Named the greatest engineering achievement of the 20th century by the National Academy of Engineering, the electrical grid is the largest industrial investment in the history of humankind. It reaches into your home, snakes its way to your bedroom, and climbs right up into the lamp next to your pillow. At times, it almost seems alive, like some enormous circulatory system that pumps life to big cities and the most remote rural areas.
Constructed of intricately interdependent components, the grid operates on a rapidly shrinking margin for error. Things can -- and do -- go wrong in this system, no matter how many preventive steps we take. Just look at the colossal 2003 blackout, when 50 million Americans lost power due to a simple error at a power plant in Ohio; or the one a month later, which blacked out 57 million Italians. And these two combined don't even compare to the 2001 outage in India, which affected 226 million people.
The Grid is the first history of the electrical grid intended for general readers, and it comes at a time when we badly need such a guide. As we get more and more dependent on electricity to perform even the most mundane daily tasks, the grid's inevitable shortcomings will take a toll on populations around the globe. At a moment when energy issues loom large on the nation's agenda and our hunger for electricity grows, The Grid is as timely as it is compelling.
For decades, Freeman Dyson has been regarded as one of the world's most important thinkers. The Atlantic wrote, "In the range of his genius, Freeman Dyson is heir to Einstein – a visionary who has reshaped thinking in fields from math to astrophysics to medicine, and who has conceived nuclear-propelled spaceships designed to transport human colonists to distance planets." Salon.com says that, "what sets Dyson apart among an elite group of scientists is the conscience and compassion he brings to his work." Now, in this first complete biography of Dyson, author Phillip F. Schewe examines the life of a man whose accomplishments have shaped our world in many ways.
From quantum physics to national defense, from space to biotechnology, Dyson's work has cemented his position as a man whose influence goes far beyond the field of theoretical physics. It even won him the million dollar Templeton prize for his writing about science and religion. Recently, Dyson has made headlines for his controversial views on global warming, and he continues to make waves in the science community to this day.
A colleague of Albert Einstein at Princeton and friends with leading thinkers including Robert Oppenheimer, George F. Kennan, and Richard Feynman, Freeman Dyson is a larger-than-life figure. Many of his colleagues, including Nobelists Steven Weinberg and Frank Wilczek, as well as his wives and his children, Esther and George Dyson, have been interviewed for this book. Maverick Genius, Schewe's definitive biography, paints a compelling and vibrant portrait of a man who has been both praised for his genius and criticized for his unorthodox views.