of my class in hours.  I had more hours than any mission specialist in my group, especially out of the civilians.”

– Mike Massimino, Spaceman

I’d love to have a chance to ride in a T-38, even just one time, and yeah, I’d take as many photos as my phone would hold (and maybe one or two short movies) to be able to relive the event.  Maybe some day.  Everyone can dream, can’t they?

Shortly after being accepted to the astronaut program, Mike’s father became ill and he asked his fellow astronauts for help and they gave it.  Mike said something about astronauts I hadn’t heard before and feel like I should share it with you:

“If you’ve ever wondered what the right stuff is, that’s what the right stuff is – the real right stuff.  It’s not about being crazy enough to strap yourself to the top of a bomb.  That’s actually the easy part.  It’s more about character, serving a purpose greater than yourself, putting the other guy first, and being able to do that every single day in every aspect of your life.  People ask me all the time what it takes to become an astronaut.   It’s not about being the smartest or having the most college degrees.  The real qualifications for being an astronaut are: Is this someone I’d trust with my life? Will this person help look after my family if I don’t make it home?”

– Mike Massimino, Spaceman

Mike’s father recovered and was able to attend his graduation ceremony from Astronaut Candidate (ASCAN) to full Astronaut.  The way Mike’s fellow astronauts and friends rallied around when he needed help was incredible – not many companies where you matter so much to you coworkers, especially in this modern world.

When Mike was becoming an astronaut, it was the time we were preparing to build the ISS.  Assembling the ISS would require a lot of spacewalking, so Mike learned that skill.  He covers the details in depth, and I had no idea how much was involved just learning to move about in space.  Fascinating read, chapter 11.  Do not skip it.

One thing the astronauts had to learn was cold weather survival skills.  They went to Cold Lake in Canada, where it was subzero most of the the time they were there.  As a Minnesota transplant, I understand how difficult it can be for warm climate people to be forced to contend with severe cold, and they did well.  During a trip to Japan to help the Japanese Space Agency, he realized something important about his job:

“Going to space doesn’t make you an astronaut.  Being an astronaut means you’re ready to go to space.”

– Mike Massimino, Spaceman Ch 12

The Hubble Space Telescope is simply incredible.  In addition to sharing the same first names, Mike Massimino and I are both impressed with the Hubble as it is a great engineering triumph for humanity.  The research done by the Hubble far exceeds the beautiful images it sends back, and it is indeed a valuable tool for discovering our place in the universe.  Before reading this book, I was unaware the Hubble has 6 gyros that keep it aligned on a target, and that the internals of the Hubble are kept at room temperature even though the outside conditions vary between -200 and 200 degrees F every day.  The Hubble had problems with gyro failure, so two missions were planned: 3A and 3B.  Mike was part of the development process for 3B and he hoped to be part of the actual mission:

“Bob Curbeam, who flew on a couple of station assembly flights (of the Shuttle), used to say, ‘Hubble guys are the Jedi.  The coolest.’  I wanted to be a Hubble guy.”

– Mike Massimino, Spaceman Ch 13

Did he get to go on flight STS-109, mission 3B?  Yes he did.  He talks about the details of establishing the shuttle crew, the dynamics and skills of the people that were mission specialists and the flight deck crew, as well as the Hubble components they were to replace.  The amount of work he and other astronauts do, just to get ready for a mission, is incredible.  It is amazing how well NASA can provide different ways of duplicating conditions the astronauts face while working in space.  They not only have the pool for full size practice.  They also use virtual reality to practice how it feels to move mass in a weightless environment.  The preparation for the mission was lengthy, but finally they launched.  Mike’s description of the Earth from the shuttle is worth sharing:

“We were over the Indian Ocean, which was a beautiful shade of blue with puffy white clouds sprinkled across it.  I felt like I was in one of those dreams where you’re magically floating above everyone else.  I could see the ripples in the ocean, the horizon with the blue atmosphere in thin, hazy line.  It was like all the pictures I’d seen, only a thousand times better.”

– Mike Massimino, Spaceman Ch 15

Mike continues to provide details about the mission, including that they needed to setup the toilet, galley, and exercise bike after launch.  I never thought about them being stowed, but it makes sense.  Again, great details for space enthusiasts as well as prospective astronauts.  Mike’s description of how they needed to get used to being in space was also new.  He describes how it feels to have all the fluid in your body move towards your head, and it doesn’t sound fun.  And I didn’t know that your spine stretches so you grow an inch, but the muscles in your back have to stretch and adjust, so that’s painful too.  And he gives the best description I’ve seen about space sickness:

“Then there’s the nausea.  ‘Stomach awareness’ is the official term.  That whole first day I floated around feeling like I was going to barf at any moment.  Space sickness is the opposite of seasickness,  The effect is the same, the nausea and vomiting, but the root cause is different.  … In space, you’re floating around and this time it’s your eyes that are telling your brain you are moving and your inner ear that’s telling your brain that you’re still, because your inner ear doesn’t move when you’re weightless.”

– Mike Massimino, Spaceman Ch 15

It took three days to catch up to Hubble, so they had time to adjust and to prepare for the mission.  Mike was very nervous, but he remembered details he shares in this book, like how he sounded in his suit:

“My voice sounded different, too, because the sound wave travels differently through the lower atmospheric pressure.  It’s at a lower register.  I sounded like I was about to cut a blues album.”

– Mike Massimino, Spaceman Ch16

Mike and his teammate do their first EVAastronauts install ACS on Hubble and replace one of the solar array panels.  It was an intense process, physically difficult and draining, and the part of the mission Mike was most concerned with.  He was stressed, but Mike says the view of the Earth was worth it.  His second EVA was working with James Neuman to replace the failed Faint Object Camera with the Advanced Camera for Surveys and NASA has a picture of the two mission specialists doing that during the 3B mission.

Astronauts have reported having an epiphany during their missions.  I’ll let Mike speak for himself on his own epiphany:

“I took a moment and turned and glanced over my shoulder at the Earth again. …

The thought that went through my head was If you were in heaven, this is what you would see.  This is my view from heaven.  Then that thought was immediately replaced by another thought.  No, it’s even more beautiful than that.  This is what heaven must look like – maybe this is heaven. …

And my thought looking down at the Earth was Wow.  How much God our Father must love us that he gave us this home.  He didn’t put us on Mars or Venus with nothing but rocks and frozen waste.  He gave us paradise and said, ‘Live here’.”

Mike Massimino Spaceman Ch 17

While he was resting after the mission finished, Mike listened to music and said certain music was better during the day or night.  He liked Sting, Phil Collins, Coldplay and U2 during the day.  At night, Radiohead, plus the soundtracks for Dances with Wolves and Meet Joe Black.

At the end of chapter 17, Mike mentions that their Hubble mission, STS-109, went before STS-107.  Both were Columbia missions.  Mike’s flight came home, STS-107 broke up during re-entry and all aboard were killed, and Mike devotes chapter 19 to explaining how the loss of the crew of STS-107 affected their families and the other astronauts.

We’ve lost too many of our astronauts – the crews of Apollo 1, the Challenger,  and the Columbia – I wish, as a country, we could have an astronaut remembrance day to remember each of these brave individuals that gave their lives exploring space, to make us better as a race.  We should remember them as they deserve: as our heroes.

Chapters 20 through 23 are about the final mission to the Hubble.  After the Columbia was destroyed during re-entry, the decision was made to cancel the last planned trip to the Hubble, as it was considered too unsafe.  NASA kept a planned robotics mission to go to Hubble, and then the NASA administrator was replaced by someone wanting to do something big for NASA, and the mission was back on.  Due to the costs of replacing entire defective systems, the decision was made to repair them in place – something that qualify as the most technically challenging repair ever done in space, on could be viewed as the most important piece of astronomical equipment ever deployed: the Hubble.  The technical challenges they faced, disassembling, repairing and reassembling equipment not designed to be worked on in orbit, were considerable, but NASA being NASA, they were addressed and the mission to upgrade and fix Hubble was on, using the Atlantis shuttle.  In addition to saving the Hubble, one other notable event happened during the flight: the first tweet from space was done by Mike on the Atlantis.

