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Seven Elements That Changed the World – John Browne

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Seven Elements That Changed the World

An Adventure of Ingenuity and Discovery

John Browne

Genre: History

Price: $2.99

Publish Date: February 4, 2014

Publisher: Pegasus Books

Seller: OpenRoad Integrated Media, LLC


From iron to uranium, titanium to silicon, this is “a wide-ranging look at scientific progress. It’s also a lot of fun” ( The Wall Street Journal). Iron. Carbon. Gold. Silver. Uranium. Titanium. Silicon. These elements of the periodic table have shaped our lives and our world, in ways both good and bad. Combining history, science, and politics, this “lively, educational examination of civilization’s building blocks” reveals the fascinating story ( Publishers Weekly ). With carbon, we can access heat, light, and mobility at the flick of a switch. Silicon enables us to communicate across the globe in an instant. Uranium is both productive (nuclear power) and destructive (nuclear bombs). Iron is the bloody weapon of war, but also the economic tool of peace. And our desire for alluring gold is the foundation of global trade—but it has also led to the death of millions. Explaining how titanium pervades modern consumer culture and how an innovative new form of carbon could be starting a technology revolution,  Seven Elements That Changed the World  is an adventure in human passion, ingenuity, and discovery—and the latest chapter in a journey that is far from over. “The human quest for knowledge has led to extraordinary progress. This book forces us to confront these realities and does so in a unique and fascinating way. It weaves science and humanity together in a way that gives us new insight. This is an expertly crafted book by a unique thinker.” —Tony Blair “John Browne uses seven elements, the building blocks of the physical world, to explore a multitude of worlds beyond. A lively story that enables us to see the essential elements of modern life in a new and highly engaging way.” —Daniel Yergin, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Quest “Part popular science, part history, part memoir, these pages are infused with insight and lifted by the innate optimism of a scientist.” —Brian Cox, physicist, broadcaster, and author of The Quantum Universe “An admirable popular science account of how iron, carbon, gold, silver, uranium, titanium, and silicon affect our lives . . . An expert on carbon (i.e., oil), Browne relies on the public library for much information but mixes in his travels and anecdotes from an impressive career to produce a lively, educational examination of civilization’s building blocks.” — Publishers Weekly John Browne was born in Germany in 1948 and joined BP as a university apprentice in 1966, rising to group chief executive from 1995 to 2007, where he built a reputation as a visionary leader, regularly voted the most admired businessman by his peers. This is his first book.

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Seven Elements That Changed the World – John Browne

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Georgia could have put an end to nuclear plant construction in the U.S., but it didn’t.

Growing up in the ’90s, some of my favorite people in the world were Bill Nye, Cookie Monster, and Wishbone. That definitely did NOT make me one of the cooler kids at school, who got to chat about cable TV shows I knew nothing about.

But hey, my buddy Bill gave me the crazy idea that science was fun. Wishbone instilled in me a love of reading. And Sesame Street legit taught me, a new immigrant kid from the Philippines, how to speak English.

Now I write about the environment, with a special focus on all the nerdy, science-y, but supremely important environmental stuff that impacts kids in marginalized communities. Those are the kids who might rely on things like public broadcasting to close educational gaps — just like I did. It helped me get to where I am today.

So when Bill Nye resurfaced in 2017 in a big way — with a new series on Netflix and in a new documentary about the man behind the bow tie, I was obsessed. In the film, he meets YouTubers taking the torch when it comes to making fun, open-to-anyone educational videos. It’s all part of his quest to protect science education and keep it accessible to kids. And what makes the documentary even cooler for me? It’s on PBS.

Justine Calma is a Grist fellow.

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Georgia could have put an end to nuclear plant construction in the U.S., but it didn’t.

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As global temperatures rise, more refugees will flee to Europe.

Growing up in the ’90s, some of my favorite people in the world were Bill Nye, Cookie Monster, and Wishbone. That definitely did NOT make me one of the cooler kids at school, who got to chat about cable TV shows I knew nothing about.

