Beginning of Infinity is equally bold, addressing subjects from artificial
intelligence to the evolution of culture and of creativity; its conclusions are just as
Coming in Oilfield Review
offering the cogent, invigorating argument that only by embracing uncertainty can we truly progress. “The Blind Spot,” Kirkus Reviews (May 1, 2011), http://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/ non-fiction/william-byers/blind-spot-scienceuncertainty/#review (accessed August 29, 2011).
The Blind Spot: Science and the Crisis of Uncertainty
William Byers Princeton University Press 41 William Street Princeton, New Jersey 08540 USA 2011. 208 pages. US$ 24.95 ISBN: 978-0-691-14684-3
Mathematician William Byers maintains that the unpredictable, the uncertain, the unknowable and the ambiguous, rather than a faith in scientific certainty, are what give rise to better science. The author draws on examples from Wall Street to mathematics to illustrate the blind spots in our understanding and decision making in the sciences, mathematics and technology. Contents: • The Blind Spot • The Blind Spot Revealed • Certainty or Wonder? • A World in Crisis! • Ambiguity • Self-Reference: The Human Element in Science • The Mystery of Number • Science as the Ambiguous Search for Unity • The Still Point • Conclusion: Living in a World of Uncertainty • Notes, References, Index The author argues that while reconfiguring the human attitude toward embracing uncertainty may be uncomfortable, ultimately it will enable creative opportunity on a massive scale; that an acceptance of ambiguity is ‘the price we pay for creativity.’ Byers suggests that a continuing adherence to certainties may allow the fundamental uncertainty of modern culture to manifest itself in a variety of catastrophic ways. . . . Byers incorporates many brilliant thinkers and seminal scientific breakthroughs into his discussion,
The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations That Transform the World David Deutsch Viking Penguin, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. 375 Hudson Street New York, New York 10014 USA 2011. 487 pages. US$ 30.00 ISBN 978-1-101-54944-5
Deutsch looks at human progress, especially the rapid changes we’ve made since the Enlightenment. He proposes that the cause of such progression is the quest for good explanations, which have the scope and power to cause change. He also posits that such a quest is the operating principle of not only science but of all successful human endeavor. He explains how this flow of improving explanations has infinite reach. Contents: • The Reach of Explanations • Closer to Reality • The Spark • Creation • The Reality of Abstractions • The Jump to Universality • Artificial Creativity • A Window on Infinity • Optimism • A Dream of Socrates • The Multiverse • A Physicist’s History of Bad Philosophy • Choices • Why Are Flowers Beautiful?
• The Evolution of Culture • The Evolution of Creativity • Unsustainable • The Beginning • Bibliography, Index Mr. Deutsch’s previous tome, The Fabric of Reality, took a broadranging sweep that encompassed evolution as well as knowledge, computation and physics, and earned him a fan base that has been eagerly awaiting his second publication. The Beginning of Infinity is equally bold, addressing subjects from artificial intelligence to the evolution of culture and of creativity; its conclusions are just as profound. Mr. Deutsch argues that decent explanations inform moral philosophy, political philosophy and even aesthetics. He is provocative and persuasive. Who knows? Perhaps he is also right. “In the Beginning—A Quantum Physicist’s Long-Awaited Second Book,” The Economist (March 24, 2011), http://www.economist.com/ node/18438055 (accessed October 3, 2011).
David Deutsch’s The Beginning of Infinity is a brilliant and exhilarating and profoundly eccentric book. It’s about everything: art, science, philosophy, history, politics, evil, death, the future, infinity, bugs, thumbs, what have you. . . . Deutsch (who is famous, among other reasons, for his pioneering contributions to the field of quantum computation) is so smart, and so strange, and so creative, and so inexhaustibly curious, and so vividly intellectually alive, that it is a distinct privilege, notwithstanding everything, to spend time in his head. Albert D: “Explaining It All: How We Became the Center of the Universe,” The New York Times (August 12, 2011), http://www.nytimes. com/2011/08/14/books/review/the-beginning-ofinfinity-by-david-deutsch-book-review. html?pagewanted=all (accessed October 3, 2011).