Every good thing comes to an end.  Mike decided against doing any long term Soyez missions, so he was removed from flight status and moved on from being an astronaut, but he is still using social media – I follow him on Twitter, as do many.

I took four days to read this book, because I didn’t want it to end, any more than Mike wanted his time as an Astronaut to end.  A truly great story about overcoming obstacles to accomplish what is important to you in life.  I found three videos plus a ton of podcasts about or by Mike Massimino on iTunesU – go there if you want to see and hear the man himself.  Or you can try episodes of The Big Bang Theory on TV – he’s made a number of guest appearances since the 5th season


I really enjoyed Mike’s bio.  Learned a ton of things about becoming and being an astronaut, as well as understanding how a shuttle mission was planned and implemented.  Like Col. Hadfield’s bio, this is one I will re-read.

I strongly encourage people to buy this book.  Mike Massimino tells a great story, and his vivid details paint a clear picture of his experiences.  He takes you inside the astronaut program and lets you see how hard it is to get in, but shows that you can overcome obstacles if you work hard enough.  I give it 5 stars out of 5.

Only one task is left for me now: I need to track down an autographed copy in hardback for my home library.  I want to read it again and then I will encourage my wife to read it.  I may even buy a few paperback copies to give as Christmas gifts.


I have written book reviews for print magazines in the past.  The largest I wrote was 1000 words, but usually they were 200 – 500 words.  This review is much longer because I wanted to do justice to this biography.  It is well crafted, exciting to read, and reveals more details about NASA and space missions than other NASA bios I’ve read.  I enjoyed the book and hope Mike Massimino has another one planned – if he does, I’ll read it.

By Mike Hubbartt, © Copyright 2017, All Rights Reserved.

Title: The Madhouse Effect
Author: Michael E. Mann, Tom Toles
ISBN: 978-0231177863
Published: Columbia University Press (September 27, 2016)
Price: $24.95 hardback/$11.50 paperback/$13.49 Kindle (7/17)
Length: 208 pages

I’ve studied science since I was a child, and what still amazes me is how people with little or no science education find some science topics offensive.  When I was young, evolution concerned some religious people. The theory of evolution wasn’t intended to affront religion, as many scientists have religious beliefs, but the idea our world could be older than 6000 years angered some that calculate the age of the Earth using the Bible.  Scientists weren’t trying to disprove religion.  They were trying to understand why things on our planet changed to what we see today.

Another topic scientists studied when I was young was the dangers of smoking.  Smoking was socially acceptable, long after scientific studies showed smoking increased the risk of cancer.  Powerful special interests (the tobacco industry) did not want these scientific studies about the dangers of smoking to affect their sales, so they had others publish conflicting studies that tobacco was safe.  The tobacco industry’s fight against scientific studies lasted decades, until the tobacco industry finally ceased their war and settled huge lawsuits from people affected by smoking.  These days, some people smoke, but people no longer argue about the dangers of using tobacco.

The current scientific topic under attack by special interests is climate change.  The science concerning climate change is accepted by 97% of scientists trained in this area, but special interests that have products (coal, gas, oil) that contribute to global warming and have declared war on science.  These special interests pay politicians and hire their own experts to try to create doubt in the minds of the public.  Why?  So they can continue to sell products that are endangering our world.

I believe when you see something troubling, you need to learn more about it so you can discuss the topic intelligently.  No one of ordinary intelligence should want others to provide their own talking points, as that restricts how much is really known about the subject.  People should read this book because it was written by a scientist trained in climate change, and it is illustrated by an award winning illustrator that shows the issues with people attacking the science of climate change.  Let’s get into this fascinating book.

Book Chapters

Ch 1: Science: How it Works
Ch 2: Climate Change: The Basics
Ch 3: Why Should I Give a Damn?
Ch 4: The Stages of Denial
Ch 5: The War on Climate Science
Ch 6: Hypocrisy – Thy Name is Climate Change Denial
Ch 7: Geoengineering, or “What Could Possibly Go Wrong?”
Ch 8: A Path Forward

Science: How it Works

The first chapter of this book explains science, so people without formal education in science understand how science works.  Why was this needed in a book on climate change?  Because many people believe there is some global conspiracy by scientists to promote climate change – completely wrong.  Some believe scientists gets rich researching climate change – ridiculous.  Let’s look at Dr. Mann’s explanation of science.

“Science is unique among human endeavors in the “self-correcting” machinery (to quote the famous Carl Sagan) by which it is governed.”

The Madhouse Effect, page 1

Self-correcting means science continues to study topics, trying to learn more and making corrections when it is mistaken.  Science embraces skepticism, as it strives to improve what it understands.  Dr. Mann points out a truth known by people that accept scientific consensus on global warming.

“Unfortunately, the term skeptic has been hijacked, especially in the climate change debate, to mean something entirely different.  It is used as a way to dodge evidence that one simply doesn’t like.  That, however, is not skepticism but rather contrarianism or denialism, the wholesale rejection of validated, widely accepted scientific principles on the basis of opinion, ideology, financial interest, self-interest, or all of these together.”

The Madhouse Effect, pages 1&2

It’s one thing to dislike something you hear.  It’s wrong to insist on new or alternate facts (a term used by Kellyanne Conway) that attack something you disagree with.  A professor at my college had an excellent sign on his wall, addressing this issue:

“You are entitled to your own opinions, not your own facts.”

But these climate change deniers don’t only want their own facts; they also attack the motives of scientists studying climate change.  These “skeptics” lack a college education, or never took a science course in an accredited college, and they believe that scientists have an economic advantage to promote global warming.  Poppycock!  I studied science in college (biology, microbiology, chemistry, biochemistry) and I never met a wealthy science professor.  The people I met in college studying or teaching science were motivated by learning and helping solve scientific questions and peer recognition, not money.   And climate science is far from the best paying fields these days.  I do not doubt there are some scientists that are wealthy, but people that study science are not in it for the money.

There is another misconception about science that is covered in chapter one: the belief that scientists are motivated to work together to promote something so they get research funds.  Baloney!  Scientists that find and reveal something different than what is widely accepted are the ones that get research funds and peer recognition.   Scientists are looking for issues with global warming, and it is to the benefit of any scientist to publish any studies that show if they find problems with the consensus belief.  And the mythological “super scientist” that tells all other scientists around the world what to say or teach or publish on climate change is rubbish.  Anyone suggesting a super scientist calls the shots in any field demonstrates they never took a science class in their life.

Special interests with an agenda affected by global warming use the same tool the tobacco industry used to counter studies that tobacco was dangerous: doubt.  They try to counter scientific evidence any way that causes the public to doubt the science.  This war on science is not new, but it is disappointing that many forget the tobacco industry attacks on science and how they parallel those used today against climate change.

Climate Change: The Basics

“The basics of climate science are actually very simple and always have been.  Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere traps heat, and we are adding more CO2 to the atmosphere.  The rest is details.”

The Madhouse Effect, page 15

I heard Senator James Inhofe (of Oklahoma in senate meetings) deny Carbon dioxide is involved in global warming.  Senator Inhofe is not a scientist, does not have education in climate studies, and is 100% wrong about carbon dioxide.   Senator Inhofe also brought a snowball to the senate and tossed it on the floor and proclaimed it proved that global warming was not an issue – rubbish!

There are other factors that impact global warming, but those factors do not change the fact that carbon dioxide is increasing in our atmosphere and carbon dioxide traps heat and so it contributes to global warming.

