Haber-Bosch Process

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The Big Ratchet: How Humanity Thrives in the Face of Natural Crisis by Ruth Defries

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agricultural Revolution, Columbian Exchange, demographic transition, double helix, European colonialism, food miles, Francisco Pizarro, Haber-Bosch Process, Internet Archive, John Snow's cholera map, out of africa, planetary scale, premature optimization, profit motive, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Thomas Malthus, trade route, transatlantic slave trade, transatlantic slave trade

With little domestic supply to produce munitions, BASF ramped up the Haber-Bosch process. After the war, the British victors inspected German factories, hoping to learn how the enemy had managed to produce so many explosives. But the British could not replicate the process, until they found a few German engineers willing to sell their secrets, at a price. The Haber-Bosch process spread to Britain and soon became its main source of fixed nitrogen. Industrial espionage joined trade, conquest, and the spread of ideas from one farmer to another in the roster of how humanity accumulated knowledge to resolve the conundrums of settled life. That spelled the end of the Chilean nitrate trade and the beginning of the proliferation of the Haber-Bosch process across the industrialized world. Oh, the paradox of Haber’s life.

With no limits on abundant nitrogen gas in the air, humanity’s struggle for fixed nitrogen escaped its reliance on clover, excrement, and microbes, although it took another war before the power of the Haber-Bosch process for peaceful use was fully realized. The Haber-Bosch process had reached the United States by the beginning of World War II. American factories used it to produce munitions. At the end of the war, the machinery and know-how to make explosives remained in place, but the demand was gone. The US government, seeking new uses for munitions factories, like the one at Muscle Shoals, Alabama, supported scientists in agricultural colleges, hoping to improve and spread the use of nitrogen fertilizers. The Haber-Bosch process became a mainstay of American agriculture after World War II. Production of nitrogen fertilizers, whether from repurposed, war-era factories or new ones built for the purpose, mushroomed more than eightfold in the second half of the century.

But that’s not all: Haber-Bosch also transformed what people ate. More grain meant more animals at the trough, which meant more people enjoying meat, eggs, and dairy more often. Four out of ten people alive at the beginning of the third millennium were subsisting on foods that farmers would not have been able to produce without fertilizer made with the Haber-Bosch process, including grains to feed meat- and dairy-producing animals. There is no mistaking that the Haber-Bosch process was one of humanity’s all-time pivot points, changing diets and ratcheting up the number of mouths that the world’s supply of food could feed. The Haber-Bosch pivot ratcheted up the success of our species, but the success is tragically uneven. The success has not brought much hope for the starving child, for millions of farmers, and for many countries that are still struggling to break free from poverty traps imposed in part by degraded soil fertility.

Enriching the Earth: Fritz Haber, Carl Bosch, and the Transformation of World Food Production by Vaclav Smil

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agricultural Revolution, Albert Einstein, demographic transition, Deng Xiaoping, Haber-Bosch Process, invention of gunpowder, Louis Pasteur, precision agriculture, recommendation engine, The Design of Experiments

In January 1998 a group of Japanese researchers reported on obtaining a moderate NH3 yield after a 24-hour treatment of the tungsten dinitrogen with dihydrogen at atmospheric pressure and 55 °C, and in October 1998 two Greek chemical engineers described ammonia synthesis from its elements at atmospheric pressure in a solid state proton(H⫹)-conducting cell reactor.56 Combining dinitrogen 218 Chapter 10 and dihydrogen to synthesize ammonia under mild conditions would be superior to the Haber–Bosch process, but commercial applications of these laboratory tests seem remote.57 The Haber–Bosch process is not going to be displaced any time soon, and increased global dependence on this synthesis is inevitable even with an early stabilization of the world population and a widespread adoption of rational diets. Intensive cultivation cannot be sustained without applications of nitrogen fertilizers. The yield increases required to produce larger harvests—needed to provide food for additional 2–4 billion people by 2050, as well as to improve the diets of some 3 billion people— are unthinkable without a substantial overall increase of nitrogen applications.

Archives of Badische Anilin- & Soda-Fabrik (BASF) in Ludwigshafen contain a letter that Fritz Haber, at that time a professor of physical chemistry and electrochemistry at the Technische Hochschule in Karslruhe, sent on July 3, 1909, to the company’s directors. In it he described the events of the previous day, when two BASF chemists came to witness the first successful demonstration of the synthesis in his laboratory. Haber’s invention was translated with an unprecedented rapidity into a commercial synthetic process by Carl Bosch. The Haber–Bosch process was the breakthrough that removed the most ubiquitous limit on crop yields, opening the way for the development and adoption of high-yielding cultivars and for the multiplication of global harvests. Today’s ammonia synthesis has been greatly improved in many details and it operates with much higher energy efficiencies; but Haber and Bosch would easily recognize all principal features of their invention.

