Size: How it Explains the World

Size: How it Explains the World front cover

Publisher: William Morrow

ISBN: 978-0063324091

Hardcover, 292 pages

From the New York Times bestselling author of How the World Really Works, a wide-ranging look at the most fundamental governing principle of our world: size, whose laws, limits, and peculiarities offer the key to understanding health, wealth, and even happiness “No one writes about the great issues of our time with more rigor or erudition than Vaclav Smil.” — Elizabeth…

From the New York Times bestselling author of How the World Really Works, a wide-ranging look at the most fundamental governing principle of our world: size, whose laws, limits, and peculiarities offer the key to understanding health, wealth, and even happiness

“No one writes about the great issues of our time with more rigor or erudition than Vaclav Smil.” — Elizabeth Kolbert

To answer the most important questions of our age, we must understand size. Neither bacteria nor empires are immune to its laws. Measuring it is challenging, especially where complex systems like economies are concerned, yet mastering it offers rich rewards: the rise of the West, for example, was a direct result of ever more accurate and standardized measurements.

Using the interdisciplinary approach that has won him a wide readership, Smil draws upon history, earth science, psychology, art, and more to offer fresh insight into some of our biggest challenges, including income inequality, the spread of infectious disease, and the uneven impacts of climate change. Size explains the regularities—and peculiarities—of the key processes shaping life (from microbes to whales), the Earth (from asteroids to volcanic eruptions), technical advances (from architecture to transportation), and societies and economies (from cities to wages). This book about the big and the small, and the relationship between them, answers the big and small questions of human existence:

  • What makes a human society too big? What about a human being?
  • Which alternative energy sources have the best chance of scaling and reducing our dependence on fossil fuels?
  • Why do tall people make more money?
  • What makes a face beautiful? How about a cathedral?
  • How can changing the size of your plates help you lose weight?

The latest masterwork of “an ambitious and astonishing polymath who swings for fences” (Wired) Size is a mind-bending journey that turns the modern world on its head.