But hey, my buddy Bill gave me the crazy idea that science was fun. Wishbone instilled in me a love of reading. And Sesame Street legit taught me, a new immigrant kid from the Philippines, how to speak English.

Now I write about the environment, with a special focus on all the nerdy, science-y, but supremely important environmental stuff that impacts kids in marginalized communities. Those are the kids who might rely on things like public broadcasting to close educational gaps — just like I did. It helped me get to where I am today.

So when Bill Nye resurfaced in 2017 in a big way — with a new series on Netflix and in a new documentary about the man behind the bow tie, I was obsessed. In the film, he meets YouTubers taking the torch when it comes to making fun, open-to-anyone educational videos. It’s all part of his quest to protect science education and keep it accessible to kids. And what makes the documentary even cooler for me? It’s on PBS.

Justine Calma is a Grist fellow.

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As global temperatures rise, more refugees will flee to Europe.

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Of Wolves and Men – Barry Lopez

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Of Wolves and Men
Barry Lopez

Genre: Nature

Price: $9.99

Publish Date: May 31, 2016

Publisher: Open Road Media

Seller: OpenRoad Integrated Media, LLC


National Book Award Finalist: A “brilliant” study of the science and mythology of the wolf by the New York Times –bestselling author of Arctic Dreams ( The Washington Post ).  When John Fowles reviewed Of Wolves and Men , he called it “A remarkable book, both biologically absorbing and humanly rich, and one that should be read by every concerned American.” In this National Book Award–shortlisted work, literary master Barry Lopez guides us through the world of the wolf and our often-mistaken perceptions of another species’ place on our shared planet. Throughout the centuries, the wolf has been a figure of fascination and mystery, and a major motif in literature and myth. Inspiring fear and respect, the creature has long exerted a powerful influence on the human imagination. Of Wolves and Men takes the reader into the world of the Canis lupus and its relationship to humankind through the ages. Lopez draws on science, history, mythology, and his own field research to present a compelling portrait of wolves both real and imagined, dispelling our fear of them while celebrating their place in our history, legends, and hearts.  This ebook features an illustrated biography of Barry Lopez including rare images and never-before-seen documents from the author’s personal collection. “A splendid, beautiful book.” — The Wall Street Journal “Fascinating. . . . A wealth of observation, mythology, and mysticism.” — The New York Times Book Review “Brilliant. . . . A work of intelligence, dedication, and beauty deserving the widest possible attention not only for the sake of wolves but also for the sake of men.” — The Washington Post Barry Lopez (b. 1945) is the author of thirteen books of essays, short stories, and nonfiction. He is a recipient of the National Book Award, the Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and numerous other literary and cultural honors and awards. His highly acclaimed books include Arctic Dreams , Winter Count , and Of Wolves and Men, for which he received the John Burroughs and Christopher medals. He lives in western Oregon.     

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Of Wolves and Men – Barry Lopez

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The Hunt for Vulcan – Thomas Levenson

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The Hunt for Vulcan

. . . And How Albert Einstein Destroyed a Planet, Discovered Relativity, and Deciphered the Universe