Then I will concentrate on various attempts to expand natural nitrogen flows by introduction of mineral and synthetic fertilizers. The core of the book is a detailed narrative of the epochal discovery of ammonia synthesis by Fritz Haber and its commercialization by Carl Bosch and BASF. Subsequent chapters trace the emergence of the large-scale nitrogen fertilizer industry and its various products and analyze the extent of global, and national, depen- Transforming the World xvii dence on the Haber–Bosch process and its biospheric consequences. I close by looking back—and looking ahead—at the role of nitrogen in civilization. And, in a sad coda to the story, I attach a short postscript describing the lives of Carl Bosch and Fritz Haber after the discovery of ammonia synthesis. By trying to make the book as comprehensive, and as interdisciplinary, as possible, I recognize that I made its reading harder, or less interesting, for many people who are only curious about some parts of the whole.


pages: 398 words: 100,679

The Knowledge: How to Rebuild Our World From Scratch by Lewis Dartnell

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agricultural Revolution, Albert Einstein, Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, clean water, Dava Sobel, decarbonisation, discovery of penicillin, Dmitri Mendeleev, global village, Haber-Bosch Process, invention of movable type, invention of radio, invention of writing, iterative process, James Watt: steam engine, John Harrison: Longitude, lone genius, nuclear winter, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, technology bubble, the scientific method, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, trade route

As we saw in Chapter 7, ammonium nitrate is also useful in medicine, as it decomposes to release the anesthetic nitrous oxide. It is a powerful oxidizing agent, too, and so can be used to make explosives.* So for a post-apocalyptic society maturing into an industrialized civilization, the Haber-Bosch process will liberate you from dependence on collecting animal manure or bird guano, soaking timber ashes, or digging saltpeter mineral deposits for your vital nitrate supply, and instead enable you to mine the virtually limitless reservoir of nitrogen in the atmosphere. Today, the Haber-Bosch process pumps out around a hundred million tons of synthetic ammonia every year, and fertilizer made from it sustains one-third of the world’s population—around 2.3 billion hungry mouths are fed by this chemical reaction. And since the raw materials in the food we eat become assimilated into our cells, about half of the protein in our bodies is made from nitrogen fixed artificially by the technological capability of our own species.

