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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If the apocalypse comes, find Lewis Dartnell and put him in charge of the rebuilding effort.
I'd been looking forward to reading this book before its publication as it sounded like a great idea but also such a monumental undertaking; I wasn't sure how Dartnell was going to tackle the entirety of human science and engineering in ~350 pages. His approach made a lot of sense, and I have to commend him in sticking to a logical and 'first-principles' approach that...
Published 8 months ago by Mr A. J. Rushby

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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great Concept, Poorly Executed
My three stars is for concept. The book fails for me because it doesn't identify credible global-civilization-killers, it omits the essential first step of rebuilding free societies, it wastes time describing technologies that are unlikely to be lost, and its superficial descriptions of more complex technologies won't be of practical use.
Of its civilization-killers,...
Published 4 months ago by JPMT


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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If the apocalypse comes, find Lewis Dartnell and put him in charge of the rebuilding effort., 19 April 2014
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I'd been looking forward to reading this book before its publication as it sounded like a great idea but also such a monumental undertaking; I wasn't sure how Dartnell was going to tackle the entirety of human science and engineering in ~350 pages. His approach made a lot of sense, and I have to commend him in sticking to a logical and 'first-principles' approach that kept me interested and engaged throughout. It wouldn't be possible (or make for a very interesting read) to do it any other way! After finishing it I felt I had a renewed respect and perspective on how far we've come, but also how quickly we could fall given how distantly removed many of us are from the ideas and processes that keep our advanced societies ticking over. I feel grateful to the many, mostly nameless, giants on whose shoulders we stand as they slowly chipped away at the rockface of progress to deliver us to the point at which I could read this book on a tiny handheld device weighing next-to-nothing whilst sitting on a plane! The Knowledge will help us pick up the pieces should we stumble, and should be required reading for everyone.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic Summary of the Modern World's Underpinnings, 29 April 2014
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This review is from: The Knowledge: How to Rebuild our World from Scratch (Hardcover)
Lewis Dartnell has put into one volume more useful information on the underpinnings of our society than I have ever seen in one place. Every schoolchild should read this.

It's not a complete manual, for it would have been infeasibly large in that case, but it is a great guide, and being reasonably educated in technology and science, I still learned a lot. In a few cases, you'd like just a bit more explanation, but again, it's one small volume.

In one way, it can also be read as a novel in a unique (to me) second person future tense format- "you are going to............", although don't take that analogy too far.

Later on in the book, it does seem as if LD has got a bit bored, and one or two items are a bit peremptory, but it remains highly enjoyable.

I checked a few numbers which seemed Ok, but I think I spotted one mistake. On p280, he requires that the tube in a glass barometer be a constant diameter- I don't think that's right, as the pressure is affected only by height of a fluid column, not volume. Any thoughts out there? Oh, I think I see now, calibration would be hard if not constant diameter-it wouldn't be linear. Too pedantic as ever.....
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What it says on the tin..., 26 May 2014
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This review is from: The Knowledge: How to Rebuild our World from Scratch (Hardcover)
I'm no 'prepper', I'm just very, very well-read, but I was astonished how much of the stuff in this book used to be 'common knowledge' in science and text books I still half-remember. Now, such interesting but off-curriculum material has been squeezed out. Libraries shun it as irrelevant. It may be 'out there' on the wwweb, but...

A cautionary note; technically, this is a 'work in progress'. I'd hope that the second or third edition will be printed on 'acid free' paper, so endure until required. Similarly, I'd hope this book may spawn a set of supplementary volumes, a modest return to those well-thumbed 'home cyclopaedia' works beloved of grannies and aunts...
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars DIY tech, 27 April 2014
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This review is from: The Knowledge: How to Rebuild our World from Scratch (Hardcover)
Many books chart the history of science and technology. This one offers a new twist, imagining what can be done to rebuild civilisation after a cataclysm has wiped out most of the population.

As tech history, it's pretty good, though the illustrations could be better and more numerous. As post apocalypse manual it's less good. The author has little to say about staying alive, and nothing about how to reestablish functional law and order, trade and a medium of exchange. Social problems are not Dartnell's field, but they would surely loom large in the aftermath. These may be harder problems than building your own chemical plant, but for those who are interested in chemical plants, home made sextants and such like I'd recommend this book.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For those curious about how our technological civilisation started,functions and how to rebuild it if it fails, 21 April 2014
This review is from: The Knowledge: How to Rebuild our World from Scratch (Hardcover)
Just finished The Knowledge by Lewis Dartnell its nominally about how to rebuild civilisation if it ever falls. For that purpose it is a must have for anybody who thinks civilisation might collapse during their lifetime*1 or the lifetime of anyone who they might care about and is on the list to inherit their personal library. But it is also an interesting and entertaining read on how our technological civilisation was created,how things work and are interconnected . I was aware of knew a fair bit of the contents of the book but it did join up the dots of quite a few things I knew about separately. Its kind of the book equivalent of James Burke's connections TV series (for any of you old enough to remember it) for the important parts of our technological civilisation and it would be of interest even to those who don't think civilisation is on its way out. I was lucky enough to get my copy free by coming 2nd in a twitter competition and its the best non fiction book I have ever been given and that's coming from a person who now has to double stack books in his personal library.