“Next time that cantankerous uncle of yours whom you see every Thanksgiving tells you that the greenhouse effect is “controversial new science,” remind him that it’s actually basic physics and chemistry that go back nearly two centuries.”

The Madhouse Effect, page 16

Scientists have studied climate change for nearly two centuries, and have known that carbon dioxide has a heat trapping property since the days of Joseph Fourier.  As Dr. Mann points out, Svante Arrhenius recognized the correlation that burning fossil fuels cause the earth temperature to increase.  That is enough evidence that climate study is a mature science.

We have ice cores dating back thousands of years, and scientists can use them to determine how much carbon dioxide was in the air in earlier periods, and are adding carbon dioxide at an alarming rate!

Global warming is indicated by more than regular heat waves, like we have been experiencing, especially in Senator Inhofe’s state of Oklahoma.  Climate scientists warn that wind patterns will start to change which can produce dry spells like those recently experienced in Texas and Senator Inhofe’s state of Oklahoma.  Other warning signs of global warming are increased flooding in same areas that have dry spells, such have also occurred in California.

A major reason for concern about global warming: rising sea levels, as they impact our coastal cities.  Dr. Mann’s book mentions the antarctic ice sheet melting as a problem, and a major part of that ice sheet broke off on July 18, 2017.  This trillion ton iceberg will be a navigation hazard until it melts, which will result in increased sea levels.

Dr. Mann points out global warming doesn’t necessarily mean that tornadoes will increase in frequency or intensity, but hurricanes should get worse.  Do we really want another Katrina?  Dr. Mann also points out that we can’t say for certain that global warming causes a specific heat wave or storm or flood, but global warming should increase how often these three events occur – increased events means increased damage.

Some of the dangers of global warming already are affecting us, but that doesn’t mean we should give up.  Decreasing carbon dioxide output by reduced dependence on burning fossil fuels will slow down changes we may not be able to recover from, but we still need to deal with too much carbon dioxide in the environment if we want to reduce the impact of this danger to our world.

Why Should I Give a Damn?

If you want a wake-up call to the seriousness of global warming, check out Tole’s illustration on page 30.  Not looking good right now.

“And if you think the effects <of global warming> will be felt only in some far away corner of the globe where only polar bears and penguins live, think again.  The consequences of a changing climate are occurring everywhere and, yes, likely right near you, affecting you, your family, your friends, your community.”

The Madhouse Effect, page 31

That’s right.  We are not alone in the world; we are all in this together.  Global warming doesn’t change based on politics, country borders (with and without walls), or fervent religious beliefs.  Everyone on Earth has a stake in global warming – some more so than others, but still we are all at risk.  This next quote of Dr. Mann should get your attention:

“Dreams of slowly adapting to climate change will have to be replaced with the hard reality of an ever-escalating pace of of disruption and unpredictability.

In what ways will the effects of climate change be felt?  In nearly every way.”

The Madhouse Effect, page 32

Do you want to know what will be effected by climate change?  This is a list:

  • Security – national and alliance security will be affected by changing shorelines;  people losing homes to rising seas need to go somewhere, and other countries as destinations will happen when the arable land of a country is gone.
  • Food – likely less food due to changing weather patterns, increasing temperatures affecting crop production rates and viability;  increasing population and decreasing food supplies is a sure recipe for conflict.
  • Water – more sea water, less fresh water, so another reason for water and land conflicts between haves and have nots;  the Keystone pipeline rejected by the Obama administration could potentially polute freshwater sources for millions of Americans, and that pipeline was approved by the Trump administration.  Ocean acidification is a very serious threat to the creatures living in it and to those of us dependent on the bounties of the ocean: food.
  • The Food-Water-Energy Nexus – using food sources like corn as energy source (ethanol) will be more problematic when more people need food.
  • Land – 33% of the population live within 60 miles of the ocean coastline, and 10% live within 30′ above sea level, and with rising seas and increasingly dangerous hurricanes, those people need to move inland – competing with agriculture and livestock for living space; we have a finite amount of land, so this is a problem when the population continues to grow.
  • Health – heat stroke, malnutrition, flooding and droughts affecting nutrition availability, mosquito-born diseases and water-born diseases, and asthma and allergies will kill a lot more than currently die.
  • Ecosystems – the Arctic, great barrier reef, and snow-covered mountains will be impacted by the rate of climate warming – shouldn’t we want these wonders to be around for our children and grandchildren to enjoy?  As ecosystems disappear, so will other species, and some reports show global warming could kill up to 1/3 of all living species within 50 years – that is a tragedy.
  • Economy – it will cost a lot to move food and water to areas lacking them, and it will cost money to pay for increasing health issues, and relocating people means increasing infrastructure costs as well as transportation and food costs; people making insurance claims to cover their losses mean insurance companies will raise rates to cover their losses, also affecting the economy.
  • Ethics – the current Trump administration is intent on rolling back changes made during the Obama administration that were intended to fight global warming.  The worse thing President Trump did was withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord.  This president’s cabinet is an assembly of people from the very industries (coal, oil and gas) that have a vested interest in keeping us dependent on fossil fuels, so we have President Trump to thafor vastly increasing carbon dioxide emissions, causing even more global warming than was forecast during the Obama administration.  The ethics of letting the very industries impacting global warming have control of the EPA and other government agencies intended to help and not harm Americans cannot be whitewashed – President Trump’s only legacy is that he did everything wrong climate-wise to help America and the world.

If you aren’t concerned after reading this chapter, you either plan on dying soon without an heir or are in denial.   In either case, this problem is the legacy of our generation if we do nothing to address it, or if we let politicians with a personal economic agenda destroy our chances for a better world in the future.

The Stages of Denial

“climate change is (1) real, (2) caused by humans, and (3) a grave threat, one might rightfully ask how it is that some of our most prominent elected officials can still deny that climate change is even happening.

The answer, of course, is that climate change denial isn’t really about the science; it is instead about the politics.”

The Madhouse Effect, page 53

The stages of climate change denial:

  1. It’s not happening – I do not understand why non-scientists believe they can reject the findings of scientists.  If you lack the education and background, why believe you know better than trained and educated professionals?  Of all stages, this one is the most puzzling one to me.  I’ve heard US senators deny carbon dioxide levels in the air has increased at all – EVEN THOUGH SCIENTISTS CAN PROVE IT HAS!Sometimes deniers cherry-pick data to use time ranges that don’t show temperatures rising, while ignoring long term trends that clearly show our planet is getting warmer.  It’s sad that some of these deniers rely on sites promoting inaccurate date or falsified data analysis sources, and worse that some of them state that organizations like NASA and NOAA would stoop to falsifying data to show warming trends.
  2. OK. It’s happening…but its natural – this approach tries to claim that temperatures were warming in the past, like the medieval times, but science has show the overall temperature of the Earth was cooler in the medieval times.  Essentially, this line of denial promotes the view that, since the Earth was warmer in the past, humans cannot be the source of current warming trends – poppycock!
  3. The problem is self-correcting anyway – WRONG!!  To believe that self-correcting environmental mechanisms will handle the unprecedented increase in carbon dioxide buildup in the atmosphere is wishful thinking or it is still trying to deny we need to make changes now to address carbon dioxide buildup.  The Tole illustration on page 60 covers this form of denial in a humorous manner.
  4. And it will be good for us – proposing that plants love carbon dioxide and will flourish with more, ignores the fact that regions of the world already borderline on high temperatures will reach conditions where plant production will decrease or cease completely.  How can rising sea levels be good for people living in coastal regions? Two prominent deniers (Bjorn Lomborg and Roger Pielke Jr, both with background in political science, not climate science) use this approach to argue against global warming or against the need to make changes to address global warming.  I doubt that people who listen to political scientists instead of climate scientists on climate change are probably not interested in scientific facts.
  5. It’s too late or too expensive to act – when you consider the costs to transport food and water to places unable to provide them, when you consider infrastructure changes needed to adapt to the loss of food or water, and the costs to provide medicine to those impacted by global warming, it doesn’t seem to be cheaper than developing and promoting technologies besides fossil fuel-driven systems.
  6. We’ll find some simple techno fix anyway – that’s optimistic but it may be inaccurate, and would you really want to try nothing now and make the problem worse for your children and grandchildren?