., vii, 10, 275 Encyclopédie (Diderot), 8, 19 energy and power, 15, 165–85 batteries for, see batteries consumption per person, 166 from fossil fuels, 31, 57–58, 105, 165, 166, 190 generation and distribution of, 178–85 mechanical, 166–74 solar, 13, 47 steam engine for, 170n, 172–73, 182, 197, 201, 277, 290–91 steam turbine for, 182–83, 185, 206–7 thermal, 104–9, 166, 172, 182 water turbine for, 180–82, 181 waterwheel for, 166–68, 167, 170, 171–72, 178–79, 180, 203, 213, 276 windmill for, 46, 169, 170, 171–72, 178–80, 179, 213 see also electricity generators Energy Return on Energy Invested (EROEI), 106n engines: diesel, 188, 190 gasoline, 187, 188 internal combustion, 201–6, 204, 208 steam, 170n, 172–73, 182, 197, 201 Enlightenment, 276 enzymes, 81–82 equinoxes, 259, 261, 265 ethanol, 43, 89, 91, 120, 158, 159, 189–90, 202, 206, 241 ether, 159, 163, 241 evolution, 279 explosives, 104, 110, 116, 118, 122, 235–38, 242, 247 fabrics, see textiles fats and oils, 112, 188 animal, 191 linseed, 219 saponification of, 84, 112–13, 114–15, 211–12 vegetable, 108–9, 188, 190 feather pen, 214 fermentation, 80, 84, 88, 90–91 ferrous sulfate, 241 fertilizers, 57, 58, 69, 70, 72, 73, 76, 77n, 110, 121, 237, 238, 247–48, 250, 278–79 manure, 61, 69, 70, 73–76, 237, 243, 247, 250 Feynman, Richard, 9–10 fire: starting, 34–35 using, 104–5, 123–24 fires, destructive, 28 firewood, 106, 165, 176 fishing, 198 flash paper, 238 flax, 96, 108, 211 Fleming, Alexander, 12, 162, 164 Florey, Howard, 163 flour, 39, 86, 87 flying shuttle, 101 food, 33, 38–41 canned, 40, 92, 291 cereal preparation, 86–91 cooking, 79–81, 124 growing, see agriculture poisoning from, 79–81, 84 pottery vessels for, 80–81, 95, 124–26 spoilage of, 80, 161, 163 food preservation, 80, 81–85, 91–95, 161 by canning, 92, 291 by drying, 82, 91–92 by fermenting, 80, 84 by pickling, 84, 89, 91–92, 118 by refrigeration, 93–95 by salting, 82–83, 91–92 by smoking, 83, 91–92 fool’s gold, 222 forceps, 149–50, 150 fore-and-aft rigging, 198–99 forests, 27, 30, 106 fossil fuels, 31, 57–58, 105, 165, 166, 190 Foucault’s pendulum, 256n Four Quartets (Eliot), 275 foxglove, 155 Frank, Pat, 165 fuels, 41–42, 119, 124 biofuels, 74–75, 119, 191, 206–7, 208 gasification and, 191–93, 192, 194 kerosene, 108–9 fungicide, 118 Gaia hypothesis, 7 Galápagos Islands, 272n galena, 222, 227 Galileo, 172 gallium, 234–35 galls, 214 iron gall ink, 213–14, 218–19 gangs, 21 gas, 165 biogas, 74–75 natural, 44, 173, 185, 191 gasification, 191–93, 192, 194 gasoline, 41, 120, 173, 188–189, 191, 202, 206 alcohol in, 189–90 gasoline engine, 187, 188 gelatin, 116, 161, 241–42 generators, see electricity generators germ theory, 160, 161n glass, 49, 110, 124, 138–44, 235n, 243, 249 lenses, 142–43, 161 mirrors, 240n production of, 138–40 recycling of, 140 windows, 140, 141 glassblowing, 140–41 global warming, 31–32, 45, 294 glue, 116 glycerol, 115–16, 190, 238 Golding, William, 35n golf courses, 47 Goražde, 48–49, 48 GPS navigation devices, 42 grains, 39 Gregorian calendar, 262 guano, 238, 248, 250 guayule, 194–95 guncotton, 238, 241 gunpowder, 112, 236–37, 276 Gutenberg, Johannes, 215, 217, 218, 219 Haber-Bosch process, 57, 232, 248–51 hand washing, 112, 148 harness, 196 Harrison, John, 272, 273 harrow, 62, 63, 195 health care, see medicine heart rate, 155, 156 heat, 105 in canning, 92 herbicides and pesticides, 57, 77n, 279 Hippocrates, 155 hoe, 60, 61 Homo sapiens, 293 horses, 195–98, 197 hourglass, 254–55 houses, 29 Hurricane Katrina, 20–21 hydrocarbons, 104, 108, 188, 249 hydrochloric acid, 121 hydrogen, 193, 232, 233 chloride, 121, 244n in Haber-Bosch process, 57, 232, 248–51 hydrolysis, 211–12 hypothesis, 288 I Am Legend (Matheson), 24 “I Am Legend” scenario, 24 incubators, 150 indigo, 115 inductor, 224–25 industrial chemistry, 242–51, 253, 278–79 Industrial Revolution, 15, 70, 96, 105, 171, 242–43, 276–78, 290 infectious diseases, 112, 147–48 influenzas, 147 ink, 213, 216, 218–20 India, 219 iron gall, 213–14, 218–19 insects, 29 internal combustion engine, 201–6, 204, 208 International Space Station, 30–31 Internet, 50 inverter, 48 iodine, 114, 158, 241 “I, Pencil” (Read), 4 iron, 130, 135–38, 241, 249, 277 cast, 136, 137, 276 disulfide, 222 gall ink, 213–14, 218–19 pig, 136–37 pyrite, 227 smelting, 135–36, 137 sulfate, 214 wrought, 276 Japan, 13 kerosene, 108–9 knowledge, 210, 277, 278, 279–80, 287 lactobacillus bacteria, 88 Laennec, René, 152 lampblack, 219 lamps: arc, 178 electric, 177–78 fluorescent, 142 light bulbs for, 142, 178, 180, 183, 227, 290 oil, 108–9, 184 language, 210 lard, 113, 115 Las Vegas, Nev., 45 latex, 194 lathe, 132–35, 134, 205, 206 latitude, 267–69, 270 lavender, 155 lead sulfide, 222 Leblanc, Nicolas, 244–45 Leeuwenhoek, Antoni Van, 160n legumes, 70, 71, 73, 248 lenses, 142–43, 161 Leonardo da Vinci, 97, 201, 213 light: electric, 177–78 see also lamps light bulbs, 142, 178, 180, 183, 227, 290 lignin, 211, 212 lime, 109–12, 115, 120, 139, 212 mortars, 126, 127–29 quicklime, 110–12, 139, 140, 233, 245 slaked (limewater), 111, 112, 115, 120, 127, 212, 237 limestone, 110, 111, 237, 245 linen, 96, 211 linseed oil, 219 liquified petroleum gas (LPG), 191 livestock, 69, 71–73, 146–47, 247 location, determining, 253–54, 265–74 compass for, 265–66, 276 latitude in, 267–69, 270 longitude in, 267–68, 270–71 sextant for, 269–70, 269, 273 lodestones, 