Plug and Abandon. Thousands of onshore and offshore wells around the world are reaching the end of their economic lives. Owners of these wells need to permanently plug and abandon them in a safe and environmentally responsible manner. The cost of these operations ranges from a relatively small expense for most onshore wells to millions of US dollars for offshore wells with complex infrastructure that must be removed. This article looks at the tools and methods available to support plug and abandon operations. Jars. For more than 80 years, drilling jars have been widely accepted as unglamorous, inexpensive insurance against stuck pipe. While the basic technology of jars has changed little, understanding of the dynamics necessary to ensure a successful jarring operation has expanded significantly in recent years. This article looks at the lessons learned and surveys how the industry is solving the challenge of using jars in today’s increasingly complex well configurations. Mud Logging. Mud loggers monitor a variety of drilling parameters to alert drilling personnel to changes in downhole drilling conditions. Through examination of formation cuttings, augmented by measurements of drilling rates and chromatographic analysis of mud gases, mud loggers often obtain the earliest indicators of reservoir potential. Recent advances in drilling sensor technology and mud gas analysis are expanding the range of mud logging services. LWD Sonic Advances. Acoustic LWD tools were first introduced to the oil and gas industry in the mid-1990s, but they have evolved considerably since then. LWD sonic data now include results that were once available only with wireline logging tools. Drilling engineers now use a new quadrupole sonic tool for monitoring accurate pore pressure, determining geomechanical properties and managing drilling fluid for borehole stability. Case studies demonstrate the use of this tool for real-time measurement of geomechanical properties and for drilling optimization.
Why Geology Matters: Decoding the Past, Anticipating the Future Doug Macdougall University of California Press 2120 Berkeley Way Berkeley, California 94704 USA 2011. 285 pages. US$ 29.95 ISBN: 978-0-520-26642-1
The Techno-Human Condition Braden R. Allenby and Daniel Sarewitz The MIT Press 55 Hayward Street Cambridge, Massachusetts 02142 USA 2011. 222 pages. US$ 24.95 ISBN: 978-0-262-01569-1
This book gives an overview of Earth’s history from information extracted from ice cores, rocks and other natural archives. Macdougall explores how an understanding of geosciences illumi nates many of the world’s present problems—energy availability, fresh water accessibility, agriculture sustain ability and biodiversity maintenance— and how we can use geosciences to prepare for the future. Contents: • Set in Stone • Building Our Planet • Close Encounters • The First Two Billion Years • Wandering Plates • Shaky Foundations • Mountains, Life, and the Big Chill • Cold Times • The Great Warming • Reading LIPs • Restless Giants • Swimming, Crawling, and Flying Toward the Present • Why Geology Matters • Bibliography, Further Reading, Index Macdougall . . . . gives an up-todate overview of what scientists now know about the history of Earth and explains why Earth’s past is relevant to contemporary human society. The author’s discussion of the history of climate change over the past several billion years and the causes thereof, for instance, is directly applicable to modern debates about climate change. He also addresses ways to apply geology to questions of energy resources, sustainable agriculture, biodiversity, and access to fresh water and presents all in an enjoyable reading style. Highly recommended. Dimmick CW: Choice 49, no. 2 (October 2011): 336.
Authors Allenby and Sarewitz argue that humans have always coevolved with their technologies, but today we are additionally transformed by the applica tion of internal technologies such as a re-engineered immune system, artificial joints and neurochemical mood enhanc ers. As a result, the authors say, humans now need to embrace a new “technohuman relationship,” exploring what it means to be human in an era of techno logical complexity. Contents: • What a Long, Transhuman Trip It Has Already Been • In the Cause-and-Effect Zone • Level I and II Technology: Effectiveness, Progress, and Complexity • Level III Technology: Radical Contingency in Earth Systems • Individuality and Incomprehensibility • Complexity, Coherence, Contingency • Killer Apps • In Front of Our Nose • Epilogue: The Museum of Human Frailty • Bibliography, Index The Techno-Human Condition . . . illustrates how technology is a part of all individuals, including their cultures and institutions. Allenby and Sarewitz . . . encourage the reader to understand, embrace, and celebrate people’s ignorance of the complexity of techno-human systems in order to begin to manage technological and scientific prowess with rationality, ethics, humility, and responsibility. The authors illustrate th[eir] model by analyzing two. . . systems: railroads and modern military technology. Recommended. Bauchspies WK: Choice 49, no. 2 (October 2011): 323.