The truth about these forms of denial, per Dr. Mann:

“There is no simple way out.  Ultimately, we’re left with one real solution: reducing our collective carbon footprint.”

The Madhouse Effect, page 67

The War on Climate Science

Tole’s illustration on page 68 (at the start of chapter 5) does sum up denier mentality about their war on climate science.

“The war on science can be traced back more than half a century, beginning with the activities of the tobacco industry in the 1950s.”

The Madhouse Effect, page 69

Considering the current republican view on global warming (they deny it), it is amusing when Dr. Mann points out that President Richard Nixon (republican) created the EPA, considering the irony that current US President Donald Trump assigned former Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt as the administrator to the EPA.

What I find interesting, is that republican presidents Richard Nixon, George H.W. Bush, and Ronald Reagan signed legislation that was pro-environment and regulated industries that caused environmental problems, whereas President Trump seems intent on siding with industries like the coal, oil and gas industries against legislation protecting the environment.  Tom Toles illustration on page 73 is appropriate, and humorous.

What could motivate people to attack climate science?  Would an answer of “money” surprise anyone?  Industries producing coal and oil and gas generate a lot of money, and in turn can pay people to provide ways to attack climate science. A quote from Upton Sinclair is appropriate:

“As for money, the famous Upton Sinclair quip “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it” is once again relevant.”

The Madhouse Effect, page 75

While climate change deniers charge that real climate scientists have a motive to promote global warming, industry-financed think tanks actually paid people, providing a motive to deny climate change.  In this case, the people making the charge of money-driven-motives were actually guilty of that themselves.  This is similar to the approach of modern republican politicians that attack democrats and them decry the anger in modern politics.  Very hypocritical, to anyone being honest about the situation.

This chapter includes a list of prominent climate change deniers, as well as groups that promote climate change denial, and is a must read the next time you see someone claim that ‘climate science doesn’t prove global warming.’ Speaking of hypocrisy …

Hypocrisy – Thy Name is Climate Change Denial

Tom Toles’ illustration on page 90 sums up the concept in chapter 9: hypocrisy.

“The best examples of hypocrisy can, of course, be found in the words and actions of politicians who deny climate change. Many have quite literally buried their heads in the sand when it comes to the threat of climate change.”

The Madhouse Effect, page 91

Politicians are supposed to put the good of their constituents ahead of party or special interests, but many do not when it comes to climate change.  Why?  YOU should ask them at town halls, by writing letters and sending emails, and show up at their offices and ask why they disagree with educated professionals that know the subject of climate change better than any politician.  If you like poetic justice, you need to read about the attack on Dr. Mann (for the horrible sin of studying – are you ready? – climate change!) by Virgnia’s former attorney general (and now oyster farmer) Cuccinelli, who lost his bid for Virginia’s governor in 2013.  Cuccinelli lost to Govenor Terry McAuliffe, who is a politician that accepts scientists appraisal on climate change.

I am a native Floridian, and follow the news (and Dolphins) whenever possible.  I am unhappy to see how Gov. Rick Scott has done everything he could to fight climate change, even though most models show Florida will be devastated by rising sea levels.  I saw the news that Dr. Mann mentions: Gov. Scott banning the words ‘climate change’ and ‘global warming’ in all Florida state official communications.  Talk about putting special interests ahead of your own people!

I have family that live in Oklahoma, so I follow the weather there.  I’ve seen when their senator James Inhofe attacks climate change whenever possible.  I saw on CNN when he brought a snowball to the floor of the US Senate, dropped it, and proclaimed it was proof global warming was not real (Tom Toles’ illustration on page 96 is probably aimed at Inhofe).  Dr. Mann mentions two times he testified in congress about global warming, when Sen. Inhofe was trying to attack it, and the second time was interesting as Sen. Inhofe had invited science fiction writer Michael Crichton to testify.  Wow.  Why doesn’t he ask David Brin, a science fiction writer as well as a real scientist?  Because David Brin isn’t a climate change denier and I doubt he’d agree with Sen. Inhofe at all.

Joe Barton, representative from Texas, also is a climate change denier, and is well known for telling one of his constituents to ‘shut up’ during a town hall meeting.  He not only tries attacking climate science.  He also apologized to British Petroleum when they were called in to explain an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that did a lot of damage to the creatures in the area.  How can any politician apologize for asking a company to explain what happened during an ecological disaster?  And don’t forget that Texas lost a lot of cattle recently to a drought (yes, caused by climate change).  If Joe is your rep, you probably should be asking him why he doesn’t accept scientific consensus on climate change.

Texas Senator ‘Lyin’ Ted Cruz (President Trump gave him that nickname, not me) also embraces climate change denial as a way to get support for his political aspirations.   He ran once for president and will probably do so again. Sen. Cruz is not the most popular man in the senate, with his fellow senators, and Senator John McCain once famously called him a ‘wacko bird’.

Then there is Lamar Smith, another Texas republican representative, who uses his position as chair of the house committee on Science, Space, and Technology to attack science itself by redefining the science peer review process, issued subpoenas to NOAA asking for personal emails because they published a study disputing that global warming stopped, and he tried to cut NASA’s earth science budget to depress climate change study.  Rep. Smith is vocal and actively opposing climate change, and someone that prefers Breitbart News’ stance on climate change over scientists at NASA and NOAA.

Climategate was a contrived attack on climate science itself, and the people behind it cooked emails stolen from a server in the UK to make it appear that climate scientists themselves did not believe in global warming.  After numerous studies in the US and UK, it was proven that emails stolen from scientists were cherry picked for anything that cast a doubt on climate change.  The next time you see a reporter or politician rage about some issue on TV, maybe you should email or tweet and ask why no one is looking for the people behind Climategate?  Could that be An Inconvenient Truth?

The press, in an attempt to be fair, has given deniers an equal chance to state their opposition to climate change.  The problem with that, is that deniers don’t use valid science, they use contrived facts or situations to make their point, so the press has helped the deniers raise more doubt instead of showing them for being tools of special interests.  And Dr. Mann points out something I hope every denier hears and remembers:

“History will judge the actors in this debate, and many will be judged harshly.  By that time, unfortunately, it will be too late.”

The Madhouse Effect, page 115

The important thing to take away from this chapter, is that politicians have evidence of climate change – storms, hurricanes, droughts – and they still fight efforts to address it.  Isn’t it time to vote for people that care what kind of world we leave our children and grandchildren?

Geoengineering, or “What could possibly go wrong?”

Some climate change denialists promote that we will just make changes to our environment instead of needing to curtail use of fossil fuel.   Our climate is complex, so this ‘simple answer’ deludes people into thinking we can easily fix the problem down the road.  The danger of this is two-fold.

One – we stop trying to fix things now, with the hope of some tech advance in the future, which means our temperatures and seas continue to rise until that happens.  Two – that we come up with some tech solution but it has unintended side effects.  If you saw Chris Evans’ movie Snowpiercer, you  understand how this can be dangerous.

A possible solution, using artificial trees to remove carbon dioxide, is something I’d considered as viable, but the costs to implement as well as the development costs and implementation mechanism are still a too much to consider viable.

Some of the things proposed have never been done, have huge engineering issues to overcome, will not make the changes we need with any certainty, and will probably be outrageously expensive (which will cause politicians to again rage and say no).  It would be far less expensive, have faster results, and make life better for everyone, if we just deal with our excess carbon dioxide right now?  Wouldn’t it be safer and more responsible to use the means we have now – reduce use of fossil fuels and increase energy sources like solar and wind energy – than to risk the lives and health of our children and grandchildren?