265 London, 28 longitude, 267–68, 270–71 Lord of the Flies (Golding), 22, 35n Los Angeles, Calif., 45 Lovelock, James, 7–8 lye, 115, 116, 190 Mad Max, 2 “Mad Max” scenario, 24 Magellan, Ferdinand, 199 magnesium, 233 magnetism, 12 electromagnetism, 174, 176–77, 184, 220–25 magnetometer, 288 Maillard reaction, 79 maize (corn), 53–54, 66, 67, 84n, 86 malaria, 155, 160 Manhattan, 256n, 266–67, 268, 270 manure, 61, 69, 70, 73–76, 237, 243, 247, 250 materials, 103, 123–44 clay, 124–25 glass, see glass lime mortars, 126, 127–29 metals, see metals plastics, 49–50, 116, 118, 235n, 279 wood, see wood mathematics, 288 Matheson, Richard, 24 Mayan civilization, 145 McCarthy, Cormac, 2 McVeigh, Timothy, 250n measles, 147 measures and units, 287–88 barometer, 141, 144, 284–86 metric system, 282–84 for temperature, see temperature measurement meat, 67, 69, 73 preserving, 82 mechanization, loss of, 195–201, 197 medicine, 6, 144, 145–64 childbirth and neonatal care, 149–50 clinical trials in, 157 examination and diagnosis, 150–54 infectious diseases, 112, 147–48 microbiology, 160–64 surgery, 151, 155, 158–59 medicines, 6, 42–44, 154–57, 279 antibiotics, see antibiotics expiration dates on, 43–44 for pain relief, 155–57, 158–59 medieval Europe, 170–71, 275–76 Mendeleev, Dmitri, 234–35 menthol, 155–56 mercury, 286 Mesopotamia, 138 metals, 49, 104, 110, 130–38 alloys, 130, 195, 235n aluminum, 115n, 132, 133, 174n, 232–33 iron, see iron smelting, 135–36, 137, 140, 249 steel, 29, 49, 124, 130–32, 136–38, 277 welding, 131–32 metalworking, 132–35, 133, 134, 195, 200 methane, 74, 191, 193, 249 methanol, 118–19, 190 metric system, 282–84 microbiology, 160–64 microorganisms, 80, 81, 279, 291 microphone, 225–26 microscope, 141, 143–44, 160–61, 288 milk, 39, 84, 85, 92 Millennium Seed Bank, 54 Miller, Walter M., Jr., 123 millet, 66, 67, 86 mill pond, 168 millstone, 86, 95 mirror, 240n Moldova, 3n morphine, 156 Morse code, 221 mortars, lime, 126, 127–29 motor, car, 173 Napoleon I, Emperor, 282n Napoleon III, Emperor, 233n nature, 279, 287 urban spaces reclaimed by, 26–30, 27, 106 navigation, see location, determining New Orleans, La., 20–21 New York City, 256n, 266–67, 268, 270 nitrates, 237, 238, 243, 247, 248 nitric acid, 121–22, 159, 238, 247, 250 nitrocellulose, 238 nitrogen, 69, 70, 72, 73, 75, 88, 115, 178, 238, 247–51 in Haber-Bosch process, 57, 232, 248–51 nitroglycerin, 238 nitrous oxide, 159, 250 Nobel, Alfred, 238 north pole, 263–65, 264 North Star (Polaris), 263, 269 nuclear war, 22 oats, 60, 66, 67 Off-Gridders, 48 oil, crude, 116, 119–20, 189, 279 oil lamps, 108–9, 184 oil paints, 219 oils, see fats and oils Oklahoma City bombing, 250n opium, 156 oral rehydration therapy (ORT), 148 Oryx and Crake (Atwood), 103 oscillator, 257–58, 271 oscillator circuit, 224–25 oxen, 195, 196 oxidizing agents (oxidants), 104, 236, 238 oxygen, 232, 233, 279 explosives and, 236 “Ozymandias” (Shelley), 209 pain relief, 155–57, 158–59 paints, 118 oil, 219 pandemic, 23 Pantheon, 29 paper, 210–13, 215, 218, 232, 238, 243, 276 pasteurization, 92 pathology, 154 pellagra, 84n Pelton turbine, 181, 181, 182 pen, 214 pendulum, 283 clock, 257–59, 271, 289–90 Foucault’s, 256n penicillin, 12, 162, 163–64 periodic table, 234–35, 242 pesticides and herbicides, 57, 77n, 279 Petri dishes, 161, 162 pharmaceutical compounds, see medicines phones, 3–4, 13, 50–51 phosphorus, 57, 75–76, 110 photography, 104, 114, 122, 235, 238, 239–42 observing stars and, 263, 265 pickling, 84, 89, 91–92, 118 piezoelectric crystal, 226 piston, 173 pitch, 119 plastic bottles, for solar water disinfection, 37–38 plastics, 49–50, 116, 118, 235n, 279 plate tectonics, 279 plow, 58, 60–61, 62, 63, 195 Polaris, 263, 269 polyethylene terephthalate (PET), 50 poppy, 156 population, 24–25 potash, 17, 76, 114, 115, 120, 139, 212, 233, 234, 237, 243–44, 249 potassium, 57, 75, 76, 114, 233, 234 bitartrate, 226 carbonate, 114 hydroxide, 115, 190, 249 nitrate (saltpeter), 237–38, 248, 250 sodium tartrate, 226 potatoes, 60, 65, 67 potter’s wheel, 125, 203, 206 pottery vessels, 80–81, 95, 124–26 POW radios in World War II, 226-27 power, see energy and power Preppers, 21, 33, 48 pressure gauge, 284–85 printing, 214–20, 276 printing press, 12–13, 215–19 prisons, 21–22 propane, 191 pyrites, 121 pyrolysis, 116–20, 117, 192 quicklime (calcium oxide), 110–12, 139, 140, 233, 245 quinine, 155 rack and pinion mechanism, 205 radio, 51, 221–29 amplitude modulation in, 223 earphones or speakers for, 225–26, 227 location determination and, 273 microphone for, 225–26 oscillating circuit in, 224–25 receiver for, 222, 225, 228 transmitter for, 222–23, 225 radioactivity, 279 railways, 188 rapeseed, 60, 109, 171, 190 razor blade rectifier, 227, 228 Read, Leonard E., 4 reaper, 69 rectifier, 227, 230n razor blade, 227, 228 recycling, 49–50 refrigerators, 93–95 Renaissance, 11, 275, 276 rennin, 85 repopulation, 24–25 resin, 219–20 resonance, 224 rhinovirus, 147 rice, 65–66, 66, 67 Road, The (McCarthy), 2 roads, 187–88 Robinson Crusoe (Defoe), 33 Rochelle salt, 226 Roman Empire, 11 Röntgen, Wilhelm, 153 rubber, 193–95 “Ruin, The,” 79 rye, 60, 66, 67, 86 sailing ships, 198–200 salicylic acid, 157 Salon of 1767 (Diderot), 253 salt (sodium chloride), 82, 113, 121, 232, 240, 244, 245, 247 in food preservation, 82–83, 91–92 in oral rehydration therapy, 148 producing, 83 saltpeter, 