Energy supply is foundational to modern society, but damaging to the environment. This book takes a 'systems view', from extraction of primary fuel, through conversion to usable energy, and transportation to point of use. It explores initiatives to generate electricity in an environmentally benign manner, and decarbonise the supply of energy.
Leo Tolstoy is one of the greatest novelists ever to have lived, whose books have stood the test of time to remain widely recognised as literary masterpieces today. This Very Short Introduction explores his celebrated novels and nonfiction writings to reveal the core themes and thought at the heart of Tolstoy's work.
Physics encompasses all levels of nature from the subatomic to the cosmic, and underlies much of the technology around us. From modern quantum mechanics to cosmology, digital electronics, and energy production, this book discusses why physics is worth doing and how physicists do it.
Dyslexia is gaining increasing recognition as a relatively common learning disorder. Margaret Snowling introduces the exciting research surrounding dyslexia, considering potential causes, the neuroscience behind it and attempts to understand how it works, and the various strategies and interventions which can help people with dyslexia today.
What is innovation? How can it be used? Why is failure so common in the process of innovation? This Very Short Introduction looks at what innovation is, what it has done for us, and why it has been so important in the last 150 years.
The tide is important to Earth's climate, the biological productivity of our seas, and our hunt for renewable energy sources. It is also thought to have played a role in the evolution of life on Earth. This book explains the nature and cause of the tide, its observation and prediction, unusual tides, and their relevance to us.
'Identity' as a concept has many faces, and its very versatility in different contexts can make it hard to define. Florian Coulmas discusses the many meanings of this slippery concept, considering why individual and collective identities are important to us, and discussing the problems asserting individual identities can create.
In this Very Short Introduction Bernard O'Donoghue explores the many different forms of writing which have been called 'poetry', from the Greeks to the present day. He considers the varying status and uses of poetry, and engages with contemporary debates as to what value poetry holds today.
The Iliad and the Odyssey are the cornerstones of Western literature, inspiring artists, writers, philosophers, musicians, playwrights, and film-makers throughout history. Barbara Graziosi introduces Homer's key works and discusses the main literary, historical, and archaeological issues at the heart of Homeric studies.
This concise guide explains the history, theory, potential, application, and limitations of Artificial Intelligence. Boden shows how research into AI has shed light on the working of human and animal minds, and she considers the philosophical challenges AI raises: could programs ever be really intelligent, creative or even conscious?
Gordon Campbell embraces the beauty and practicality of gardens in their many forms, in history and culture across the world. He also look at variations on the modern garden, including the suburban garden, the city garden, the guerrilla garden, and the vegetable garden, and considers the future of gardens.
The Psychology of Music: A Very Short Introduction seeks to answer fundamental questions of enduring interest, such as "What is musicality?" and "How does music move us?" In doing so, it reveals what happens when science attempts to confront some of the deepest questions about music.
In The History of Childhood: A Very Short Introduction, Marten provides a sweeping narrative of the key features of childhood through time and around the world, focusing on conflict and change, war and reform, and the issues and conditions that have shaped childhood throughout history and continue to shape it in the twenty-first century.
This book offers a thorough and lively introduction to the Hebrew Bible's two primary literary modes, narrative and poetry, foregrounding the nuances of plot, character, metaphor, structure and design, and intertextual allusions.
This Very Short Introduction considers who the poor are, where they live, what their lives are like, and what obstacles or barriers they face. Looking at the complex issues that cause the prevalence, depth, and severity of poverty to vary across countries and over time, it considers possible future solutions.
Jonathan Post introduces all of Shakespeare's poetry, including the sonnets and his great narrative poems, and explores themes of love and lust in these works. He also considers the debates surrounding their disputed authorship, and the impact these poems had, from contemporary readers right up to today.
Covering Geoffrey Chaucer's life and work, David Wallace considers the influence and enduring appeal of his body of writing, explores the wide ranging geography and iconic characters in his stories, and discusses how Chaucer's own experiences contributed to his literature.
This book uncovers the reality of organised crime, considering what is meant by the term 'organised', and discussing the different forms of activities organised crime engages in, from human trafficking to extortion. Offering a global perspective, from the Mafia to the Yakuza, it considers efforts to combat organised crime today.
Tom Burns explores the nature of psychiatry today, focusing on what it can and cannot do, and considering the main disorders it covers. Discussing the philosophical issues of psychiatry, he reveals psychiatry's past mistakes, before looking forward to the likely changes in its future practice with artificial intelligence and virtual reality.
This book explores the nature of scepticism, asking when it is legitimate, for example as the driver of new ideas, and when it is problematic. It also tackles how scepticism is related to contemporary social and political phenomena, such as fake news, and examines a radical form of scepticism which maintains that knowledge is impossible.
Marina Warner guides us through the rich world of fairy tale, from Cinderella and Hansel and Gretel to Snow White and Pan's Labyrinth. Exploring pervasive themes of folklore, myth, the supernatural, imagination, and fantasy, Warner highlights the impact of the genre on human understanding, history, and culture.
How does the physics we know today - a highly professionalised enterprise, inextricably linked to government and industry - link back to its origins as a liberal art in Ancient Greece? John Heilbron's crisp and witty book tells the 2500-year story and highlights the implications for humankind's self-understanding.
Climate scientists, geologists, ecologists, and archaeologists recognize the profound effects of human activity on Earth, though whether and how this should be recognized as a formal geological epoch - the Anthropocene - remains under debate, Erle Ellis describes how the Anthropocene concept is affecting the sciences, humanities, and politics.
