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Science Books

December 14, 2006

Dark Cosmos: In Search Of Our Universe's Missing Mass And Energy
Dan Hooper (2006)
ISBN: 006113032X

It may sound unbelievable, but all the matter we can see comprises only 5 percent of the entire matter existing in the universe. That's a full 95 percent that's invisible to us! Scientists relegate this unknown into two categories - dark matter and dark energy. What it is, where it resides and how it can be detected are questions that have been foremost on physicist's minds since the last century. Now, particle physicist Dan Hooper, a fellow in the theoretical astrophysics group at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, reveals how these questions are being addressed using the latest technology. Hooper explains that scientists have known about dark matter for some time, and have even observed, so to speak, a number of galaxies almost entirely comprised of the stuff. Dark energy, on the other hand, is a relatively new concept, which scientists believe is responsible for the acceleration of our expanding universe. There are many theories attempting to explain the composition of dark energy currently doing the rounds, and Hooper does a grand job covering them. Previous theories suggested that particles such as neutrinos comprised the bulk of dark energy, but these have since been dismissed and revised to include bizarrely-named particles such as Higgsinos, sneutrinos and zinos. Dark Cosmos is an excellent introduction to the dark side of the universe, and an up-to-date account of what scientists know about it.

Plug-In Hybrids: The Cars That Will Recharge America
Sherry Boschert (2006)
ISBN: 0865715718

As awareness of our impact on the planet grows, so too does our desire to become more enviro-friendly. The hot topic at the moment is the growing realization that alternatives to fossil fuels must be found. Sherry Boschert, a journalist and co-founder and president of the San Francisco Electric Vehicle Association, thinks that the answer has already arrived in the form of the "plug-in" hybrid car. Boschert explains that the plug-in hybrid will not only reduce pollution, but will also save people money, and even increase America's security by reducing its dependence on imported oil. Boschert also suggests that the plug-in hybrid will make an excellent transitional mode of environmentally friendly transport while we are waiting for more permanent alternatives, such as hydrogen fuel-cell cars and the like. Political and commercial controversy surrounds the development of electric cars, and Plug-in Hybrids includes commentary from a number of high-profile political players and individuals involved in the automotive industry. Boschert also relates an attempt to use the Internet to amass a network of engineers charged with building the first non-profit plug-in Prius hybrids. Other advocates include former CIA director R. James Woolsey - a former national security hawk - who says hybrids must be introduced in order to wean us off our nefarious addiction to petroleum. Plug-in Hybrids is ultimately Boschert's account of how rational attempts to introduce cleaner, cheaper cars have been subverted by the automotive industry. In this respect, Boschert's goal is to successfully equip the reader with enough background information and science to scupper any further delaying tactics.

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