237–38, 248, 250 saltwort, 244 sand, 138–39, 140, 144 saponification, 84, 112–13, 114–15, 211–12 satellites, 42, 239n sawmill, 171, 206 scales, balance, 283, 284 science, 275–91 experimentation in, 287–89 measures and units in, see measures and units as process, 289 roots of, 280–81 socioeconomic environment and, 277–78 technology and, 289–91 tools of, 281–86, 287 scientific method, 278–81, 286–89 scientific revolution, 259, 276 screw press, 218 scurvy, 157n scythe, 61, 67, 68 sea level, 31, 45 seaweed, 114 seed drill, 62, 64, 195 seismometer, 287 sewage systems, 57 sewage treatment, 75 sextant, 269–70, 269, 273 Shampoo Planet (Coupland), 231 Shelley, Percy Bysshe, 209 shelter, 33, 34–35 ships, 198–200 shipwrecks, 30 Shirky, Clay, 9 sickle, 61, 67, 68 silica, 138, 139–40 silver chloride, 240 silver nitrate, 240 Sirius, 261 smallpox, 147 smelting, 135–36, 137, 140, 249 soap, 112–16, 190, 243 saponification in, 84, 112–13, 114–15, 211–12 social contract, 20–22 soda, 243–47, 246 ash (sodium carbonate), 114, 118, 120, 139, 140, 212, 226, 243, 244, 245 caustic (sodium hydroxide), 115, 190, 212, 232, 233, 234, 243, 244, 244n sodium, 233, 234 acetate, 118 bicarbonate, 245 carbonate (soda ash), 114, 118, 120, 139, 140, 212, 226, 243, 244, 245 chloride, see salt hydroxide (caustic soda), 115, 190, 212, 232, 233, 234, 243, 244, 244n hypochlorite, 212 thiosulfate, 240 soil, 57, 58–64, 70–72, 76, 110 solar power, 13, 47 solar water disinfection (SODIS), 37–38 solstices, 255–56, 261 Solvay process, 245–47, 246 solvents, 119 soot, 219 sorghum, 66, 67 south pole, 264 Soviet Union, 3n, 198n speakers, 225–26 spectrometer, 287 spinning, 96–97, 277 spinning wheel, 97, 97 Staphylococcus, 162 stars, 239n, 261, 262, 263–65, 269, 270 Barnard’s, 262–63, 263 constellations of, 261 latitude and, 268 North (Polaris), 263, 269 steam engine, 170n, 172–73, 182, 197, 201, 277, 290–91 steampunk, 15 steam turbine, 182–83, 185, 206–7 steel, 29, 49, 124, 130–32, 136–38, 277 steering wheel, 205 Stephens, John Lloyd, 145 stereotype, 218n stethoscope, 152 Stonehenge, 256 strontium, 233 substances, 102, 103–22 acids, 82, 84, 92, 104, 113, 116, 120–22 alkalis, 82, 84, 104, 113, 114, 116, 120, 212, 234, 243 lime, see lime soap, see soap for thermal energy, 104–9 wood pyrolysis, 116–20, 117, 192 sugar(s), 82, 89, 90, 190, 240n in oral rehydration therapy, 148 sulfur dioxide, 240 sulfuric acid, 120–22, 159, 214, 238, 241 sulfuryl chloride, 121 Sun, 269, 270 coronal mass ejection from, 22, 24 equinoxes and, 259 proving Earth’s orbit around, 260n solstices and, 255–56 sundial, 256–57, 259–60, 270–71 superglue, 42–43 surgery, 151, 155, 158–59 Svalbard Global Seed Vault, 55, 55 tallow, 191 tea tree oil, 155 technology, 289–91 telegraph, 220–21 telescope, 140, 143, 161 temperature measurement, 285–86 thermometer for, 141, 144, 152, 285–86, 287, 288 Texas City, 250n textiles, 212–13, 232, 276, 277 for clothing, 98–101 linen, 96, 211 spinning yarn for, 96–97, 277 spinning wheel for, 97, 97 weaving, 98, 277 weaving loom for, 98–100, 99, 101–2 thermal energy, 104–9, 166, 172, 182 thermionic emission, 228–29 thermometer, 141, 144, 152, 285–86, 287, 288 Three Gorges dam, 180 threshing, 68 threshing flail, 61 Thwaites, Thomas, 4 time telling, 253–60, 266 calendar for, 253, 260–65 clocks for, see clocks hourglass for, 254–55 sundial for, 256–57, 259–60, 270–71 toaster, 4 tooth fillings, 174n tractor, 63, 197–98 trade, 198 train lines, 188 transformer, 183–84 transmission, car, 204 transport, 185, 187–208 electric vehicles for, 206–7 fuels for, 188–93 gasification and, 191–93, 192, 194 keeping vehicles running, 188–95 and loss of mechanization, 195–201, 197 powered, reinventing, 201–8 roads for, 187–88 rubber for, 193–95 trees, 17 triode, 229 trip hammer, 171, 171, 179, 203, 276 tuberculosis, 147 turpentine, 119, 219–20 type setting, 216–18, 217 urea, 115 urine, 73, 74, 115 vacuum, 284 vacuum tubes, 141–42, 153, 227–30 Varro, Marcus Terentius, 161n vinegar, 84, 118, 120 violence and crime, 20–22 vitamin B3, 84n vitamin D, 72, 84–85 vitriol, 120 voltaic pile, 175, 178 walkie-talkies, 51 Washington, DC, 45 waste, human, 73–75 Waste Land, The (Eliot), vii, 10 water, 81, 103 for apartment buildings, 44–45 destruction caused by, 28–30 water, drinking, 33, 36–38, 109–10, 124, 148 oral rehydration therapy, 148 water clock, 205, 206, 254 water turbine, 180–82, 181 steam, 182–83, 185 waterwheel, 166–68, 167, 170, 171–72, 178–79, 180, 203, 213, 276 Watt, James, 170n weaving, 98, 277 weaving loom, 98–100, 99, 101–2 welding, 131–32 wet collodion process, 241 wheat, 53–54, 55, 60, 66, 67, 68, 70, 71, 73, 86, 89 wheelbarrow, 12, 276 Wikipedia, 9 willow, 155, 157 wind, 168–70 windmill, 46, 169, 170, 171–72, 178–80, 179, 213 windows, 140, 141 winnowing, 68 Wiseman, John “Lofty,” 33 wood, 17, 123–24 ashes, 17, 76, 113–14, 115 charcoal from, 106–7, 116, 124, 135, 184 firewood, 106, 165, 176 gasification of, 191–93 paper from, 211–13 pyrolysis of, 116–20, 117, 192 smoking food with, 83, 91–92 wood alcohol (methanol), 118–19, 190 wool, 96–98 World Health Organization, 37 World War II, POW radios in, 226–27 writing, 210–14, 215 Wyndham, John, 53 X-rays, 12, 141, 153, 221, 239 yeast, 89–91 yogurt, 84, 85, 88 Zeer pot, 93 CREDITS Text 1: Excerpt from Rameau’s Nephew and Other Works by Denis Diderot, translated by Jacques Barzun and Ralph H.