Thomas Levenson

Genre: History

Price: $1.99

Publish Date: November 3, 2015

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group

Seller: Penguin Random House LLC


The captivating, all-but-forgotten story of Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, and the search for a planet that never existed For more than fifty years, the world’s top scientists searched for the “missing” planet Vulcan, whose existence was mandated by Isaac Newton’s theories of gravity. Countless hours were spent on the hunt for the elusive orb, and some of the era’s most skilled astronomers even claimed to have found it. There was just one problem: It was never there. In The Hunt for Vulcan, Thomas Levenson follows the visionary scientists who inhabit the story of the phantom planet, starting with Isaac Newton, who in 1687 provided an explanation for all matter in motion throughout the universe, leading to Urbain-Jean-Joseph Le Verrier, who almost two centuries later built on Newton’s theories and discovered Neptune, becoming the most famous scientist in the world. Le Verrier attempted to surpass that triumph by predicting the existence of yet another planet in our solar system, Vulcan. It took Albert Einstein to discern that the mystery of the missing planet was a problem not of measurements or math but of Newton’s theory of gravity itself. Einstein’s general theory of relativity proved that Vulcan did not and could not exist, and that the search for it had merely been a quirk of operating under the wrong set of assumptions about the universe. Levenson tells the previously untold tale of how the “discovery” of Vulcan in the nineteenth century set the stage for Einstein’s monumental breakthrough, the greatest individual intellectual achievement of the twentieth century. A dramatic human story of an epic quest, The Hunt for Vulcan offers insight into how science really advances (as opposed to the way we’re taught about it in school) and how the best work of the greatest scientists reveals an artist’s sensibility. Opening a new window onto our world, Levenson illuminates some of our most iconic ideas as he recounts one of the strangest episodes in the history of science. Praise for The Hunt for Vulcan “Delightful . . . a charming tale about an all-but-forgotten episode in science history.” — The Wall Street Journal “Engaging . . . At heart, this is a story about how science advances, one insight at a time. But the immediacy, almost romance, of Levenson’s writing makes it almost novelistic.” — The Washington Post “Captures the drama of the tireless search for this celestial object.” — Science   “A well-structured, fast-paced example of exemplary science writing.” — Kirkus Reviews (starred review) “A short, beautifully produced book that tells a cautionary tale . . . Levenson is a breezy writer who renders complex ideas in down-to-earth language.” — The Boston Globe “An inspiring tale about the quest for discovery.” —Walter Isaacson “Equal to the best science writing I’ve read anywhere, by any author. Beautifully composed, rich in historical context, deeply researched, it is, above all, great storytelling.” —Alan Lightman, author of The Accidental Universe “Levenson tells us where Vulcan came from, how it vanished, and why its spirit lurks today. Along the way, we learn more than a bit of just how science works—when it succeeds as well as when it fails.” —Neil deGrasse Tyson “Science writing at its best. This book is not just learned, passionate, and witty—it is profoundly wise.” —Junot Díaz From the Hardcover edition.

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The Hunt for Vulcan – Thomas Levenson

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Quote of the Day #2: Tax Plans

Mother Jones

The Wall Street Journal provides an example of the criticism leveled at Donald Trump’s press operation:

Some Trump advisers have also questioned the judgment of communications officials, citing as an example the rollout of a tax-plan outline in April that featured Goldman Sachs alumnae Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, and Gary Cohn, the National Economic Council director.

“The left is automatically going to say the tax plan is tailored to the rich and to Wall Street. And we just gave them an image of the rich and of Wall Street,” one Trump former campaign official said.

First off, who else is going to roll out a tax plan? The Secretary of Defense?

Second, the left isn’t automatically going to say the tax plan is tailored to the rich and to Wall Street. We’re going to say that if it actually is tailored to the rich and to Wall Street. But the confusion here is easy to understand since Republican plans are always tailored to the rich and to Wall Street. That makes it hard to parse responses from the left, I suppose.

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Quote of the Day #2: Tax Plans

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The pope’s gift to Trump is the subtlest shade we’ve seen all week.

If cities are the future of sustainability, they can’t only be green — they have to be livable, too. Enter Ritchie Torres, New York City’s youngest elected official, hell-bent on making the city more affordable for its most vulnerable inhabitants. Torres, who is Afro-Latino and the first openly LGBT politician from the Bronx, cut his political teeth as a tenant organizer. He ran for city council in 2013 at the behest of a mentor who saw potential in the self-described introvert — and won.

The young councilman’s driving issue is affordable housing, because, he says, “there can be no city without housing.” Torres grew up in Throggs Neck public housing directly across the street from Donald Trump’s golf course — as Torres puts it, with Trump’s shadow hanging “both literally and metaphorically over public housing.”

