“A thrilling account of the modern material world.” —Wall Street Journal
"Miodownik, a materials scientist, explains the history and science behind things such as paper, glass, chocolate, and concrete with an infectious enthusiasm." —Scientific American
Why is glass see-through? What makes elastic stretchy? Why does any material look and behave the way it does? These are the sorts of questions that renowned materials scientist Mark Miodownik constantly asks himself. Miodownik studies objects as ordinary as an envelope and as unexpected as concrete cloth, uncovering the fascinating secrets that hold together our physical world. In Stuff Matters, Miodownik explores the materials he encounters in a typical morning, from the steel in his razor to the foam in his sneakers. Full of enthralling tales of the miracles of engineering that permeate our lives, Stuff Matters will make you see stuff in a whole new way.
"Stuff Matters is about hidden wonders, the astonishing properties of materials we think boring, banal, and unworthy of attention...It's possible this science and these stories have been told elsewhere, but like the best chocolatiers, Miodownik gets the blend right." —New York Times Book Review
History is about so much more than memorizing facts. It is, as more than half of the word suggests, about the story. And, told in the right way, it is the greatest one ever written: Good and evil, triumph and tragedy, despicable acts of barbarism and courageous acts of heroism.
The things you’ve never learned about our past will shock you. The reason why gun control is so important to government elites can be found in a story about Athens that no one dares teach. Not the city in ancient Greece, but the one in 1946 Tennessee. The power of an individual who trusts his gut can be found in the story of the man who stopped the twentieth hijacker from being part of 9/11. And a lesson on what happens when an all-powerful president is in need of positive headlines is revealed in a story about eight saboteurs who invaded America during World War II.
Miracles and Massacres is history as you’ve never heard it told. It’s incredible events that you never knew existed. And it’s stories so important and relevant to today that you won’t have to ask, Why didn’t they teach me this? You will instantly know. If the truth shall set you free, then your freedom begins on page one of this book. By the end, your understanding of the lies and half-truths you’ve been taught may change, but your perception of who we are as Americans and where our country is headed definitely will.
From the Armenian Genocide to the ethnic cleansings of Kosovo and Darfur, modern history is haunted by acts of brutal violence. Yet American leaders who vow "never again" repeatedly fail to stop genocide. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award, "A Problem from Hell" draws upon exclusive interviews with Washington's top policymakers, thousands of once classified documents, and accounts of reporting from the killing fields to show how decent Americans inside and outside government looked away from mass murder. Combining spellbinding history and seasoned political analysis, "A Problem from Hell" allows readers to hear directly from American decision-makers and dissenters, as well as from victims of genocide, and reveals just what was known and what might have been done while millions perished.
Sometime around 1750, English entrepreneurs unleashed the astounding energies of steam and coal, and the world was forever changed. The emergence of factories, railroads, and gunboats propelled the West's rise to power in the nineteenth century, and the development of computers and nuclear weapons in the twentieth century secured its global supremacy. Now, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, many worry that the emerging economic power of China and India spells the end of the West as a superpower. In order to understand this possibility, we need to look back in time. Why has the West dominated the globe for the past two hundred years, and will its power last?
Describing the patterns of human history, the archaeologist and historian Ian Morris offers surprising new answers to both questions. It is not, he reveals, differences of race or culture, or even the strivings of great individuals, that explain Western dominance. It is the effects of geography on the everyday efforts of ordinary people as they deal with crises of resources, disease, migration, and climate. As geography and human ingenuity continue to interact, the world will change in astonishing ways, transforming Western rule in the process.
Deeply researched and brilliantly argued, Why the West Rules—for Now spans fifty thousand years of history and offers fresh insights on nearly every page. The book brings together the latest findings across disciplines—from ancient history to neuroscience—not only to explain why the West came to rule the world but also to predict what the future will bring in the next hundred years.
Here, Gillen D’Arcy Wood traces Tambora’s global and historical reach: how the volcano’s three-year climate change regime initiated the first worldwide cholera pandemic, expanded opium markets in China, and plunged the United States into its first economic depression. Bringing the history of this planetary emergency to life, Tambora sheds light on the fragile interdependence of climate and human societies to offer a cautionary tale about the potential tragic impacts of drastic climate change in our own century.
Using history, philosophy, books, movies, Lacanian psychiatry, and jokes, Slavoj Žižek examines the ways we perceive and misperceive violence. Drawing from his unique cultural vision, Žižek brings new light to the Paris riots of 2005; he questions the permissiveness of violence in philanthropy; in daring terms, he reflects on the powerful image and determination of contemporary terrorists.