But the only way that farms today can function, growing dense monocultures on the same land and still producing high yields year after year, is by spraying potent herbicides and pesticides to maintain an iron-fist control over the ecosystem, and by the liberal application of chemical fertilizers. The nitrogen-rich compounds provided in these artificial fertilizers are created industrially by the Haber-Bosch process, which we’ll return to in Chapter 11. All of these herbicides, pesticides, and artificial fertilizers are synthesized using fossil fuels, which also power the farmyard machinery. In a sense, then, modern farming is a process that transforms oil into food—with some input from sunshine—and consumes around ten calories of fossil fuel energy for every calorie of food actually eaten. With a collapse of civilization and the disappearance of an advanced chemical industry, you’ll need to relearn traditional methods.


pages: 282 words: 82,107

An Edible History of Humanity by Tom Standage

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agricultural Revolution, amateurs talk tactics, professionals talk logistics, Bartolomé de las Casas, British Empire, carbon footprint, Columbian Exchange, Corn Laws, demographic transition, Deng Xiaoping, Eratosthenes, financial innovation, food miles, Haber-Bosch Process, invisible hand, James Watt: steam engine, Louis Pasteur, Mikhail Gorbachev, special economic zone, spice trade, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus, trade route, transatlantic slave trade, women in the workforce

But the fact remains that the man who made possible a dramatic expansion of the food supply, and of the world population, is also remembered today as one of the fathers of chemical warfare. When scientists in Britain and other countries had tried to replicate the Haber-Bosch process themselves during the war, they had been unable to do so because crucial technical details had been omitted from the relevant patents. These patents were confiscated after the war, and BASF’s plants were scrutinized by foreign engineers, leading to the construction of similar plants in Britain, France, and the United States. During the 1920s the process was refined so that it could use methane from natural gas, rather than coal, as the source of hydrogen. By the early 1930s the Haber-Bosch process had overtaken Chilean nitrates to become the dominant source of artificial fertilizer, and global consumption of fertilizer tripled between 1910 and 1938.