Bence Nanay introduces aesthetics, a branch of philosophy that explores the nature of art, beauty, and taste. Looking beyond traditional artistic experiences, he defends the topic from accusations of elitism, and shows how more everyday experiences such as the pleasure in a soft fabric or falling leaves can become the subject of aesthetics.
This book explores the mathematical field of topology, giving a sense of the visual elements of the field, as well as the formal definition of continuity. Considering some of the eye-opening examples that led mathematicians to study topology, it pays homage to the historical people, problems, and surprises that propelled the growth of the field.
An essay about how we study and understand history, this book begins by inviting us to think about various questions provoked by our investigation of history. It explores the ways these questions have been answered in the past. It also introduces the concepts of causation, interpretation, and periodization, through examples of how historians work.
Rene Descartes had a short working life, and his output was small, yet he made significant contributions to philosophy and science. This book shows that Descartes was, above all, an advocate and practitioner of a new mathematical approach to physics, and that he developed his metaphysics to support his programme in the sciences.
Ethnomusicology, an academic discipline founded in 1950, has been defined as the study of the music of others. This definition, at once whimsical and very nearly true, is incomplete. Many of its strongest threads have emerged because a person or a people have wanted to understand themselves, their history, and their identity.
The Norman Conquest in 1066 was the last time England was successfully invaded, and was one of the most profound turning points in English history. This fascinating Very Short Introduction focuses on the differing ways the invasion was viewed by those who witnessed it, and how its legacy has been interpreted by generations since.
Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) revolutionized the way in which we think about ourselves. From its beginnings as a theory of neurosis, Freud developed psycho-analysis into a general psychology which became widely accepted as the predominant mode of discussing personality and interpersonal relationships.
In a startling reinterpretation of the evidence, Stillman Drake advances the hypothesis that Galileo's trial and condemnation by the Inquisition was caused not by his defiance of the Church, but by the hostility of contemporary philosophers.
Law touches every aspect of our daily lives, and yet the main concepts, terms, and processes of the legal system remain obscure to many. This Very Short Introduction, in its second edition, provides a lucid, accessible guide to modern legal systems, explaining how the law works across our contemporary digital world.
Fundamentalism is seen as the major threat to world peace today, a conclusion impossible to ignore since the events in New York on September 11 2001. But what is fundamentalism? Malise Ruthven tackles the polemic and stereotypes surrounding this complex phenomenon - one that eludes simple definition, yet urgently needs to be understood.
A. C. Grayling's accessible introduction to Wittgenstein's work describes both his early and later philosophy, the differences and connections between them, and gives a fresh assessment of Wittgenstein's continuing influence on contemporary thought.
This book will transform the way you think about design by showing how integral it is to our daily lives, from the spoon we use to eat our breakfast cereal to the medical equipment used to save lives. John Heskett goes beyond style and taste to look at how different cultures and individuals personalise objects.
Attempts to take readers from no knowledge about the science of human intelligence to a stage where they are able to make judgements for themselves about some of the key questions about human mental ability differences. Each chapter deals with a central issue, and is structured around a diagram, which is explained in the course of the chapter.
Arguably, nationality is the most important social phenomenon in the world today. But what is the nation? Why is it so important to human beings? What is its relation to religion and commerce? Steven Grosby shows how closely linked the concept of nationalism is with being human.
In this Very Short Introduction, Ritchie Robertson provides the newcomer with an up-to-date and accessible examination of this fascinating author. Beginning with an examination of Kafka's life, he then goes on to discuss some of the major themes that emerge in Kafka's work, using his short story Metamorphosis as a recurring example.
What do we mean by 'tragedy' now? When we turn on the news, does a report of the latest atrocity have any connection with Sophocles and Shakespeare? Addressing questions about belief, blame, revenge, pain, witnessing and ending, this book demonstrates the enduring significance of attempts to understand terrible suffering.
Few Americans and even fewer citizens of other nations understand the electoral process in the United States. The second edition of this Very Short Introduction offers an up-to-date overview of American political parties and elections, providing an insider's view of how the system actually works while shining a light on some of its flaws.
In its heyday in the late 1990s, neoliberalism emerged as the world's dominant economic paradigm. But the global financial crisis of 2008-9 fundamentally shocked a globalized economy built on neoliberal assumptions. This VSI examines the origins, core claims, and considerable variations of neoliberalism with examples from around the world.
English Literature: A Very Short Introduction discusses why literature matters, how narrative works, and what is distinctly English about English literature. Jonathan Bate considers how we determine the content of the field, and looks at the three major kinds of imaginative literature - English poetry, English drama and The English novel.
Jesus Christ is undoubtedly the best-known and most influential human person in world history. Richard Bauckham explores the life of the historical Jesus, using the four Gospels to reconstruct his character, showing how their differences provide us with an insight into more than one angle of a complex historical figure.
This book tells the story of modern drama through its seminal, groundbreaking plays and performances, and the artistic diversity that these represent. Exploring the new note of artistic hostility between dramatists and their audience, Shepherd-Barr draws on a range of theories and performances to reveal what makes modern drama "modern".
Psychology influences the way we think about everything, from education and intelligence to relationships and advertising. This updated Very Short Introduction by Gillian Butler and Freda McManus provides an exploration of the leadings ideas and theories of psychology for anyone interested in understanding the human mind.
In this Very Short Introduction Jonathan A. Brown presents both the Muslim version of Muhammad's life, as well as the efforts of Western scholars to uncover the historical Muhammad. He considers the prominent roles that Muhammad's persona has played in the lives of Muslims throughout history, looking at his life and legacy.