The Secret of the Great Pyramid: How One Man’s Obsession Led to the
Solution of Ancient Egypt’s Greatest Mystery

by Bob Brier and Jean-Pierre Houdin. Smithsonian Books, 2008
Egyptologist Bob Brier tells the story of Jean-Pierre Houdin, a French architect who spent several years sitting in front of his computer for 10 hours a day puzzling out a solution for the building of the Great Pyramid of Giza. Using three-dimensional architectural software, Houdin constructed 3-D models of the interior of the pyramid. The images rotating on his screen provided evidence of a mile-long ramp corkscrewing up the inside of the pyramid that had remained undetected for 4,500 years. His theory solves many mysteries about the huge structure and has won supporters. But proof awaits permission from the Egyptian authorities to look for the ramp, most likely using thermal photography.

The Big Necessity: The Unmentionable World of Human Waste and Why It Matters
by Rose George. Metropolitan Books, 2008
Four in 10 people have no access to any latrine, toilet, bucket or box. They defecate in narrow alleyways, in forests, by train tracks. The disease toll of this human excrement is astounding, killing more people worldwide than any other single cause. Modern sanitation, where it exists, has added 20 years to the average human life. But population growth in the First World has taxed sanitation systems: 90 percent of the globe’s sewage ends up untreated in oceans, rivers and lakes.

Rose George, a journalist, unreels these shocking statistics in lively, unflinching style as she details this enormous problem that is seldom discussed, hidden in a “social straitjacket of denial.” The book is not all gloom and doom. She lays out possible remedies, from the biogas digesters that turn waste into fuel in China to the agricultural use of sludge in the U.S. And she is not without humor, most notably as she investigates the robo toilets of Japan that wash and dry the private parts and even check blood pressure.

Earthrise: How Man First Saw The Earth
by Robert Poole. Yale University Press, 2008
“This book is about that extraordinary moment in 1968 when humankind first saw the whole Earth, and about everything that flowed into and out of it. It is an alternative history of the space age, written from a viewpoint looking back at the Earth. Confidence in the progress of science and technology was never higher than at the time of the first journeys to the Moon; afterwards came the first ‘Earth Day,’ the crisis of confidence, and the environmentalist renaissance. At the very apex of human progress the question was asked, ‘Where next?’, and the answer came, ‘Home.’ Earthrise was an epiphany in space.”

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