In return, Nernst dropped his opposition to Haber’s patents, and all other claims against Haber were subsequently thrown out by the courts. Meanwhile ever-larger converters, now capable of producing three to five metric tons a day, were entering service at BASF’s new site at Oppau. These combined Haber’s original methods with Bosch’s engineering innovations to produce ammonia—from nitrogen in the air, and hydrogen extracted from coal—using what is now known as the Haber-Bosch process. By 1914 the Oppau plant was capable of producing nearly 20 metric tons of ammonia a day, or 7,200 metric tons a year, which could then be processed into 36,000 metric tons of ammonium sulphate fertilizer. But the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914 meant that much of the ammonia produced by the plant was soon being used to make explosives, rather than fertilizer. (Germany’s supply of nitrate from Chile was cut off after a series of naval battles, in which the British prevailed.)

(Germany’s supply of nitrate from Chile was cut off after a series of naval battles, in which the British prevailed.) Carl Bosch. The war highlighted the way in which chemicals could be used both to sustain life or to destroy it. Germany faced a choice between using its new source of synthetic ammonia to feed its people or supply its army with ammunition. Some historians have suggested that without the Haber-Bosch process, Germany would have run out of nitrates by 1916, and the war would have ended much sooner. German production of ammonia was scaled up dramatically after 1914, but with much of the supply being used to make munitions, maintaining food production proved to be impossible. There were widespread food shortages, contributing to the collapse in morale that preceded Germany’s defeat in 1918. So the synthesis of ammonia prolonged the war, but Germany’s inability to produce enough for both munitions and fertilizer also helped to bring about the war’s end.


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The God Species: Saving the Planet in the Age of Humans by Mark Lynas

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back-to-the-land, Berlin Wall, carbon footprint, clean water, Climategate, Climatic Research Unit, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, decarbonisation, dematerialisation, demographic transition, Haber-Bosch Process, ice-free Arctic, invention of the steam engine, James Watt: steam engine, megacity, meta analysis, meta-analysis, moral hazard, Negawatt, New Urbanism, oil shale / tar sands, out of africa, peak oil, planetary scale, quantitative easing, race to the bottom, Ronald Reagan, special drawing rights, Stewart Brand, University of East Anglia

ENTER FRITZ HABER Fritz Haber and Carl Bosch can claim as dramatic an influence on twentieth-century world history as the likes of Stalin, Churchill, and Gandhi, yet their names are barely remembered and their defining achievement little celebrated by today’s generations—even though we benefit from their inventiveness every time we eat a meal. The chemical technique that bears their names, the Haber-Bosch process, was undoubtedly “the most important technical invention of the twentieth century,” according to the Canadian scholar Vaclav Smil, whose book Enriching the Earth is the definitive biography of nitrogen in the modern world. As Smil relates, the “single most important change affecting the world’s population—its expansion from 1.6 billion people in 1900 to today’s 6 billion—would not have been possible without the synthesis of ammonia” for conversion into artificial fertilizers.5 Haber was not the first chemist by any means to take up Crookes’s challenge.

Instead, BASF and the Second Reich began a strong partnership. It was Bosch himself who suggested, following a French air raid on his west German plant, building a new, much larger-scale industrial operation deeper inside Germany. The War Ministry put up 12 million marks, and the new plant at Leuna began operation on April 27, 1917, producing more than 100,000 tonnes of nitrates annually.8 Thanks to the Haber-Bosch process, the carnage of the First World War was to continue for another year and a half before the German capitulation finally came. But Fritz Haber’s personal responsibility for the atrocities of the First World War was unfortunately much greater than just his indirect contribution to securing German explosives supplies. In his patriotic fervor, Haber became head of Germany’s Chemical Warfare Service, turning his agile mind to the task of poisoning Allied troops with gas attacks.

China, faced with a growing population and no free land, built thirteen ammonia plants in the 1970s, and by 1989 had become the largest nitrogen producer in the world. The United States remains heavily dependent on agricultural fertilizers—so much so that major crop-growing regions are actually served by ammonia pipelines. Today, more than half the nitrogen produced by the world’s crops originates in ammonia production plants using the Haber-Bosch process. Given that most of this ends up as our food, it is fair to say that most of the protein in the modern human being’s body is of synthetic origin.10 Even while the production of artificial fertilizers has clearly been good for humanity, it has also begun to cause serious environmental problems. Because reactive nitrogen is so rare in nature, ecosystems are highly sensitive to it, whether on land or in the water.


pages: 321 words: 85,893

The Vegetarian Myth: Food, Justice, and Sustainability by Lierre Keith

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British Empire, car-free, clean water, cognitive dissonance, correlation does not imply causation, Drosophila, dumpster diving, en.wikipedia.org, Gary Taubes, Haber-Bosch Process, McMansion, meta analysis, meta-analysis, out of africa, peak oil, placebo effect, Rosa Parks, the built environment

The first large purchase Beijing made after Nixon’s historic visit was of gigantic factories to produce nitrogen fertilizer.25 Those massive fertilizer factories depend on two things: fossil fuel and a man named Fritz Haber. The Haber-Bosch process uses tremendous heat and pressure to force nitrogen and hydrogen together. This creates a usable form of nitrogen. Large quantities of electricity are necessary to produce the heat and pressure, and large quantities of coal, oil, or gas are necessary to produce the hydrogen. It relies on fossil fuel from beginning to end. Understand the profound impact the Haber-Bosch process has had on the planet: two out of five people are only alive because of it.26 And, instead of running on the sun, modern agriculture runs on fossil fuel. Unhooked from the limits of a biological system, an industrial system sprang to life in 1947, when a munitions plant in Alabama retooled itself for chemical fertilizer.