The Path Forward

“The time for wishing for climate policy action has long passed.  The time for demanding it has come.”

The Madhouse Effect, page 131

Now for some scary facts:

“Human beings currently emit more than 30 gigatons (30 billion tons) of carbon dioxide pollution ever year.

If we want to avoid planetary warming of 3.6 degrees F (2 degrees C)- or what many observers consider “dangerous warming”, though, as we have noted, others might reasonably argue that’s already too much – we have a very limited “carbon budget” left to work with.  No more than 1 trillion tons or so of carbon dioxide.

At the current rate of 30 gigatons per year, we will burn through our budget in about three decades.  To remain within the budget, we have to reduce emissions by several percent a year, bringing them down to 33 percent of current levels within twenty years.”

The Madhouse Effect, page 132

Why is this scary?  Because one way we could reduce our carbon output was negotiated through the Paris Climate Accord, which President Obama signed us up for, and President Trump removed us from this year.

The concerted effort of the Trump administration to remove all climate and ecological bills and rules implemented by the Obama administration is nothing short of blind trust in special interests and absolute blindness in trusting science.  The effects will be catastrophic, and we have President Trump to thank for causing incredible harm to our planet.  And our allies in countries that actually understand we need to make a change to save our world?  Well, they are shocked and appalled that the US would not lead the efforts to save our planet, and that our current administration is intent on making climate change even worse.

It shouldn’t matter what your political party is, as this affects everyone on our planet.  Removing the US from an agreement that all but two countries signed, which addressed climate change, is inexcusable.  That was no reason to do so, except that special interests in fossil fuel industry didn’t want us to cut back on using fossil fuel.

If you want to help save our world, stop accepting that politicians are more honest than scientists.  Stop accepting false statements from special interests, and start studying climate change from real sources, not shock jocks or people with agendas.  Write and email your congressman and let them know you care about your world.  Stop remaining silent when you hear people making false claims about climate change- that is silent support for their position.

Take a science class at a local junior college or university and see and speak with real scientists.  And realize that people with degrees in law or political science are not climate science, and climate scientists do not get rich promoting climate change.  In other words, you have to do something now, while we still can make a difference.  Be responsible, and make this world better for your descendants.  I promise you, they will remember what you did and did not do to fight this disaster.  You can make a difference.  It won’t be easy, but it will be worthwhile for this planet Earth.


If you read this book and still aren’t convinced global warming is a serious threat to life on our planet, I have a question for you.  If you are ill, do you go to a Political Scientist with a doctorate or visit a medical doctor?  Why should you follow advice from someone without the proper credentials and education?  Why would you trust the word of politicians over scientists?

This is an excellent book on climate change for everyone, especially climate warming skeptics.  As with any subject, you learn when you keep an open mind.  The writing flows well, is informative and logically ordered, and the Toles comics are a great addition that help provide humor and information to the book.  After reading The Madhouse Effect, I looked through all of Tole’s comics several times, and I still chuckled as he nails the deniers reactions.

I give this book 5 stars out of a possible 5, and strongly encourage people to read it.  Climate change is one of the most important issues of our day, and it directly affects our children and grandchildren, so people need to learn all they can.  What do we say about ourselves as people, if we pass along a world we destroyed to our descendants,  without trying to fix the problems?

By Mike Hubbartt, © Copyright 2017, All Rights Reserved.Product Details

Title: An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth
(print versions in English, Spanish, German)
Author: Col. Chris Hadfield
ISBN: 978-0-316-25301-7
Published: October, 2013 by Little, Brown and Company (
Price: $28.00 for hardback/$11.99 for Kindle (7/2017)
Length: 284 pages

Chris Hadfield is a Canadian that decided to become an astronaut when he was young, when Canada did not have a space program.  Chris decided to make education and career decisions that would affect his chances if he could become an astronaut, but would also be rewarding if he failed to achieve that goal.  He devoted himself to learning in school and became a glider pilot at 15 and then a licensed private pilot at 16.

When Chris was young, the path to NASA was open to people in the military (being a jet pilot was/is very important to NASA), so Chris decided to go to military college and he earned a degree in mechanical engineering and then went the jet pilot route awhile before becoming a test pilot.  Like other test pilots, he applied to NASA, and yes he was accepted.  I’m not going to go into more detail as he does a fine job covering his education and military experiences in the first chapter of this book.

This book covers Chris’ experiences on getting accepted to NASA, on riding in the space shuttle, and on riding in a Soyuz. While those mission descriptions were very interesting, I found Chris’ work experience at NASA and in Russia fascinating.  I knew astronauts are always training for missions, but I wasn’t aware how many other roles they have at NASA.  Chris was heavily involved with so many aspects of the space program, that he is one of those people you hope to find that will share his experiences with you.  This book does that, but I’d still love to meet this person and hear from him about his adventures as an astronaut.

Book Chapters

Introduction (do NOT skip this part)
Ch 1 – The Trip Takes a Lifetime
Ch 2 – Have an Attitude
Ch 3 – The Power of Negative Thinking
Ch 4 – Sweat the Small Stuff
Ch 5 – The Last People in the World
Ch 6 – What’s the Next Thing that Can Kill Me?
Ch 7 – Tranquility Base, Kazakhstan
Ch 8 – How to Get Blasted (and Feel Good the Next Day)
Ch 9 – Aim to Be a Zero
Ch 10 – Life on Earth
Ch 11 – Square Astronaut, Round Hole
Ch 12 – Soft Landings
Ch 13 – Climbing Down the Ladder

Every chapter is worth reading – don’t be tempted to skip ahead.  My favorite chapter was Ch 7, about Chris’ experience working with the Russians.  This was fascinating, as we see so little of what goes on in Russia on NASA TV.  The main information I’d seen before was on the ceremonies that the Russians follow before and after a flight.  Very elaborate, and proof that space flight means a great deal to them.  Chris talks about his time there, and it helped me see how much our space program has been helped by cooperating with Russia.  They have helped us build and run the ISS, as well as ferry many people there.  I would hope they are part of our missions establishing outposts on the moon and on Mars.  Both of our countries would benefit from the joint effort.

The chapter that surprised me was Ch 9 Aim to Be a Zero.  I guess I assumed that, once people made it into the space program, they knew they needed to get along with others in all aspects of missions.  How could anyone not understand that human dynamics is extremely important when you have multiple people crammed together in a small space for a dangerous assignment in space?  Apparently Chris encountered some people that failed to understand that being exceptionally good doesn’t mean being exceptionally self-centered.  Chris offers great advice for future astronauts: don’t try to be difficult or cause issues, and learn how to get along with others if you want to work in space.


Great book, and a fast and easy read.  I’ve started re-reading it as it enjoyed it so much the first time, and this is the first time I’ve re-read a bio. There wasn’t great detail about being in the Canadian military, but that was due to the fact that this book concentrates on Chris’ life experiences that lead him to NASA, and helped him over his career.

If I had any complaint about this book, it was that it was too short at 284 pages.  I hope Chris does a followup book and provides more about specific details about his three trips to space, as well as about the daily experiences of working at NASA.  That might seem boring to people working at NASA, but not to us space flight fans that follow the space program.

I didn’t want to forget to mention that Chris was into photography when he was on the ISS, and he published another book called: “You are Here: Around the World in 92 minutes: Photographs from the International Space Station” – I haven’t seen this one yet, but I will.  To see actual pictures from the ISS would be really wild – kind of make you feel like you were there for a short visit.

Recommendation: Buy this book for yourself, and buy another copy for any space fan (young or old) in your family.  It will make a great gift this holiday season.  I give it 5 stars out of a possible 5.

