9780393329599 / 0393329593

Infrastructure: A Field Guide to the Industrial Landscape


Publisher:W. W. Norton & Company



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About the book:

We are surrounded by the hardware of the modern world, but how much of it do we even notice, much less understand? This unique and fascinating book covers the parts of the landscape that are often overlooked despite their ubiquity--objects such as utility poles, power lines, cell phone towers, highway overpasses, railroad tracks, factories, and other man-made mechanical marvels. And they are not just in urban areas, but include out of the way "ecosystems" such as mines, dams, wind farms, power plants, grain operators, steel mills, and oil refineries. In Infrastructure, Brian Hayes offers clear explanations of the systems that keep the modern world running, including agriculture, energy supplies, shipping, air transportation, and the various ingenious methods of recycling and managing the waste we generate.

Subtitled "A Field Guide to the Industrial Landscape," the book is laid out like a nature guide, with comprehensive details and photographs on every page. "There can be just as much of interest happening on a factory rooftop as there is in the forest canopy, just as much to marvel at in the operation of a strip-mining dragline as in the geological carving of a river canyon," writes Hayes. A mine may not be as scenic as a mountain peak, but he argues it can hold as much fascination. His "chief aim is simply to describe and explain the technological fabric of society, not to judge whether it is good or bad, beautiful or ugly." In this he does an impressive job. He tells us how things work and why they are located where they are, and answers dozens of practical questions in the process. He also walks us through how raw materials such as coal, timber, petroleum, and water are converted and transported for use in our homes and businesses. Readers won't view the industrial landscape that same way after poring over this remarkable book. --Shawn Carkonen

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