cover image Science and the City: The Mechanics Behind the Metropolis

Science and the City: The Mechanics Behind the Metropolis

Laurie Winkless. Sigma, $27 (304p) ISBN 978-1-4729-1321-0

In this cheerful addition to the how-things-work genre, physicist and science writer Winkless reminds readers that urban areas are now home to more than half the human race and use an increasing proportion of the Earth’s natural resources, so it behooves people to know how they operate. Winkless enthusiastically delivers eight chapters that combine expert interviews with lucid explanations of city infrastructure (buildings, energy sources, water supply) and transportation (roads, cars, mass transport). Readers will encounter good elucidations of how skyscrapers are built, subways are dug, and sewage is carried off, but Winkless spends more time on the future in which cities must deal with overpopulation, global warming, and resource exhaustion. Tirelessly curious, she turns up an array of dazzling developments in the works, including driverless cars, pollution-free sources of locally generated energy, and an advanced “Internet of Things” in which every device anticipates personal needs. Of course, many of these are laboratory curiosities and likely to remain so. Winkless takes her material seriously, but her aim is accessibility, so her prose is dense with jokes, amusing asides, and cute footnotes befitting a “friendly science guide.” Even readers who aren’t enamored of her style will encounter fascinating information on how cities function and how they might do better. (Oct.)