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Is flying dangerous? How much do the world's cows weigh? And what makes people happy?
From earth's nations and inhabitants, through the fuels and foods that energize them, to the transportation and inventions of our modern world - and how all of this affects the planet itself - in Numbers Don't Lie, Professor Vaclav Smil takes us on a fact-finding adventure, using surprising statistics and illuminating graphs to challenge lazy thinking.
Packed with 'Well-I-never-knew-that' information and with fascinating and unusual examples throughout, we find out how many people it took to build the Great Pyramid, that vaccination yields the best return on investment, and why electric cars aren't as great as we think (yet). There's a wonderful mix of science, history and wit, all in bite-sized chapters on a broad range of topics.
Urgent and essential, Numbers Don't Lie inspires readers to interrogate what they take to be true in these significant times. Smil is on a mission to make facts matter, because after all, numbers may not lie, but which truth do they convey?
'There is no author whose books I look forward to more than Vaclav Smil' Bill Gates
'The best book to read to better understand our world. Once in a while a book comes along that helps us see our planet more clearly. By showing us numbers about science, health, green technology and more, Smil's book does just that. It should be on every bookshelf!' Linda Yueh, author of The Great Economists
'He is rigorously numeric, using data to illuminate every topic he writes about. The word "polymath" was invented to describe people like him' Bill Gates
'Important' Mark Zuckerberg, on Energy
'One of the world's foremost thinkers on development history and a master of statistical analysis . . . The nerd's nerd' Guardian
'There is perhaps no other academic who paints pictures with numbers like Smil' Guardian
'In a world of specialized intellectuals, Smil is an ambitious and astonishing polymath who swings for fences . . . They're among the most data-heavy books you'll find, with a remarkable way of framing basic facts' Wired
'He's a slayer of b******t' David Keith, Gordon McKay Professor of Applied Physics & Professor of Public Policy, Harvard University
© Vaclav Smil 2020 (P) Penguin Audio 2020
Audio is Wrong Format for this One
I do love the dog-walking accessibility of audiobooks, and this narrator is a favorite of mine. But the book’s constant structure is to provide a string of numbers, then to compare those with another string of numbers; chapter, after chapter, after chapter. For me, the result was a lesser appreciation of the importance of those numbers because it was just too much to hold in my mind. On paper, you can glance back up at the first set of numbers during a comparison. Audio, though, you’d have a far sharper recall of numbers than I do. It became quite wearying, and I had to force myself to finish the book.