By Mike Hubbartt, © Copyright 2012, All Rights Reserved.

Title: The Object-Oriented Thought Process
Author: Matt Weisfeld
Edition: 1st (2000)
ISBN: 0-672-31853-9
Publisher: SAMS Publishing
Price: $29.99
Length: 226 pages (9 chapters, 2 appendices)

This book, according to the author, is ‘an introduction to fundamental O-O concepts’. It is not a book aimed at people already familiar with OO concepts, so bear in mind it is not intended for people that already understand OO development. I read the first edition of this book in 2000 and enjoyed it, but it sat on my bookshelf until last summer. I had a class in grad school at UST and the professor recommended this book before taking the class so I decided it was time to reread it. I read 3 chapters per day, so it only took 3 days to finish it, even though I took notes from each chapter. Like the 1st ed K&R, this book is not huge – 226 pages including the title page, table of contents, index, and acknowledgments – but it explains how procedural programmers can make the move to OO development. Let’s look at the book chapter-by-chapter.

Chapter 1 – Introduction to Object-Oriented Concepts

This chapter explains classes and objects and how they differ. Encapsulation, one fundamental advantage of OO programming, is covered nicely in this chapter, as is the introduction to the difference between a class interface and implementation, polymorphism, constructors, and overriding.

I liked the code samples included to demonstrate some of the concepts like overriding. I also liked the UML class diagram showing how class elements are displayed via UML – very easy to follow. I would have liked more code samples covers more concepts introduces in the chapter.

Chapter 2 – How to Think in Terms of Objects

This chapter teaches how to think in an OO manner. This chapter goes into the introduction of public interface and private implementation portions of a class. Very nice, clear, simple explanation. Not over or under covered – just enough to introduce the material that will be covered in more depth later in the book.

Chapter 3 – Advanced Object-Oriented Concepts

This chapter covers object creation and initialization, plus error handling. Very good explanation of constructors – what they must and must not have – and how there can (and often should) be more in some classes. Exception handling, which is a topic that could fill a book, is introduced here. There was a bit of source code showing how to use exception in Java code. I liked how the author covered static attributes, which can be used to allow multiple objects to share attributes.

Chapter 4 – The Anatomy of a Class

This chapter explains the differences between the implementation and interface of classes. This is the meat-and-potatoes section of the book. Where a class is broken down using Java to show the implementation and interface sections, as well as constructors. Very clear and my favorite chapter of the book.

Chapter 5 – Class Design Guidelines

This chapter explains that classes must interact and it covers the iterative nature of class design. This goes into design considerations, covering a safe constructor to initialize a class, serializing (deconstruct a object), persistence (maintaining the state of an object), and stubs (minimal implementations of an interface). More good Java code examples, although C++ concepts are also covered.

Chapter 6 – Designing with Objects: The Software Development Process

This chapter explains how to identify class responsibilities and class collaboration. This goes into the way to design an application, covering statements of work, requirements documents, and CRC cards. This was my least favorite chapter of the book – I liked the issues to take into consideration during the OO design process, but I’d rather have more OO concepts than requirements gathering information.

Chapter 7 – Mastering Inheritance and Composition

This chapter covers the differences between composition and inheritance. Very good coverage going into important means of code reuse: inheritance and composition. The author has nice UML diagrams to cover the concepts, and the text explanations are clear and accurate. I also liked how the book explains abstract classes and methods – very clear.

Chapter 8 – Frameworks and Reuse: Designing with Interfaces & Abstract Classes

This chapter covers frameworks and abstract classes vs Java Interfaces. Another good chapter, which covers APIs. I liked the code sample for an abstract class, and the author includes nice UML diagram that demonstrates a interface, inheritance and composition. A short chapter but good material and worth the time spent to read it.

Chapter 9 – Building Objects

This is where you learn how to use objects to build other objects. This goes into both types of composition: aggregations and associations. The author also goes into cardinality (a familiar concept to DB developers). I liked the material here but would gladly give up all of chapter 6 for more information in this chapter. Good, but I’d like more.


A very good book that is well illustrated, deep enough to explain the material without overwhelming someone new to OO development, and a good starting point for more advanced/in-depth books on OO development.I like how the author goes into UML enough, but not too deep to obfuscate the topic of OO development – the appendix is a good starter for people new to UML, but I wouldn’t recommend it as the source for programmers needing to gain more mastery of that topic.


I enjoyed reading it and will pass it along when I find someone that could benefit from it. The most current version of this book is the 3rd edition, which was published in September of 2008. I would recommend this book to undergrad computer science majors that learned to develop with any non-OO language, or for procedural programmers moving on to OO development. I would not recommend this book for an intro to UML

By Harry {doc} Babad,  © Copyright 2011, All Rights Reserved

Authors: Hideo Nitta, Masafumi Yamamoto, Keita Takatsu and Trend-Pro Co, Ltd.

Publisher: No Starch Press — An O’Reilly Media Imprint

Web Site:


Review Rating:  4.5 Quills

Cost: List Price: $19.95, Ebook:  $16.00 (PDF format),  Print +Ebook $21.95 [USD], Street Prices:  $10.88 [USD],  £15.19 [UK],  $15.12 [CDN].

ISBN-10: 1593272723
ISBN-13: 978-159327272

Language: English, Published (April 22, 2011)

Product Dimensions: 192 Pages including the Index, is a 9 x 67 x 0.3 inches paperback, or if you prefer buy it as an eBook from the publisher or Safari books online. The publisher offers the Ebook free when you buy the book from them.

Audience: Folks with science interests who not offended by comic based learning.

Strengths: A high quality, but at time mildly repetitive introduction to the history and implication of relativity from early classical mechanics to the world of Einstein.

Weaknesses: The detailed more academic sections are more disjointed then I cared for, relative to the comic story line and narratives, for my comfort.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –


Since I attended undergraduate school or perhaps earlier, I have been interested in relativity, as well as the peripherally associated quantum mechanics. That interest was always piqued by the apparent paradoxes they establish related to classical Newtonian mechanics. My often love-hate relationship blossomed as I read popularizations of these theories (often at ‘dummies’ level) about Albert Einstein, the Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle and Erwin Schrödinger’s discovery of quantum mechanics. [Check Wikipedia for lots more detail on these and other topics in this review often with beaucoup equations.]

Alas, the hate part of relativity related information; my class on ’introduction to’ was so filled with math (Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn, NY) that I nearly imperiled my future as an organic chemist. For my BS and Ph. D. degrees, at that time, organic chemistry and to a lessor extent analytical chemistry (my minor) were computational requirements-free fields of study.

Flash forward… Articles in Discover, Scientific American and other reputable secondary sources (e.g., not journals or textbooks) kept me reading. Although I was and still am mathematically impaired. More recently my interest level was heightened when my readings alerted me to reports that both physicists and engineers were discovering likely quantum (fuzzy logic) and perhaps relativistic effects associated with Newtonian mechanics. Wow… I’ve added a few references at the end of the review to peak your interests toward further reading.

The Manga Guides — I have previously reviewed a number of books in the Manga series (Molecular Biology, Electricity, Databases, Newtonian Physics and Statistics.) Therefore I was pleased to discover that a new book on relativity had been released. This review services as killing two virtual birds with one quantum stone, as it were. The book credibly supports both my interest in science and technology education and my love-hate for relativity and associated subjects. I am also hard science fiction addict and dote on the assumptions of hyper drives and faster then light travel, as well as the effects of relativistic travel in closer proximity to Sol, our sun.

The book covers all the main questions and topics you would expect such as the definition of relativity, the time dilation effect (where times slows down as speed approaches the speed of light), mass and the contraction of length (again, as speed approaches the speed of light), and explores the difference between special relativity and general relativity.

