Science Weekly podcast: how to rebuild our world from scratch

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  1. The Knowledge: How to Rebuild our World from Scratch by Lewis Dartnell

    Maybe an asteroid hit Earth. Perhaps a nuclear war reduced our cities to radioactive rubble. Or avian flu killed most of the population. Whatever the cause, the world as we know it has ended and now the survivors must start again. But how do we set about rebuilding our world from scratch?

    Once you’ve salvaged what you can from the debris, how do you grow food and make clothes? How do you generate energy and develop medicines? And once you’ve mastered the essentials, how do you smelt metals, make gunpowder, or build a primitive radio set?

    The Knowledge is a guidebook for survivors. We have become disconnected not only from the beautiful fundamentals of science and technology but even from the basic skills and knowledge on which our lives and our world depend.

    The Knowledge is a journey of discovery, a book which explains everything you need to know about everything. Here is the blueprint for rebooting civilisation.

    It will transform your understanding of the world – and help you prepare for when it’s no longer here.

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  2. Lewis Dartnell: How To Rebuild The World From Scratch | Peak Prosperity

    If our technological society collapsed tomorrow, what crucial knowledge would we need to survive in the immediate aftermath and to rebuild civilization as quickly as possible?

    Ask yourself this: If you had to go back to absolute basics like some sort of post-cataclysmic Robinson Caruso, would you know how to recreate an internal combustion engine? Put together a microscope? Get metals out of rock? Or produce food for yourself?

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  3. The Knowledge: How To Rebuild Our World From Scratch - WICI Talk with Lewis Dartnell

    Maybe it was an asteroid impact, a nuclear war, or a viral pandemic. Whatever the cause, the world as we know it has ended and you and the other survivors must start again. What key knowledge would you need to not only survive in the immediate post-apocalyptic aftermath, but avert another Dark Ages and accelerate the rebooting of civilisation from scratch? Living in the modern world, we have become disconnected from the basic processes that support our lives, as well as the beautiful fundamentals of science that enable you to relearn things for yourself. In this WICI Talk, Lewis Dartnell shares work from The Knowledge: How To Rebuild Our World From Scratch, a grand thought experiment on the behind-the-scenes fundamentals of how our world works, and what drove the progression of civilisation over the centuries. The Knowledge is a New York Times and Sunday Times bestseller, and was also awarded The Times ‘New Thinking’ Book of the Year.

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  4. Lewis Dartnell, The Knowledge: How to rebuild our world from scratch | Talks at Google

    17 April, 2014 Google UK

    About the book: If civilisation were brought to its knees by a virus, a nuclear winter or an asteroid — taking with it the accumulated wealth of our technical and scientific prowess — what knowledge would you walk away with? Would you be able to describe the working of an internal combustion engine or a microscope?

    Individually, most of us (even scientists, confined to their specialised fields) are more ignorant than we care to admit about the basic processes of the civilisation that supports us. Taking the end of the world as its starting point, this brilliantly original popular science book provides the reader with a tool kit: the essential knowledge the survivors of an apocalypse would need in order to start rebuilding a technological society from scratch, from methods for scavenging in the dead cities, making drugs and purifying water, to the best ways to restart agriculture and a chemical industry, generate power and travel long distances. Both a thought experiment (what crucial technological knowledge should we leave behind?) and a primer on the beautiful basics of science, The Knowledge will transform your understanding of the world.

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  5. Lewis Dartnell at The Interval at Long Now | San Francisco

    Lewis Dartnell at The Interval: From the cultivation of the first crops to the founding of modern states, the human story is the story of environmental forces, from plate tectonics and climate change, to atmospheric circulation and ocean currents.

    Professor Lewis Dartnell will dive into the planet’s deep past, where history becomes science, to explore a web of connections that underwrites our modern world, and that can help us face the challenges of the future.

    Lewis Dartnell is a Professor of Science Communication at the University of Westminster. Before that, he completed his biology degree at the University of Oxford and his PhD at UCL, and then worked as the UK Space Agency research fellow at the University of Leicester, studying astrobiology and searching for signs of life on Mars. He has won several awards for his science writing and contributes to the Guardian, The Times, and New Scientist. He is also the author of three books. He lives in London, UK.

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  6. Robert Harris on Cicero, Hitchhiker’s revisited and the art of the book editor

    Robert Harris talks to Claire Armitstead about Lustrum, the second novel in his Cicero trilogy - and explains why he dedicated the book to Peter Mandelson. Plus, our studio panel discusses Eoin Colfer’s revisiting of Douglas Adams’s Hitchiker’s series, and the art of the book editor

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  7. Yuval Noah Harari on Homo Deus

    Yuval Noah Harari, author of the bestselling Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, envisions a not-too-distant world in which we face a new set of challenges. Where do we go from here? And how will we protect this fragile world from our own destructive powers? In Homo Deus, he examines our future with his trademark blend of science, history, philosophy and every discipline in between.

    In this month’s podcast we talk with research scientist and author of The Knowledge, Prof. Lewis Dartnell about the impact of Harari’s last book Sapiens before speaking to Harari himself about his vision of our future.

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  8. Vernor Vinge Is Optimistic About the Collapse of Civilization

    Noted author and futurist Vernor Vinge is surprisingly optimistic when it comes to the prospect of civilization collapsing.

    “I think that [civilization] coming back would actually be a very big surprise,” he says in this week’s episode of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “The difference between us and us 10,000 years ago is … we know it can be done.”

    Vinge has a proven track record of looking ahead. His 1981 novella True Names was one of the first science fiction stories to deal with virtual reality, and he also coined the phrase, “The Technological Singularity” to describe a future point at which technology creates intelligences beyond our comprehension. The term is now in wide use among futurists.

    But could humanity really claw its way back after a complete collapse? Haven’t we plundered the planet’s resources in ways that would be impossible to repeat?

    “I disagree with that,” says Vinge. “With one exception — fossil fuels. But the stuff that we mine otherwise? We have concentrated that. I imagine that ruins of cities are richer ore fields than most of the natural ore fields we have used historically.”

    That’s not to say the collapse of civilization is no big deal. The human cost would be horrendous, and there would be no comeback at all if the crash leaves no survivors. A ravaged ecosphere could stymie any hope of rebuilding, as could a disaster that destroys even the ruins of cities.

    “I am just as concerned about disasters as anyone,” says Vinge. “I have this region of the problem that I’m more optimistic about than some people, but overall, avoiding existential threats is at the top of my to-do list.”

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