In the Mail: Science edition

–> The Alchemy of Paint by Spike Bucklow

Description

The Alchemy of Paint is a critique of the modern world, which Spike Bucklow sees as the product of seventeenth-century ideas about science. In modern times, we have divorced color from its origins, using it for commercial advantage. Spike Bucklow shows us how in medieval times, color had mystical significance far beyond the enjoyment of shade and hue.

Each chapter demonstrates the mindset of medieval Europe and is devoted to just one color, acknowledging its connections with life in the pre-modern world. Colors examined and explained in detail include a midnight blue called ultramarine, an opaque red called vermilion, a multitude of colors made from metals, a transparent red called dragonsblood, and, finally, gold.

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The book looks at how color was “read” in the Middle Ages and returns to materials to look at the hidden meaning of the artists’ version of the philosopher’s stone. The penultimate chapter considers why everyone has always loved gold.

–> Who Turned Out the Lights?: Your Guided Tour to the Energy Crisis by Scott Bittle and Jean Johnson

Description

From the editors of PublicAgenda.org, an entertaining, irreverent, and absolutely essential nonpartisan guide to the energy crisis.

Energy: It’s a problem that never goes away (despite our best efforts as a nation to ignore it). Why has there been so much talk and so little action? In Who Turned Out the Lights? Scott Bittle and Jean Johnson offer a much-needed reality check: The “Drill, Baby, Drill” versus “Every Day Is Earth Day” battle is not solving our problems, and the finger-pointing is just holding us up.

Sorting through the political posturing and confusing techno-speak, they provide a fair-minded, “let’s skip the jargon” explanation of the choices we face. And chapters such as “It’s All Right Now (In Fact, It’s a Gas)” prove that, while the problem is serious, getting a grip on it doesn’t have to be. In the end, the authors present options from the right, left, and center but take just one position: The country must change the way it gets and uses energy, and the first step is to understand the choices.

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