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Sustainable Energy - Without the Hot Air - Nuclear Book Review

Updated: Dec 3, 2022

About the Author David MacKay was a Professor in the Department of Physics at the University of Cambridge, a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) and Regius Professor of Engineering at Cambridge University. He studied Natural Sciences at Cambridge and then obtained his PhD in Computation and Neural Systems at Caltech - the California Institute of Technology. He returned to Cambridge as a Royal Society research fellow at Darwin College. He is internationally known for his research in machine learning, information theory, and communication systems, including the invention of Dasher, a software interface that enables efficient communication in any language with any muscle. He taught Physics in Cambridge and devoted much of his time to public teaching about energy. He was a member of the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on Climate Change. From 2009 to 2014 he was Chief Scientific Advisor to the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and in the 2016 New Year's Honours List was awarded a knighthood for services to Scientific Advice in Government and Science Outreach. He passed away in 2016 at the age of 48. Famous Reviews If someone wants an overall view of how energy gets used, where it comes from, and the challenges in switching to new sources, this is the book to read. --Bill Gates, chairman, Microsoft There are so many books about sustainable energy and alternative energy on today's market that one might wonder about the need for yet another; but ;Sustainable Energy - Without the Hot Air offers something different - and that's a notable achievement in a genre overloaded with too many revamps using the same approach. --D. Donovan, Midwest Book Review, California Bookwatch"" The main text of his book is readable (and witty) and its technical appendices bristle with equations. If the planet and its people are the patient, MacKay's book is the lab results, temperature chart and electrocardiogram. --The New York Review of Books Get Into Nuclear Book Review The book is a good read with many scientific facts making it enjoyable to read. The book is written in a witty, light-hearted manner providing illustrations, charts and captions along with way bring across a sense of humour to an otherwise very serious subject. When considering the question of whether or not there is a solution to the sustainable energy conundrum the book looks to identify a number of key assumptions of energy demand in the coming years in a manner that can be easily understood – even if some of the assumptions are a little subjective and some more meticulous readers will question the validity of the ‘fag-packet’ calculations themselves. The book does make the point of being mindful of the “hot air” and agendas behind the claims of some of the information out there. In short the outcome of the book is that it is believed that we can maintain the present consumption level sustainably for 1000 years at the consumption rates growing annually as projected in the book. The key finding is that the UK can achieve this by a mix of Nuclear, Wind and importing energy from other countries. The author is pro-nuclear and you could be forgiven for thinking that this comes through in the book but the outcome are underpinned throughout by calculation. Written in 2006 it can be argued that the book is a little out dated and maybe even irrelevant given the changes in politics over recent years – Brexit being the stand out change. However, for a great scientific overview of the options and their pros and cons when considered meeting present and future energy demands the book is very much worth a read. 


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Recommended Reading (or listening): Atomic Habits by James Clear