Why Things Break: Understanding the World By the Way It Comes Apart

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Did you know—

• It took more than an iceberg to sink the Titanic.
• The Challenger disaster was predicted.
• Unbreakable glass dinnerware had its origin in railroad lanterns.
• A football team cannot lose momentum.
• Mercury thermometers are prohibited on airplanes for a crucial reason.
• Kryptonite bicycle locks are easily broken.

“Things fall apart” is more than a poetic insight—it is a fundamental property of the physical world. Why Things Break explores the fascinating question of what holds things together (for a while), what breaks them apart, and why the answers have a direct bearing on our everyday lives.

When Mark Eberhart was growing up in the 1960s, he learned that splitting an atom leads to a terrible explosion—which prompted him to worry that when he cut into a stick of butter, he would inadvertently unleash a nuclear cataclysm. Years later, as a chemistry professor, he remembered this childhood fear when he began to ponder the fact that we know more about how to split an atom than we do about how a pane of glass breaks.

In Why Things Break, Eberhart leads us on a remarkable and entertaining exploration of all the cracks, clefts, fissures, and faults examined in the field of materials science and the many astonishing discoveries that have been made about everything from the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger to the crashing of your hard drive. Understanding why things break is crucial to modern life on every level, from personal safety to macroeconomics, but as Eberhart reveals here, it is also an area of cutting-edge science that is as provocative as it is illuminating.


From the Hardcover edition.
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About the author

MARK E. EBERHART is a professor of chemistry and geochemistry at the Colorado School of Mines. He received his doctorate in materials science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


From the Hardcover edition.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Crown
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Published on
Dec 18, 2007
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Pages
272
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ISBN
9780307422699
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Language
English
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Genres
Science / Physics / Atomic & Molecular
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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From the first spark created by human hands thousands of years ago, mankind has grown dependent on nature’s vast stores of energy to build, explore, and experiment. Our expanding knowledge and technologies have come from the felling of forests to the harnessing of wind and water, from the burning of coal and oil to tapping the energy of the atom. Energy does more than heat our homes and fill our gas tanks; it fuels our imaginations. Our future is inextricably linked to energy, and in this groundbreaking book, Mark Eberhart examines our historic quest for power and tackles the brutal realization that there are limits to the energy Earth can provide.

In Western society, we treat energy as a given—the background noise of modern life. But as worldwide energy demand grows, supplies are, at best, holding steady—and at worst, shrinking. The implications of our dependence are enormous. And while there is evidence that great cultures of the past—the Maya, Anasazi, Easter Islanders—collapsed when their energy resources were exhausted, Eberhart argues that we have the responsibility and the ability to develop renewable energy sources now.

Eberhart leads us on a tour through the history of energy, how it was formed and how it evolved, and reveals how we became energy-dependent creatures. With an unblinking eye, he takes a close look at the consequences of our energy appetite, and, most important, imagines a secure energy future that we can all play a part in achieving.

Enlightening, bold, and practical, Feeding the Fire weaves together history, science, and current affairs to create an important and compelling thesis about humanity’s energy needs—and draws a hard line on the imperative need to avert the catastrophe that looms if we continue on our present course.
From the first spark created by human hands thousands of years ago, mankind has grown dependent on nature’s vast stores of energy to build, explore, and experiment. Our expanding knowledge and technologies have come from the felling of forests to the harnessing of wind and water, from the burning of coal and oil to tapping the energy of the atom. Energy does more than heat our homes and fill our gas tanks; it fuels our imaginations. Our future is inextricably linked to energy, and in this groundbreaking book, Mark Eberhart examines our historic quest for power and tackles the brutal realization that there are limits to the energy Earth can provide.

In Western society, we treat energy as a given—the background noise of modern life. But as worldwide energy demand grows, supplies are, at best, holding steady—and at worst, shrinking. The implications of our dependence are enormous. And while there is evidence that great cultures of the past—the Maya, Anasazi, Easter Islanders—collapsed when their energy resources were exhausted, Eberhart argues that we have the responsibility and the ability to develop renewable energy sources now.

Eberhart leads us on a tour through the history of energy, how it was formed and how it evolved, and reveals how we became energy-dependent creatures. With an unblinking eye, he takes a close look at the consequences of our energy appetite, and, most important, imagines a secure energy future that we can all play a part in achieving.

Enlightening, bold, and practical, Feeding the Fire weaves together history, science, and current affairs to create an important and compelling thesis about humanity’s energy needs—and draws a hard line on the imperative need to avert the catastrophe that looms if we continue on our present course.
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