Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Door Meten tot Weten

"In contrast to many energetics studies of the past which focus on narrow segments, 
--  GENERAL ENERGETICS   Energy in the Biosphere and Civilization  --  
presents a 'supersynthesis', linking biosphere and civilizational aspects, but still retains all the relevant critical energy storages, flows and conversions.

The book is the first comprehensive, single-volume treatment of all important aspects of biospheric and civilizational energetics. 

Since the 1960s, the growing activity in interdisciplinary analyses of complex systems has resulted in the publication of major sectIonal syntheses in many areas. This book combines these syntheses and the author's original interdisciplinary research in various fields of energetics over the past 25 years to form a grand overview of energy's indispensability in natural processes and in human affairs." 

...so advises the dust-cover blurb.  And it was not only in 1991 the 'first comprehensive, single-volume treatment' of 'Energy in the Biosphere and Civilization', but remains so to this day, as far as I could find out. A view of the index will illustrate:

Long studying and learning from the writings of Vaclav Smil, 
                          [37]  http://cleanenergypundit.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/tyger-tygers.html

and when Amazon found Smil's GENERAL ENERGETICS I had to have it - never mind the publication date of 1991; the whole gamut of Energy in the Biosphere and Civilization by the 'Einstein of Energetics' was not to be missed.  Greatly rewarded when reading alone the guiding principles of this book  --

from the Preface:

Energy is the only life and is
from the Body;
and Reason is the bound or outward circumference of Energy.
Energy is the only delight.
 William Blake
The Marriage of Heaven and Hell
and heading Chapter 1:

And the things best to know are first principles and causes.
for through them and from them all other things may be known but not they through the things covered by them...
But these things, the most universal, are perhaps the most difficult things for men to grasp,
for they are farthest removed from the senses.
all of which brought to mind:

Door Meten tot Weten
Through Measurement to Knowledge
or due to the closer language affinity to German

Durch Messen zu Wissen
Heike Kamerling Onnes
Dutch cryogenist and Nobel Laureate

The remainder of the cover blurb:

"GENERAL ENERGETICS stands apart owing to Its comprehensive, interdisciplinary, evolutionary coverage. It progresses from a detailed look at the planetary energetics (from solar radiation to earth tectonics), photosynthesis and heterotrophic metabolism, to an assessment of human energetics and food needs. Next it traces energetic foundations of all critical stages of Human evolution, from simple foraging to traditional agricultures and complexification of pre-industrial societies to the emergence of high energy fossil-fuelled civilization with its technical advances, social and environmental consequences, and uncertain prospects. It concludes with discussions of general patterns and trends of energy use, environmental implications, and socioeconomic considerations.

The book is also unique for its unifying approach based on several fundamental physical variables -- energy and power densities and intensities -- that are used as common denominators of otherwise disparate energy processes to assess the rates and limits of natural and anthropogenic conversions. It also focuses on the essentials to present defensible generalizations, outline critical processes, and portray a grand image of natural and civilizational energetics. This book will be of great benefit for readers from anthropologists to engineers and from biologists to historians." 

In the light of this last introductory paragraph alone, I would have thought that a more recent version of such an energetics overview must be available somewhere, but could not be found. And then I realised that the only reason I was able to obtain this invaluable overview of the whole gamut of energetics considerations was because a university exorcised it from its library:

Another similar instance happened when stumbling across The Birth of Thermodynamics cf. http://cleanenergypundit.blogspot.co.uk/2015/07/thefour-laws-withoutwhich-nothing.html [not forgetting its corollary: http://cleanenergypundit.blogspot.co.uk/2014/09/eroei-or-iou.htm] where another university resorted to similar exorcism of an historical scientific finding of lasting significance.

“Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times, it's enemy action” -- are there more instances of such university library clearances of significant publications providing insights of albeit historical milestones not to be forgotten or of 'context reckoners' 
crying out to be brought up-to-date? 

The existing chapter headings in outline might continue to do their service:
while first level subheadings might also serve as named if passing scrutiny:
before their respective fundamental physical variables are updated in line with the yellow highlighted quotation and paragraph above.  

My great hope would be that Vaclav Smil, a publisher and Bill Gates -- known proponent of Vaclav Smil  -- 
between them and co-opted others would find a solution to update and sustain this 'supersynthesis' .