The Knowledge by Lewis Dartnell

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The Knowledge by Lewis Dartnell

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Category: Popular Science
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Luke Marlowe
Reviewed by Luke Marlowe
Summary: The Knowledge is an essential read - an overview of humanity's achievements, and a reminder of what knowledge we should carry with us if the Apocalypse strikes, in order for the survivors to relearn and rebuild what we have. Concise, entertaining, well written and fantastically researched, The Knowledge is fantastic
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 352 Date: March 2015
Publisher: Vintage
ISBN: 9780099575832

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Post-apocalyptic depictions of earth are commonplace in Science Fiction - the wonderful (if hugely depressing) The Road by Cormac McCarthy, The MaddAdam trilogy by Margaret Atwood (although I believe Ms Atwood would be rather rankled to hear her books described as 'Science Fiction'), and the recent Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel are just a small drop in the very deep ocean of post-apocalyptic books.

All such books would have been rather different if the characters had on them a copy of The Knowledge when the apocalypse struck - they certainly wouldn't have ended up in futures as bleak and dark as the ones depicted - in fact, they would have been able to rebuild the world safely and rapidly.

Lewis Dartnell is, rather impressively, a UK Space Agency research Fellow - and yet found time to both research and write The Knowledge, a book that must have taken an incredible amount of hard work to create. In The Knowledge, Dartnell closely, carefully, yet always concisely details scientific methods and procedures in the fields of Agriculture, Food and Clothing, Substances, Materials, Medicine, Power, Transport, Communications, Advanced Chemistry.

With this book on hand, the surviving vestiges of mankind would be able to build with concrete, generate energy for heat and warmth, print more copies of this brilliant book, and rebuild communities far faster than they would do without. In addition, warning symbols are dotted throughout the book - so if the four-minute warning siren goes off and you find yourself heading to your bunker with a copy of this book - flick to the labelled pages and get a crash course in avoiding a new Dark Age.

An educational book that also happens to be hugely entertaining, The Knowledge is a wonderful achievement that, despite the apocalyptic context, joyfully celebrates the scientific discoveries that man has made, and really beseeches the reader to learn all of this knowledge for themselves, rather than leaving it for others. As someone who is woefully under-educated in the field of Science, I felt exhilarated by The Knowledge - eager to tell others about what I had learned and to learn more about the subjects covered.

A book that appeals to a really broad demographic, this book will make a fantastic present - and given that it already has plaudits from the Sunday Times and the New Scientist, it is certainly getting the attention it deserves.

Many thanks to the publishers for the copy.

In terms of further reading, The Tiger that Isn't by Michael Blastland and Andrew Dilnot explains numbers, figures and general mathematics in everyday terms - incredibly helpful for someone like myself, who finds numbers frankly terrifying... You might also appreciate A Practical Guide to Research Methods by Catherine Dawson.

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