Each main chapter, as I expand upon below, contains both a Manga comic section and a text tutorial. The former serves as a quirky manga type introduction to and discussion of a relativity-associated subtopic. This is followed in each chapter by a more detailed and technical section filled with equations and deeper explorations of the chapter’s subject.

The Nature of the Beast — How the book is organized

The preface to the book succinctly neatly frames its purpose and goals… “Everyone wonders what relativity is all about. Because the theory of relativity predicts phenomena that seem unbelievable in our everyday lives (such as the slowing of time and the contraction of the length of an object), it can seem like mysterious magic.

“Despite its surprising, counterintuitive predictions, Einstein’s theory of relativity has been confirmed many times over, by countless experiments by modern physicists. Relativity and the equally unintuitive quantum mechanics are indispensable tools for understanding the physical world.” This includes such demonstrated knowledge that the speed of light is a constant, the very faster you travel, the slower you relatively age, and time is not quantized.

The books preface has introduced us to the fact the ’players’ not the story characters, are going to be Galileo Galilei, Sir Isaac Newton, and Albert Einstein. It alas neglects one of my scientific favorites James Clark Maxwell, the father of electromagnetic theory and of course the infamous ‘daemons.’ He is only initially acknowledged in Chapter 1.

The preface concludes that:  “Relativity has given us a more accurate understanding of concepts regarding the space-time in which we are living. In other words, relativity is the result of asking what is actually happening in our world rather than saying our world should be a particular way.”

So on to what our ‘graphic’ teachers (the characters) teach us about the mysteries of relativity in the manga world. These characters are mainly our suckered student ‘hero’ Mr. Minagi and his oddly sexy teacher, Miss Uraga. And look out for the metaphysical dog.

In the material that follows I have paraphrased liberally, but only of a sentence or three from references [1 & 2], which surprisingly were both written by Michael Larsen. Nice writing sir!

Okay – Let’s get truckin’

Ignoring the ‘comic’ stage setting prologue and the somewhat surreal epilogue, the later dominated by a sort of deus ex machina dog. The book’s four main chapters focus on:

Chapter 1:  What Is Relativity?
 — “The first chapter helps us get into the mindset of our protagonist Minagi and his sensei Uraga as they discuss the differences between special and general relativity. The history of relativity from Galileo, Newton, Maxwell; on through Einstein and the idea that the speed of light is a constant and the fact that all reality is in constant motion is explored. The illustrations are both cute and informative, and help fill in the blanks for many of the concepts that might be difficult to visualize any other way.” [1, 2]

Chapter 2:   What Do You Mean, Time Slows Down? —“Time dilation is the situation where as an object approaches the speed of light, time slows down for the object. The manga guide uses an imaginary device called a “light clock” to help define how this idea works. This is further emphasized but use of the traveling Twins paradox. It occurs when one of a set of a twins goes on a space voyage for a year at light speed and returns to Earth, and sees that their twin has aged by several years in their absence.” [1, 2]

Chapter 3:  The Faster an Object Moves, the Shorter and Heavier It Becomes.

“The text continues with a discussion of the idea that, when an object gets towards the speed of light. Space and time are said to contract based on this theory of specific relativity (general relativity is discussed in Chapter 4.) Because of these findings, we need to look at space and time as not separate entities, but as interlocking interrelated subjects. In addition, we learn that objects get progressively heavier as they approach the speed of light. Light, which by its very nature is assumed to have a mass of zero is excluded from these relativistic effects. Strange! But otherwise the theories will not work the way they do).” [1, 2]

Chapter 4:  What Is General Relativity?

Special relativity focuses on the concept that gravity and motion of an object traveling in a straight line. General relativity is more mathematically complicated, because the gravity of nearby objects (such as stars) has a direct effect on the object in motion. That requires gravitational effects on fast traveling ‘things’ must to be accounted for. … Time also slows down as it passes such a large gravitational pull as well.” [The later effect has rationalized a number of unexplained fundamental astronomical observations. 1, 2]

The Plot Thickens – General relativity also takes into account, counter intuitively, that matter, space and time all have interactive relationships, and while it’s a “theory” there are devices we use everyday that depend on this theory [e.g., GPS] and in its actions prove it works. [1]

“Follow along with The Manga Guide to Relativity as Minagi learns about the non-intuitive laws that shape our universe. Before you know it, you’ll feel more comfortable, alas not master (shucks) difficult concepts like (1) inertial frames of reference, (2) unified space-time, and the (3) equivalence principle. You’ll get introduced to the concepts that are the basis\ in relativity theory affect modern astronomical observations. Then you’ll discover why GPS systems and other everyday technologies depend on Einstein’s extraordinary discovery.

The Manga Guide to Relativity also teaches you how to:

  • Understand and use E = mc2, the world’s most famous equation
  • Calculate the effects of time dilation using the Pythagorean theorem
  • Understand classic thought experiments like the twins paradox, and see why length contracts and mass increases at relativistic speeds — Poor space explorers.
  • Begin to grasp the underpinnings of Einstein’s special and general theories of relativity

If the idea of bending space and time really warps your brain, let The Manga Guide to Relativity straighten things out.”


The Text Tutorials

The Underlying Technical Basis

What is light  — Chapter 1 associated tutorial provides detailed descriptions of the results of (1) Maxwell’s pioneering work, (2) Einstein’s positing and others demonstrating the constancy of the speed of light and the (3) the true meaning of “simultaneous” which is really in the eye of the beholder. The section then proceeds to explaining the Galilean principal(s) of relativity and relating things Galilean to (an introduction to) Einstein’s  special principal of relativity.

Looking at the Slowing of Time —Chapter 2‘s lessons first use the Pythagorean theorem to prove time dilation and then follows this up with qualitatively dealing with how much does time slow down?

Using an Equation to Understand Relativistic Length Contraction — Focusing first on the implication of Lorentz contraction, and then for reason of which I’m some what uncertain, the tutorial branches off in the effects of Muons (a sub-atomic particle) as a means to demonstrate (1) the slowdown of time and (on 2) the parallel effects of contraction of an objects length at near light speeds. [The objects mass also approaches infinity.]

The primary focus of this material is to explain relativities’ effects on a rapidly moving mass using three approaches. First comes a discussion of the Galilean theory. Then, Newton’s second law of motion is invoked. Third and finally there’s a fine discussion of the use of the Lorenz transformation.

These ideas ore explained and their relationships related. [These relativity associated topics (ideas) and more  are explained in significantly greater details and depth on Wikipedia, alas often in a more mathematical manner. — Do check out my  reference 6].

My favorite part, herein, is the treatment of the relationship between energy and mass. The section ends, alas with an all to brief (an after thought?) on whether light has mass; no being the answer.

General Relativity and the Slowing of Time  — Chapter’s 4’s science focus deals with a discussion of the slowing of time under relativistic conditions. It is well illustrated by fallen and at rest clocks, and is accompanied by thee math that support the theory. Check it out, it’s clear in the book.

Kudo #1 —Of all of the technical sections of the book this one is both extremely clear/accessible and well illustrated. All though accompanied by equations of ‘proof’; the diagrams make what could be abstruse ideas, are made clearer, even to the minimally mathematically incline reader.

But then I’ve always had a weakness for melting watches (e.g., Salvador Dali) or even ones that fall, the later were used as thought experiments in the various physics classes I attended.

This section concludes with a more detailed, than the comic section, discussion of Gravity and other phenomena that become more understandable using the principles of general relativity. Nicely done!

Kudo #2 – The Plain Text Sections I found these sections too brief, a bit too mathematical for my taste, but scientifically very solid. Indeed I crosschecked parts of the subject matter in Wikipedia. All passed both that external screen, and my memory of courses long ago taken and doubtless somewhat forgotten.


None of significance


As noted by Michael Larson with whom I agree [References 1-2], the combination of storytelling, emotion, quirky characters and an illustration style that’s both cute and engaging helps lends itself to the idea that “hard topics” can be discussed using manga, and  in addition, that the topic will be much more engaging for the reader.