Violence, Žižek states, takes three forms--subjective (crime, terror), objective (racism, hate-speech, discrimination), and systemic (the catastrophic effects of economic and political systems)--and often one form of violence blunts our ability to see the others, raising complicated questions.
Does the advent of capitalism and, indeed, civilization cause more violence than it prevents? Is there violence in the simple idea of "the neighbour"? And could the appropriate form of action against violence today simply be to contemplate, to think?
Beginning with these and other equally contemplative questions, Žižek discusses the inherent violence of globalization, capitalism, fundamentalism, and language, in a work that will confirm his standing as one of our most erudite and incendiary modern thinkers.
The Kennedy assassination has reverberated for five decades, with tales of secret plots, multiple killers, and government cabals often overshadowing the event itself. As Gerald Posner writes, “Fifty years after the assassination, the biggest casualty has been the truth.” In this first-ever digital edition of his classic work, updated with a special comment for the fiftieth anniversary, Posner lays to rest all of the convoluted conspiracy theories—concerning the mafia, a second shooter, and the CIA—that have obscured over the decades what really happened in Dealey Plaza on November 22, 1963.
Drawing from official sources and dozens of interviews, and filled with powerful historical detail, Case Closed is a vivid and straightforward account that stands as one of the most authoritative books on the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
These are the words of Roberto Escobar-the top accountant for the notorious and deadly Medellín Cartel, and brother of Pablo Escobar, the most famous drug lord in history. At the height of his reign, Pablo's multibillion-dollar operation smuggled tons of cocaine each week into countries all over the world. Roberto and his ten accountants kept track of all the money. Only Pablo and Roberto knew where it was stashed-and what it bought.
And the amounts of money were simply staggering. According to Roberto, it cost $2,500 every month just to purchase the rubber bands needed to wrap the stacks of cash. The biggest problem was finding a place to store it: from secret compartments in walls and beneath swimming pools to banks and warehouses everywhere. There was so much money that Roberto would sometimes write off ten percent as "spoilage," meaning either rats had chewed up the bills or dampness had ruined the cash.
Roberto writes about the incredible violence of the cartel, but he also writes of the humanitarian side of his brother. Pablo built entire towns, gave away thousands of houses, paid people's medical expenses, and built schools and hospitals. Yet he was responsible for the horrible deaths of thousands of people.
In short, this is the story of a world of riches almost beyond mortal imagination, and in his own words, Roberto Escobar tells all: building a magnificent zoo at Pablo's opulent home, the brothers' many escapes into the jungles of Colombia, devising ingenious methods to smuggle tons of cocaine into the United States, bribing officials with literally millions of dollars-and building a personal army to protect the Escobar family against an array of enemies sworn to kill them.
Few men in history have been more beloved-or despised-than Pablo Escobar. Now, for the first time, his story is told by the man who knew him best: his brother, Roberto.
In recent decades, the world has seen an unprecedented shift of people from the countryside into cities. As Steve Inskeep so aptly puts it, we are now living in the age of the "instant city," when new megacities can emerge practically overnight, creating a host of unique pressures surrounding land use, energy, housing, and the environment. In his first book, the co-host of Morning Edition explores how this epic migration has transformed one of the world's most intriguing instant cities: Karachi, Pakistan.
Karachi has exploded from a colonial port town of 350,000 in 1941 to a sprawling metropolis of at least 13 million today. As the booming commercial center of Pakistan, Karachi is perhaps the largest city whose stability is a vital security concern of the United States, and yet it is a place that Americans have frequently misunderstood.
As Inskeep underscores, one of the great ironies of Karachi's history is that the decision to divide Pakistan and India along religious lines in 1947 only unleashed deeper divisions within the city-over religious sect, ethnic group, and political party. In Instant City, Inskeep investigates the 2009 bombing of a Shia religious procession that killed dozens of people and led to further acts of terrorism, including widespread arson at a popular market. As he discovers, the bombing is in many ways a microcosm of the numerous conflicts that divide Karachi, because people wondered if the perpetrators were motivated by religious fervor, political revenge, or simply a desire to make way for new real estate in the heart of the city. Despite the violence that frequently consumes Karachi, Inskeep finds remarkable signs of the city's tolerance, vitality, and thriving civil society-from a world-renowned ambulance service to a socially innovative project that helps residents of the vast squatter neighborhoods find their own solutions to sanitation, health care, and education.
