To answer the obvious question, yeah, I bought this on the strength of NPR Science Friday host Ira Flatow’s name. I was hoping for something like Mary Roach with a harder scientific bent; a guided tour for the layman of modern science’s leading edge. It ended up feeling like the abstract of 20 or so different books, with each chapter reading more like a summary of different experimental fields.
The chapters are too brief and explores where each branch is heading so shallowly that one has little sense of why each scientific endeavor matters. It’s more a slide show than a thorough explanation of either the individual projects or an overarching picture of where science as a whole is headed. There’s nothing unifying the book other than “this is science,” and without an exploration of what the passages have in common – for instance, government support, or a lack of public interest in marine life or space exploration, or the limits of current technology in experimentation – there’s no sense of cohesion and nothing broader to say about why we are “present at the future.”
This would not in itself be a flaw if Flatow spent any length with the individual topics, but with each getting roughly ten pages, by the time we get a sense of why marine biology matters, we’re on to an essay on the intersection of science and religion.
I like vignettes, and I like deep dives, but this book exhibits the best traits of neither.
One last quibble – I expect better of a science book than a mistake like “…sending humans to the moon and Mars. These planets hold a deep fascination…” Only one of those two is a planet, Ira. C’mon.