The comics style approach is as is usual for the Manga Guide Series, is always augmented by thoughtfully presented topical analyses, that provide the reader with a more detailed technical basis for understanding tough aspects of the comic’s subject matter. The Manga Guide to Relativity is an excellent example of this approach to knowledge sharing. Most notably, to my delight as an ex-academic, researcher and author, the book covers a broad variety of interesting, difficult and sometimes downright geeky topics.  Horray for No Starch Press.

As always in this series, the Manga Guide to Relativity is focused on a science or engineering topic. Pedagogically, it uses the premise of the accessibility, in both the young and not-so young, to visual or cartoon learning. There is usually a quirky story, written in a way to entice adolescent page turning. I was also both impressed and delighted that there was no attempt of Americanize the text. Shades of California and Texas textbook sensors’. I loved the subliminally sexual innuendos and ‘light’ by play between the characters; obviously, at least to the Japanese reader, are not either puritanical or virginal.

Never the less, this book, and the series for that matter the intent is more serious, to maintain attention long enough for the ideas in the story to take root in the brain. While the “come on” is the cartoons, there is a lot of knowledge hidden both in the often-simple seeming image sequences. This is accompanied by the more detail information in the textual materials that accompany the graphics based presentations the book is well worth my stingy 4.5 Quills.

My only concern about the effectiveness of this book in reaching the majority of American students is the deplorable level of science education we’ve foisted upon them. This as acknowledged in statistics of worsening scores in math Science and all too often reading, compared to Japanese, Chinese, and other students in the word from India to Sweden. But since I’m not in favor of dumbing down, to the least common denominator our educational goals, bring on this book… and more in the excellent educational and entertaining series.


If I appear to be badmouthing American education, don’t let my soft tone deceive you. As a hiring manger and ex-academic I was contiguously, even 35 years ago bewildered and frustrated by so-called graduates with great grade point averages who could not write even a simple ‘product’ description or project statement. All to often these folks as well as those I tried to work with in education associated volunteer organizations were both functionally illiterate and totally estranged from scientific reasoning, methods and logic. Someday I’ll blog about my experiences.

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[1] <Books> By Michael Larsen (San Francisco, CA United States)

{2}  Book Review: The Manga Guide to Relativity, by Michael Larsen. April 28, 2011.

[3] The Manga Guide to Relativity, Reviewed by Dr. Richard Isaacman

[4] The Manga Guide to Relativity, Reviewed by Brian Dunning, May 19 2011

[5] Book Review: The Manga guide to Relativity by Jonathan DuHamel, on May. 18, 2011  

Other General References

[6]  Einstein’s Theory of Relativity
Made Relatively Simple — Written for those who want to understand relativity but can’t quite grasp the concepts. <Hurrah, no equations!!!>

[7]  Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity – An Easy (I hope!) Explanation, Squidoo blog site – Undated with no author listed

[8] Theory of Relativity Made Simple, Factoidz Blog, May 22, 2010,

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Copyright Notice: Product and company names and logos in this review may be registered trademarks of their respective companies.

Sidebar #1: Reviews were written in MSW 2011 on my iMac 2.8 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo with 4 GB 667 MHz DDR2 SDRAM running Mac OS X version 10.6.8 with all current security updates installed.

Sidebar #2: Disclaimer: When reviewing books I will often use the authors or publishers product description, functions and features descriptions. Because of this unless I’m quoting directly from another unique external source, I do not clutter up the review with quotation marks. All other comments are strictly my own and based on my review. Why need I rewrite the developer’s narratives, if they are clearly written?

By Mike Hubbartt, © Copyright 2011, All Rights Reserved.

Title: Unleashing Web 2.0 From Concepts to Creativity
Authors: Gottfried Vossen and Stephan Hagemann
ISBN: 0123740347
Published: August, 2007 by Morgan Kauffman Publishers
Price: $52.95 for paperback/$29.95 for Kindle

This semester (Spring 2011) I’m taking a course in grad school called ‘Advanced Web Application Development’, and the only required textbook is ‘Unleashing Web 2.0 From Concepts to Creativity’. I bought the book before the start of the semester from (good price and fast delivery) and started reading it the day it arrived. I had read 3 or the 6 chapters by the time the class first met, when I learned that we would only cover those chapters, but decided to finish the book as the material was interesting and I found the material to be an easy read. Let’s check it out.

Chapters in the Book

The book is organized into 6 chapters:

  1. A Brief History of the Web
  2. A Review of the Technological Stream
  3. Enabling Techniques and Technologies
  4. Sample Frameworks for Web Application Development
  5. Impacts of the Next Generation of the Web
  6. The Semantic Web and Web 2.0

The authors approach is to present the topics and refer the reader to URLs for current information.

Chapter One provides history and terminology relevant to Web 2.0. It includes definitions of the 5 types of e-commerce (B2B, B2C, C2C, G2C, B2G), PayPal, and some code examples. There were examples of CSS and XML  code – not enough to do more than see a short example, but still useful when taking free online language sources. I particularly liked that the authors mentioned MAMP/WAMP/LAMP – Mac/Windows/Linux Apache MySql PHP/Perl – which developers use to develop and test server-based applications using Apache and MySQL. I also liked how the authors explained Web Services.

Chapter Two has HTML code and tags, more CSS code, some JavaScript and PHP. This chapter goes much deeper into Web Services and WSDLs, and it brings up Amazon’s ECS (E-Commerce Service). I’ve worked with Web Services before, and while this material is not enough to know how to configure them by itself, it is well-covered and the authors give internet references that are useful.

Chapter Three goes into RIAs (Rich Internet Applications), Saas (Software as a Service – the included diagram is very good), Google APIs, and Flickr. Good data, especially on the APIs although you still need to go to the API websites for detailed information.

Chapter Four goes into client-side and server-side frameworks. Our Advanced Web Application Development class has a project where we use Ruby on Rails (server-side framework), so this was interesting but no where near enough for what I’ll need to do the coding so I will pick up a book dedicated to Ruby on Rails development. This chapter also covers MVC (Model View Controller) and has a decent diagram as well as written data on the topic.

Chapter Five goes into the business-side of Web 2.0. It breaks down the types of commerce that (as of 2007) is done using Web 2.0, and this is the main section I’d love to see updated to 2011, as there are probably a few new ones that came out since this edition was released.

Chapter Six is on Semantics, which I just started and will add that information when I finish the book.


For now, I liked this book. I like the approach of referencing many free online sites that will have more current information than books several years old. I will keep this book on the bookshelf, even though I have many pages of notes I made while reading the book (who wants to memorize hundreds of URLs).


  • Reasonable priced: check out for used copies if you’re watching your book budget.
  • There is a version available for the Kindle. I don’t own one, but understand some students are going the ebook route as often as possible to save money and weight.
  • Excellent references to many internet sites with relevant Web 2.0 information. Most of the URLs I checked for Eclipse add-ons or plug-ins were still available.
  • The content flows well – not disjointed, which does occur with books that have multiple authors.


  • The book was published in 2007, and 3-4 internet years is like 50 human years. I’d love to see this book updated with 2011-current information. I bring this up is that some of the Eclipse add-ins did not work with Eclipse Helios (although they did with Eclipse Galileo).
  • Only provides code snippets, so you need to buy other books to learn more about the programming languages mentioned in the book – to be fair, there are enough internet sites on the languages that you don’t need to buy a programming book, but I prefer to learn coding from old school printed books.


Recommended buy for developers or managers that want more understanding of Web 2.0 technologies. This is good book and it was worth the time to read it for my class, as well as to come up to speed in Web 2.0 technologies and terminologies. I liked the approach of providing an overview of topics while providing URLs, which should have more up-to-date information than printed books.