The book also has its own website with additions :-

[...]

*1 Being a fully paid up tinfoil hat wearing paranoid I would not currently give odds better than 50/50 of our civilisation making it to the 22nd century but unfortunately its unlikely I could ever collect on the side I would bet on, on at least 2 counts ;-) ];-)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars All the things you thought you'd never need, 22 April 2014
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Following a review in the Times, I thought I'd dip in.

This covers a lot of stuff and gives some basic ideas on how to do things. Hopefully I will never need to know any of these. What would be great is a series of 'projects' to achieve some of the things talked about - i.e. detailed information on making butter, smoked food etc so that we could try some of these things out.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great Concept, Poorly Executed, 4 Aug 2014
This review is from: The Knowledge: How to Rebuild our World from Scratch (Hardcover)
My three stars is for concept. The book fails for me because it doesn't identify credible global-civilization-killers, it omits the essential first step of rebuilding free societies, it wastes time describing technologies that are unlikely to be lost, and its superficial descriptions of more complex technologies won't be of practical use.
Of its civilization-killers, nuclear winter is unlikely since, worst case, about 2,000 sub-megaton warheads will airburst over hard targets so won't start fire storms. Pandemics aren't civilization killers: the 14th Century British took the double-hit of 2 degrees climate cooling and the 60% mortality Black Death and went on to create The Enlightenment. Extinction-level meteorite hits are 100 million year events and we'll hopefully be off-planet when the next one comes (if not, the cockroaches will take over).
If we do have some other civilization killer, we're just 7 meals away from anarchy where it's easier and quicker to take stuff from others by force rather than to make it yourself. That leads to mass starvation, then population collapse, then tribalism, then empires powered by slaves (China, Athens, Rome, all feudal societies). We got beyond that because a relatively free British society figured out how to use fossil fuels instead of slaves and spread that technology by trade.
So the essential first step is to build such a society in the midst of heavily armed predators. For that the book says you need guns, but that's only the start. You'll need thousands of trained fighters, more fire power than the opposition (automatic weapons, artillery, armour, RPGs, plenty of ammunition, etc), and defensible locations. The book suggests prisons as safe havens, but competent assault teams can easily crack them. Nuclear plants are better and bring the bonus of free power.
After surviving the post-catastrophe madness the survivors can build a society as free the Enlightenment Brits. They won't need the book's advice on food and clothing, since that'll be preserved in the rural populations least likely to die in the collapse.
Rebooting will follow as tinkerers discover new facts, practical people make pragmatic improvements to existing machines, traders swap goods and services with other societies, and Adam Smith's magic of specialization and exchange builds collective wealth. This is where concrete reboot information can speed things up. The book's list of technologies is fine but concentrates on explaining how they work rather than the essential details of how to build them.
So a useful reboot manual is possible, but needs a collaboration between (at least) an historian, a sociologist, an economist, a farmer, an engineer, and a scientist.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brain Candy, 4 Jun 2014
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J. McAllister - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Knowledge: How to Rebuild our World from Scratch (Hardcover)
There are several ways you could look at this book;

A manual for restarting civilisation
A fascinating insight into what underpins our way of life
The stuff our grandparents knew and we forgot

Take your pick! It's a good read if you're interested in how things work. I hope they pop a few copies on the shelves along with the seed bank at Svalbard.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Survival, 30 May 2014
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An excellent instruction on how to re-build civilisation when necessary. I wouldn't wish to re-biold it, however, can do without it.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good idea but not that well executed, 24 May 2014
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This review is from: The Knowledge: How to Rebuild our World from Scratch (Hardcover)
Nice idea, to base a book about basic technological procesess and how to reindustialise from scratch on the scenario that man has somehow been almost wiped out. Trouble is that one soon gets the - correct - impression that the author is writing about subjects of which he is no expert. He also leaves out swathes of information that on would think wolud be covered - eg he talks about growing crops but says nothing about animal husbandry. And what about fishing. Wouldnt that be higely useful? So how do you make fishing rods and nets and fish traps?He discusses using woool for clothing but what about tanning leather? He'll waffle on about the flying shuttle but at the end i am no wiser about how it works and i get the impression that he doesnt know either. Neither are the details of the chemical reactions he mentions gone into. This book is definately not a survivalist s handbook, and neither is it much about the science behind basic technolgies. If the modern world ends you will want experts around with practical experience of how to "reboot" civilisation from zero and communicate that knowledge - this author is not one of them.
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The Knowledge: How to Rebuild our World from Scratch
The Knowledge: How to Rebuild our World from Scratch by Lewis Dartnell (Hardcover - 3 April 2014)
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