Torres is taking on the health, safety, and sustainability of public housing in New York from all angles: eliminating mold infestation, requiring more carbon-conservative building materials, and creating the first LGBT youth shelter in the Bronx.

For those young people who may feel inspired to seek political office themselves, Torres provides these words of encouragement: “The lesson from 2016 is that millennials are more powerful than we realize — it was the only ray of hope in an otherwise dark election year.”


Meet all the fixers on this year’s Grist 50.

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The pope’s gift to Trump is the subtlest shade we’ve seen all week.

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Trump wants to slash money for food and farming.

If cities are the future of sustainability, they can’t only be green — they have to be livable, too. Enter Ritchie Torres, New York City’s youngest elected official, hell-bent on making the city more affordable for its most vulnerable inhabitants. Torres, who is Afro-Latino and the first openly LGBT politician from the Bronx, cut his political teeth as a tenant organizer. He ran for city council in 2013 at the behest of a mentor who saw potential in the self-described introvert — and won.

The young councilman’s driving issue is affordable housing, because, he says, “there can be no city without housing.” Torres grew up in Throggs Neck public housing directly across the street from Donald Trump’s golf course — as Torres puts it, with Trump’s shadow hanging “both literally and metaphorically over public housing.”

Torres is taking on the health, safety, and sustainability of public housing in New York from all angles: eliminating mold infestation, requiring more carbon-conservative building materials, and creating the first LGBT youth shelter in the Bronx.

For those young people who may feel inspired to seek political office themselves, Torres provides these words of encouragement: “The lesson from 2016 is that millennials are more powerful than we realize — it was the only ray of hope in an otherwise dark election year.”


Meet all the fixers on this year’s Grist 50.

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Trump wants to slash money for food and farming.

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Donald Trump Remains Puzzled About West Wing Chaos

Mother Jones

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It’s time for the latest Donald Trump pivot. The Wall Street Journal reports that the crisis in Syria “has sharpened Mr. Trump’s desire to cut some of the drama out of his West Wing.” He’s finally going to get presidential!

President Donald Trump is considering a major shake-up of his senior White House team, a senior administration official said Friday….In recent days, he has talked to confidants about the performance of chief of staff Reince Priebus and has asked for the names of possible replacements….Another top aide who could be removed or reassigned in a shake-up is Steve Bannon, chief strategist, who has been sparring with Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and one of his closest advisers.

In fairness, Trump can’t fire himself, but is he really so clueless that he doesn’t realize the infighting springs directly from his own chaotic personality, not from the folks around him? If he provided clear direction on both policy and communications—and stopped tweeting random crap all the time—things would calm down fast.

But he’ll never figure that out.

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Donald Trump Remains Puzzled About West Wing Chaos

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Inflation Finally Starting to Hit Healthy Levels

Mother Jones

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It’s finally happened. The PCE measure of price inflation has breached the 2 percent barrier:

Over at the Wall Street Journal, Eric Morath comments: “That is a healthy signal for the economy, showing excess capacity and high unemployment that long held inflation near historically low levels have finally abated. Firmer inflation could give Fed policy makers leeway to consider additional interest-rate increases this year.”

That’s a refreshing change from the usual reaction of “ZOMG! Inflation is nearing 2 percent!” Nonetheless, like a broken record, I’ll point out that (a) core inflation is still under 2 percent and barely increasing at all, and (b) 2 percent is not a “target.” Not in the sense of something you should never exceed, anyway. It’s a target for average inflation, and the average since the end of the Great Recession has been 1.5 percent. More recently, the average over the past two years has been 0.8 percent. It’s going to be a while before we make up for so many years of too-low inflation.

Of course, it’s also true that the Fed’s target probably should be 3-4 percent, but that’s a post for another day.

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Inflation Finally Starting to Hit Healthy Levels

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