The Theory That Would Not Die: How Bayes’ Rule Cracked the Enigma Code, Hunted Down Russian Submarines, and Emerged Triumphant from Two Centuries of Controversy Sharon Bertsch McGrayne Yale University Press 302 Temple Street New Haven, Connecticut 06511 USA 2011. 320 pages. US$ 27.50 ISBN: 978-0-300-16969-0
Bayes’ Rule, the mathematical theorem formulated in the 1740s by the Reverend Thomas Bayes, links condi tional probability to its inverse. The author follows the people who furthered the theorem as well as those who vehemently opposed it; she explores the development of the theorem from its discovery, rise, near demise and redis covery through its many controversies and successes and concludes with its present-day application to crises characterized by great uncertainty. Contents: • Part I. Enlightenment and the AntiBayesian Reaction: Causes in the Air; The Man Who Did Everything; Many Doubts, Few Defenders • Part II. Second World War Era: Bayes Goes to War; Dead and Buried Again • Part III. The Glorious Revival: Arthur Bailey; From Tool to Theology; Jerome Cornfield, Lung Cancer, and Heart Attacks; There’s Always a First Time; 46,656 Varieties • Part IV. To Prove Its Worth: Business Decisions; Who Wrote The Federalist?; The Cold Warrior; Three Mile Island; The Navy Searches • Part V. Victory: Eureka!; Rosetta Stones • Appendixes, Notes, Glossary, Bibliography, Index
data who contributed, for good or for worse, to its historical perambulations to the present day, in the process making the theory come alive through her prose in a way that is very accessible to the patient non-statistician. Bottone M: “The Theory That Would Not Die by Sharon Bertsch McGrayne,” Significance, http://www.significancemagazine.org/details/ review/1062663/The-Theory-That-Would-NotDie-by-Sharon-Bertsch-McGrayne.html (accessed September 14, 2011).
The theorem has a long and surprisingly convoluted history, and McGrayne chronicles it in detail. . . . Statistics . . . can be applied to almost any area of science or life, and this litany of applications is intended to be the unifying thread that sews the book into a coherent whole. It does so, but at the cost of giving it a list-like, formulaic feel. More successful are McGrayne’s vivifying sketches of the statisticians who devoted themselves to Bayesian polemics and counterpolemics. Paulos JA: “The Mathematics of Changing Your Mind,” The New York Times (August 5, 2011), http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/07/books/ review/the-theory-that-would-not-die-by-sharonbertsch-mcgrayne-book-review.html (accessed September 14, 2011).
In a densely packed and engaging book, Sharon Bertsch McGrayne traces the remarkable history of Bayes’ Rule. . . . At times reading like a historical account, at times like investigative journalism, at yet other times like a statistical commentary, Bertsch McGrayne does an admirable job of giving a voice to the scores of famous and non-famous people and
Wrestling with Nature: From Omens to Science
Peter Harrison, Ronald L. Numbers and Michael H. Shank (eds) The University of Chicago Press 1427 East 60th Street Chicago, Illinois 60637 USA 2011. 416 pages. US$ 95.00 ISBN: 978-0-226-31783-0
This collection of essays examines the investigation of nature through the millennia and explains the content, goals, methods and practices associated with such investigations. The authors explore the concept of the history of science and attempt to answer the questions “When and where did science begin?” Contents: • Introduction • Natural Knowledge in Ancient Mesopotamia • Natural Knowledge in the Classical World • Natural Knowledge in the Arabic Middle Ages • Natural Knowledge in the Latin Middle Ages • Natural History • Mixed Mathematics • Natural Philosophy • Science and Medicine • Science and Technology • Science and Religion • Science, Pseudoscience, and Science Falsely So-Called • Scientific Methods • Science and the Public • Science and Place • Contributors, Index This tightly focused collection of essays examines the diverse approaches to studying nature from the earliest civilizations to the present. . . . the editors of this volume of historical essays warn against reading modern ideas about the nature of science back into the past. . . . These essays should appeal to a broad audience interested in the diverse origins of modern science. Recommended.