Drawing on interviews with a broad cross section of Karachi residents, from ER doctors to architects to shopkeepers, Inskeep has created a vibrant and nuanced portrait of the forces competing to shape the future of one of the world's fastest growing cities.
Exploding the Phone tells this story in full for the first time. It traces the birth of long-distance communication and the telephone, the rise of AT&T’s monopoly, the creation of the sophisticated machines that made it all work, and the discovery of Ma Bell’s Achilles’ heel. Phil Lapsley expertly weaves together the clandestine underground of “phone phreaks” who turned the network into their electronic playground, the mobsters who exploited its flaws to avoid the feds, the explosion of telephone hacking in the counterculture, and the war between the phreaks, the phone company, and the FBI.
The product of extensive original research, Exploding the Phone is a ground-breaking, captivating book.
Raised in a devout but quiet Muslim community in London, at sixteen Ed Husain was presented with an intriguing political interpretation of Islam known as fundamentalism. Lured by these ideas, he committed his life to them. Five years later, he rejected extremism and tried to return to a normal life. But soon he realized that Islamic fundamentalists pose a threat that most people-Muslim and non- Muslim alike-simply don't understand.
Based on first-hand experiences and written with pervasive clarity, The Islamist delivers a rare inside glimpse of the devious methods used to recruit new members, and offers profound insight into the appeal fundamentalism has for young Muslims in the Western world.
In Afghanistan particularly, the long convoy routes have been vulnerable to the same kind of surprise attacks suffered by the Soviets in past decades, the British 150 years ago, and Alexander the Great 2,000 years ago. The combats surround, and in that godforsaken landlocked land, the means to supply a Western army has to be undertaken with blood and sweat, once the quick panacea of airpower is overtaxed.
When he joined the Marines, Jeff Clement was not a high-speed, top-secret recon guy. A logistician instead, he led combat convoys across treacherous terrain in southern Afghanistan through frequent enemy attacks in order to resupply US and British positions. As such he and his vehicles were a constant target of the resistance, and each movement was a travail, often accompanied by thundering blasts as the insurgents paved their way with IEDs. Each movement was fraught with danger, even as each objective had to be met. As a Marine Corps lieutenant, he deployed to Afghanistan twice, and always found a learning curve, as men previously on the ground were more savvy, and the insurgents, there for the duration, were savvier still.
The Lieutenant Don’t Know provides a refreshing look at the nitty-gritty of what our troops have been dealing with in Afghanistan, from the perspective of a young officer who was perfectly willing to learn, and also take responsibility for his units in a confusing war where combat was not merely on the “front,” but all around, and looking over all their roads.
One of the sisters joined a rebel army, was imprisoned in Edinburgh Castle, and escaped in disguise in 1746. Her younger brother was a close friend of Adam Smith and David Hume. Another brother was fluent in Persian and Bengali, and married to a celebrated poet. He was the owner of a slave known only as "Bell or Belinda," who journeyed from Calcutta to Virginia, was accused in Scotland of infanticide, and was the last person judged to be a slave by a court in the British isles. In Grenada, India, Jamaica, and Florida, the Johnstones embodied the connections between European, American, and Asian empires. Their family history offers insights into a time when distinctions between the public and private, home and overseas, and slavery and servitude were in constant flux.
Based on multiple archives, documents, and letters, The Inner Life of Empires looks at one family's complex story to describe the origins of the modern political, economic, and intellectual world.
Bac Si (the Vietnamese term for “medic”) is the story of Sgt. Jerry Krizan who was assigned to Special Forces Camp A-331 in the III Corps tactical zone, only 10 miles from the Cambodian border. Because of its proximity to a major north-south NVA infiltration route, there were constant enemy troop movements through the camp's area of operations and A-331 itself came under attack on more than one occasion.
The author meantime needed to accompany patrols and probes into enemy territory, not only prepared to provide aid but fight as a soldier if the squad was ambushed, or itself chose to attack. In this small-unit warfare against an expert enemy, U.S. soldiers had to survive as best they could, with their only succor a Huey, and meantime on the ground by themselves against unknown opposition.
Our Green Beret base camps were our very first line of defense along the borders of South Vietnam, and in this book, through the eyes of a medic, we learn how dire, and confusing, a role we asked our Special Forces to play during that era.
For the past two years, as a “civilian contractor,” Ellis has been flying helicopter support missions in Afghanistan, where, he reckons, he has had more close shaves than in his entire previous four-decades put together.
