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Available from

withouthotair.com as a free download



Addressing the sustainable energy crisis in an objective manner, this enlightening book analyzes the relevant numbers and organizes a plan for change on both a personal level and an international scale - for Europe, the United States, and the world. In case study format, this informative reference answers questions surrounding nuclear energy, the potential of sustainable fossil fuels, and the possibilities of sharing renewable power with foreign countries. While underlining the difficulty of minimizing consumption, the tone remains positive as it debunks misinformation and clearly explains the calculations of expenditure per person to encourage people to make individual changes that will benefit the world at large. If you've thrown your hands up in despair thinking no solution is possible, then read this book - it's an honest, realistic, and humorous discussion of all our energy options.

About the author

David MacKay FRS was the Regius Professor of Engineering at the University of Cambridge. He studied Natural Sciences at Cambridge and then obtained his PhD in Computation and Neural Systems at the California Institute of Technology. He returned to Cambridge as a Royal Society research fellow at Darwin College. He was internationally known for his research in machine learning, information theory, and communication systems, including the invention of Dasher, a software interface that enables efficient communication in any language with any muscle. He was appointed a Lecturer in the Department of Physics at Cambridge in 1995 and was a Professor in the Department of Physics from 2003 to 2013. Since 2005, he devoted much of his time to public teaching about energy. He was a Fellow of the Royal Society.

Nine months after the publication of 'Sustainable Energy - without the hot air', David MacKay was appointed Chief Scientific Advisor to the Department of Energy and Climate Change.

About the book

Category: popular science
Author: David JC MacKay FRS
Professor of Natural Philosophy,
Department of Physics,
University of Cambridge
Publisher: UIT
Publication date: 2nd December 2008 (UK)
1st May 2009 (USA)
Available in hardcover and paperback, 380 pages, full colour
ISBN: 9780954452933 / 978-1-906860-01-1

About the "free book" license

This is a free book. The author didn't write this book to make money. He wrote it because sustainable energy is important. If you would like to have the book for free for your own use, please help yourself to any of the electronic versions on his website - withouthotair.com. There's pdf and html versions (thanks to William Sigmund!); we are working on other formats.

This is a free book in a second sense: you are free to use all the material in this book, except for the cartoons and the photos with a named photographer, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share-Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales Licence. (The cartoons and photos are excepted because the authors have generally given permission only to include their work, not to share it under a Creative Commons license.) You are especially welcome to use the materials for educational purposes. The website includes links to separate high-quality files for each of the figures in the book.

This license does not allow you or anyone to print and sell the book on amazon marketplace!

In response to generous readers...

If you enjoy the free electronic copy of the book and would like to make a financial donation, without buying the paper book for yourself, please may I suggest that you find a library or a school that would like a paper copy of the book, and buy it for them? Thank you!
Apprentice Rocket Scientist
Posts: 102
Location: Portugal
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I give this book 9 out of 10 acorns.

It's unusual to find a good mixture of simplicity and, from what I can tell, accuracy - David Mackay does a fine job of simplifying things and thus allowing us to focus on the big picture.  The whole subject is a huge one and as such it's easy to get bogged down in detail; or to produce a treatise which consists of 50% mathematics.  It's also easy to oversimplify and this, in my view is avoided.  

The first part of the book goes into various aspects of our lives and of sustainable power and, in a fine series of approximations such as I might myself do on the back of an envelope, gives us a broad picture of the issues, and moreover of what we might do about them.  Although the picture is simplified, he regularly brings in fact checks with known data to back up the approximations he uses, which lends credence.  He also debunks various popular ideas and myths, in itself a good enough reason to read the book; as everyone involved in the field generally has their own axe to grind or hobby horse to preach from, it's useful to have someone look at things and say well yes, doing *thing* does help (e.g.) reduce carbon footprint but the effect is tiny and even if everyone did it, it wouldn't have much impact - whereas doing *this* would have a significant impact.

At the other end of the book are various technical chapters where he goes into more rigorous detail about the concepts in the first part.  This is nice to see if, like me, you are by inclination a scientist:  I can look at his workings and say "oh yes, that makes sense" and there are some fascinating conclusions like the one about the costs of flying aeroplanes (I won't spoil it for you).

The only real fault I can find is that the whole book is slightly out of date: although much is still current and relevant, and I can hardly fault the author for the book not being updated, as he's no longer around to do so!  The only thing that really looks dated to my eyes is the stuff about battery electric cars.  The progress in BEVs over the last 5 years, even, has been surprisingly fast and it's now getting to be that a BEV would do most of what any normal driver would want, rather than being a niche market thing for nutters.  It still remains for the charging systems to catch up, but there is some sign of progress there too.
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I give this book 9/10 acorns.

This is the most thorough analysis of the state of renewable energy technology, and its application on a national scale, that exists.  Mackay doesn't shy away from the technical details and clearly outlines the problems with extending renewable energy as part of a national energy strategy. This should be essential reading for anyone making policy or campaigning, but also for anyone looking at developing their own smaller systems for personal use.

Worth adding - this is available as a FREE PDF so no excuses for not reading it :D
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