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How the world really works : the science behind how we got here and where we're going / Vaclav Smil.

Smil, Vaclav, (author.).


"An essential analysis of the modern science and technology that makes our twenty-first century lives possible--a scientist's investigation into what science really does, and does not, accomplish. We have never had so much information at our fingertips and yet most of us don't know how the world really works. This book explains seven of the most fundamental realities governing our survival and prosperity. From energy and food production, through our material world and its globalization, to risks, our environment and its future, How the World Really Works offers a much-needed reality check--because before we can tackle problems effectively, we must understand the facts. In this ambitious and thought-provoking book we see, for example, that globalization isn't inevitable--the foolishness of allowing 70 per cent of the world's rubber gloves to be made in just one factory became glaringly obvious in 2020--and that our societies have been steadily increasing their dependence on fossil fuels, such that any promises of decarbonization by 2050 are a fairy tale. For example, each greenhouse-grown supermarket-bought tomato has the equivalent of five tablespoons of diesel embedded in its production, and we have no way of producing steel, cement or plastics at required scales without huge carbon emissions. Ultimately, Smil answers the most profound question of our age: are we irrevocably doomed or is a brighter utopia ahead? Compelling, data-rich and revisionist, this wonderfully broad, interdisciplinary guide findsfaults with both extremes. Looking at the world through this quantitative lens reveals hidden truths that change the way we see our past, present and uncertain future."-- Provided by publisher.

Record details

  • ISBN: 9780593297063
  • ISBN: 0593297067
  • Physical Description: 326 pages ; 24 cm
  • Edition: First North American edition.
  • Publisher: [New York, NY] : Viking, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, 2022.

Content descriptions

General Note:
"First published in hardcover in Great Britain by Viking, an imprint of Penguin Random House Ltd., London, in 2022."--Title page verso.
Bibliography, etc. Note:
Includes bibliographical references (pages 235-306) and index.
Formatted Contents Note:
Introduction: Why do we need this book? -- Understanding energy : fuels and electricity -- Understanding food production : eating fossil fuels -- Understanding our material world : the four pillars of modern civilization -- Understanding globalization : engines, microchips, and beyond -- Understanding risks : from viruses to diets to solar flares -- Understanding the environment : the only biosphere we have -- Understanding the future : between apocalypse and singularity.
Subject: Science > Social aspects.
Science and civilization.
Technological innovations > Social aspects.
Technology and civilization.
Genre: Informational works.

Available copies

  • 18 of 21 copies available at NC Cardinal. (Show)
  • 3 of 4 copies available at Fontana Regional Library.


  • 0 current holds with 21 total copies.
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Location Call Number / Copy Notes Barcode Shelving Location Status Due Date
Albert Carlton - Cashiers Community Library 303.48 S (Text) 39493110054733 Adult Nonfiction Available -
Hudson (Fontana) 303.483 SMI (Text) 39493109896045 Adult Nonfiction Available -
Jackson County Public Library 303.48 S (Text) 39493109409088 Adult Nonfiction Available -
Macon County Public Library 303.48 S (Text) 39493109302366 Adult Nonfiction Checked out 10/10/2023