Twice, single-handedly (and without a copilot), he turned the enemy back from the gates of Freetown, effectively preventing the rebels from overrunning Sierra Leone’s capital—once in the middle of the night without the benefit of night vision goggles. Nellis (as his friends call him) was also the first mercenary to work hand-in-glove with British ground and air assets in a modern guerrilla war. In Sierra Leone, Ellis' Mi-24 (“it leaked when it rained”) played a seminal role in rescuing the 11 British soldiers who had been taken hostage by the so-called West Side Boys. He also used his helicopter numerous times to fly SAS personnel on low-level reconnaissance missions into the interior of the diamond-rich country, for the simple reason that no other pilot knew the country—and the enemy—better than he did.
Al Venter, the author of War Dog and other acclaimed titles, accompanied Nellis on some of these missions. “Occasionally we returned to base with holes in our fuselage,” Venter recounts, “though once it was self-inflicted: in his enthusiasm during an attack on one of the towns in the interior, a side-gunner onboard swung his heavy machine-gun a bit too wide and hit one of our drop tanks. Had it been full at the time, things might have been different.” The upshot was that over the course of a year of military operations, the two former Soviet helicopters operated for the Sierra Leone Air Wing by Nellis and his boys were patched more often than any other comparable pair of gun ships in Asia, Africa or Latin America. Nellis himself earned a price on his head: some reports spoke of a $1 million reward dead or alive while others doubled it.
This book describes the full career of this storied aerial warrior, from the bush and jungles of Africa to the forests of the Balkans and the merciless mountains of today’s Afghanistan. Along the way the reader encounters a multiethnic array of enemies ranging from ideological to cold-blooded to pure evil, as well as well as examples of incredible heroism for hire.
–Richard Bausch, author of Wives & Lovers
The first book of its kind, Operation Homecoming is the result of a major initiative launched by the National Endowment for the Arts to bring distinguished writers to military bases and inspire U.S. Marines, soldiers, sailors, and airmen and their families to record their wartime experiences. Encouraged by such authors as Tom Clancy, Mark Bowden, Bobbie Ann Mason, Tobias Wolff, Jeff Shaara, and Marilyn Nelson, American military personnel and their loved ones wrote candidly about what they saw, heard, and felt while in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as on the home front. Taken together, these almost one hundred never-before-published eyewitness accounts, private journals, short stories, letters, and other personal writings become a dramatic narrative that shows the human side of warfare.
• the fear and exhilaration of heading into battle;
• the interactions between U.S. forces and Afghans and Iraqis, both as enemies and friends;
• the boredom, gripes, and humorous incidents of day-to-day life on the front lines;
• the anxiety and heartache of worried spouses, parents, and other loved ones on the home front;
• the sheer brutality of warfare and the physical and emotional toll it takes on those who fight;
• the tearful homecomings for those who returned to the States alive– and the somber ceremonies for those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their nation.
From riveting combat accounts to profound reflections on warfare and the pride these troops feel for one another, Operation Homecoming offers an unflinching and intensely revealing look into the lives of extraordinary men and women. What they have written is without question some of the greatest wartime literature ever published.
“Andrew Carroll has given America a priceless treasure.”
–Tom Brokaw, on War Letters
Proceeds from this book will be used to provide arts and cultural programming to U.S. military communities. For more information, please go to www.OperationHomecoming.gov.
From the Hardcover edition.
In 1812 the most powerful man in the world assembled the largest army in history and marched on Moscow with the intention of consolidating his dominion. But within months, Napoleon’s invasion of Russia – history’s first example of total war – had turned into an epic military disaster. Over 400,000 French and Allied troops perished and Napoleon was forced to retreat.
Adam Zamoyski’s masterful work draws on the harrowing first-hand accounts of soldiers and civilians on both sides of the conflict. The result takes the reader beyond the invasion of Russia to present both a poignant tale of the individual foot soldier and a sweeping history of a turbulent time.
There is a mass of literature on Napoleon and his times, yet there are only a handful of scholarly works that seek to cover the Napoleonic Wars in their entirety, and fewer still that place the conflict in any broader framework. This study redresses the balance. Drawing on recent findings and applying a 'total' history approach, it explores the causes and effects of the conflict, and places it in the context of the evolution of modern warfare. It reappraises the most significant and controversial military ventures, including the war at sea and Napoleon's campaigns of 1805-9. The study gives an insight into the factors that shaped the war, setting the struggle in its wider economic, cultural, political and intellectual dimensions.