Armageddon Science: The Science of Mass Destruction

Brian Clegg, St. Martin's, $25.99 (288p) ISBN 978-0-312-59894-5
Clegg (Before the Big Bang) explores how runaway science and other disasters might destroy humanity. He begins with the much discussed but highly speculative concerns over the operation of CERN's Large Hadron Collider. The collider is designed to recreate energies equal to those existing at the time of the big bang, which some theorists say might create a chain reaction that would dissolve the world and even the universe. Discounting the danger as hypothetical in the extreme, Clegg moves on to other possible doomsday scenarios. The short list includes nuclear bombs and nuclear power, climate change, biohazards, nanobots, the threat of transforming humans into enhanced Homo cyberneticus, and the more credible threat of a total "information breakdown." In each case he expertly describes the science and evaluates the seriousness of the threat. Clegg is an optimist and never a fearmonger. Even his discussion of climate change, a subject he admits is "depressing," ends with the options available to avoid catastrophe. Clegg ends with a call for better science education so that "the voting public" can "control science wisely." He also passionately argues that the value of science far outweighs the dangers of its misuse or of new technologies. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 09/27/2010
Release date: 10/01/2010
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