An Empire of Ice: Scott, Shackleton, and the Heroic Age of Antarctic Science Edward J. Larson Yale University Press 302 Temple Street New Haven, Connecticut 06511 USA 2011. 326 pages. US$ 28.00 ISBN: 978-0-300-15408-5
While the early Antarctic explorers Amundsen, Scott and Shackleton are known for their individual quests to be the first to reach the South Pole, the author places these single-minded goals into a larger story—that of massive scientific enterprises. Larson looks at the larger scientific, social and geopolitical context of the era and explores the nascent days of international scientific cooperation. Contents: • “Three Cheers for the Dogs” • A Compass Pointing South • The Empire’s Mapmaker • In Challenger’s Wake • Taking the Measure of Men • March to the Penguins • Discovering a Continent’s Past • The Meaning of Ice • Heroes’ Requiem • Notes, Index Extremely well written and documented, An Empire of Ice is a gripping account that reads almost like a thriller, demonstrating the explorers’ well-known courage and persistence in the face of atrocious hardship. At the close of another International Polar Year, it demonstrates how international scientific cooperation in the world’s coldest regions came to be established. Highly recommended.
Bottled Lightning: Superbatteries, Electric Cars, and the New Lithium Economy Seth Fletcher Hill and Wang, a division of Farrar, Straus and Giroux 18 West 18th Street New York, New York 10011 USA 2011. 260 pages. US$ 26.00 ISBN: 978-0-8090-3053-8
Starting with the invention of the battery and ending with electric cars, the author traces the arc of scientists’ quest to convert stored chemical energy into electrical energy. Lithium, which powers nearly all batteries today, is at the heart of the story; Fletcher travels from the salt flats of Bolivia to university laboratories to follow the path of this essential element. The book focuses on the environmental movement, the American auto industry, patent wars and government policies, all of which play a part in the shaping of the lithium battery and its uses. Contents: • Prologue • The Electricians • False Start • The Wireless Revolution • Reviving the Electric Car • The Blank Spot at the Heart of the Car • The Lithium Wars
rolling in the last quarter of the book—rollicking story. [He gives] us the history, the science, the business and the characters without veering off into irrelevant territory. . . . Fletcher ends his book with a look at how— 211 years after the battery’s invention—we are practically speaking just at the beginning of its potential. LeVine S: “Book Review: Seth Fletcher’s ‘Bottled Lightning’,” Foreign Policy (May 17, 2011), http:// oilandglory.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2011/05/16/ book_review_seth_fletchers_bottled_lightning (accessed August 29, 2011).
Mr. Fletcher does a good job surveying this old-yet-nascent industry in the U.S. . . . Some commentators worry that we’re going to replace our dependence on foreign oil with a dependence on foreign batteries—and foreign lithium. Bottled Lightning alleviates at least one worry: By taking us to the salt flats of the ‘Lithium Triangle’ in Chile, Bolivia and Argentina, Mr. Fletcher shows us the abundance of the metal and puts to rest any fears of ‘peak lithium.’ . . . Mr. Fletcher makes a good case that the electric-car trend may soon be able to shed its dubious reputation as a public-private hybrid and roll under its own power. Bailey R: “Charging Ahead,” The Wall Street Journal (May 16, 2011), http://online.wsj.com/ article/SB100014240574870373080457631748127 6537422.html (accessed August 26, 2011).
• The Brink • The Stimulus • The Prospectors • The Lithium Triangle • The Goal • Epilogue • Appendix: Global Lithium Reserves and Identified Resources • Notes, Selected Bibliography, Index
Ives JD: Choice 49, no. 2 (October 2011): 336.
Fletcher, a senior editor at Popular Science magazine, clearly sides with the scientists and engineers who occupy this tightly written book. . . . he hopes they are right, and that the era of oil winds down. But he does not fall into the technologywriter’s trap of becoming gee-whizzy about his subject, which is just the right tone. This is a well-written, smart and—when Fletcher gets
Hagen JB: Choice 49, no. 2 (October 2011): 327.