The Knowledge: How to Rebuild Our World from Scratch by Lewis Dartnell
(Bodley Head UK / Penguin Press US, 2014)

The Knowledge: How to Rebuild Our World from Scratch

by Lewis Dartnell

If civilisation were brought to its knees by a virus, a nuclear winter or an asteroid – taking with it the accumulated wealth of our technical and scientific prowess – what knowledge would you walk away with? Would you be able to describe the working of an internal combustion engine or a microscope?

Individually, most of us (even scientists, confined to their specialised fields) are more ignorant than we care to admit about the basic processes of the civilisation that supports us. Taking the end of the world as its starting point, this brilliantly original popular science book provides the reader with a tool kit: the essential knowledge the survivors of an apocalypse would need in order to start rebuilding a technological society from scratch, from methods for scavenging in the dead cities, making drugs and purifying water, to the best ways to restart agriculture and a chemical industry, generate power and travel long distances. Both a thought experiment (what crucial technological knowledge should we leave behind?) and a primer on the beautiful basics of science, The Knowledge will transform your understanding of the world.

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A marvelously astounding work: In one graceful swoop, Lewis Dartnell takes our multi-layered, interconnected modern world, shows how fragile its scaffolding is, and then lays out a how-to guide for starting over from scratch. Imagine Zombieland told by Neil deGrasse Tyson and you'll get some sense of what a delight The Knowledge is to read. ”
- Seth Mnookin, New York Times bestselling author of The Panic Virus.
Impeccably researched and beautifully written, The Knowledge makes me proud of all we humans have achieved - and dismayed at how much we have to lose. You need to read this book. ”
- Stephen Baxter
An extraordinary achievement. With lucidity and brevity, Dartnell explains the rudiments of a civilisation. It is a great read even if civilisation does not collapse. If it does, it will be the sacred text of the new world — Dartnell that world’s first great prophet. ”
- The Times
The ultimate do-it-yourself guide to ‘rebooting’ human civilization.”
- Nature
A glorious compendium of the knowledge we have lost in the living… This is the most inspiring book I’ve read in a long time.”
- Peter Forbes, Independent