But these options—sustainable, local, enmeshed in the processes of life—aren’t even visible, let alone viable, to the political vegetarians, who want to save the world without ever knowing it. � � � Political Vegetarians 109 Why do we feed corn to cows? The corn will sicken them and, in turn, the humans who eat them.38 So why do it? To answer that we need to understand farm policy in the United States. Farm policy is even more abstruse than the Haber-Bosch process, but we need to pursue it if we’re going to make sense of why grass-eating ruminants are being stuffed with grain. Between Fritz Haber and plant geneticists, the twentieth century saw corn yields increase from twenty-five bushels an acre to upward of one hundred and forty bushels an acre.39 The United States alone produces ten billion bushels a year, and no matter how much liquid corn we swallow down in our Big Gulps, we’d never consume it all.

A conspicuous and unprecedentedly large acceleration of human population increase got under way as Homo sapiens began to supersede agrarian living with industrial living.74 Coal-fueled machinery allowed irrigation, enhanced agricultural production, and transported foodstuffs. Coal gave way to oil and gas, and the horse’s day was done.75 The one-quarter to one-third of agricultural land that had been dedicated to draft animals could now grow humans. And finally the Haber-Bosch process exploded onto the world. The massive population shift from food-producers in rural areas to food-consuming, industrial-producers in urban areas has resulted in a profound level of ignorance of where our food comes from, what its necessary inputs are, and what toll it’s taking on the landbase. This ignorance means that each culture, each bioregion, each individual has no basis to make a reasoned judgment of her impact on planetary health even while our planet is dying.


pages: 353 words: 91,211

The Shock of the Old: Technology and Global History Since 1900 by David Edgerton

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agricultural Revolution, anti-communist, British Empire, conceptual framework, deglobalization, dematerialisation, desegregation, deskilling, global village, Haber-Bosch Process, interchangeable parts, knowledge economy, Mahatma Gandhi, manufacturing employment, means of production, megacity, microcredit, new economy, post-industrial society, Productivity paradox, Ronald Reagan, Silicon Valley, spinning jenny, Upton Sinclair, urban planning, V2 rocket

Our accounts of significance have been peculiarly innovation-centric, and tied to particular accounts of modernity where particular new technologies were held to be central. In the new picture, twentieth-century technology is not just a matter of electricity, mass production, aerospace, nuclear power, the internet and the contraceptive pill. It will involve the rickshaw, the condom, the horse, the sewing machine, the spinning wheel, the Haber-Bosch process, the hydrogenation of coal, cemented-carbide tools, bicycles, corrugated iron, cement, asbestos, DDT, the chain saw and the refrigerator. The horse made a greater contribution to Nazi conquest than the V2. A central feature of use-based history, and a new history of invention, is that alternatives exist for nearly all technologies: there are multiple military technologies, means of generating electricity, powering a motor car, storing and manipulating information, cutting metal or roofing a building.

In the rich world agriculture in the long boom saw much greater rates of labour productivity change than industry or services, and at much greater rates than before.39 In high land-productivity Britain, yields doubled in the post-war years from a very high base. New regimes of intensive agriculture through irrigation, and addition of artificial fertiliser (especially nitrate, largely produced by the Haber-Bosch process, innovated before the Great War) made plants grow fast and large. Plants were changed too. The introduction of hybrid corn (maize) in the US corn belt in the late 1930s and 1940s was just one example, though an important one, of new varieties being grown.40 While traditional rice-production systems in Asia yielded around 1 tonne per hectare, at the beginning of the twentieth century Japanese farmers were getting 2.5 tonnes; Japanese farmers had doubled yields through irrigation in the nineteenth century; and in its colonies of Korea and Taiwan in the interwar years.

The relations between the world of practice and invention in the academy have long been close. For all the talk of ivory towers, academic science, engineering and medicine have been closely connected to industry, as well as the state, since at least the late nineteenth century. The great German organic chemistry centres in the universities had close links with German industry before and after the Great War. Fritz Haber, of the Haber-Bosch process, was an academic. Academic experts on coal and in chemistry were involved in coal hydrogenation. The University of Goettingen was an important centre of aeronautical research before the Great War. Penicillin was spun-off from St Mary’s Medical School and the University of Oxford in the 1940s. MIT set up a spin-off arm before the Second World War. Stanford was also spinning out in the 1930s – its Klystron microwave generator became the first great product of what much later would be Silicon Valley.


pages: 235 words: 65,885

Peak Everything: Waking Up to the Century of Declines by Richard Heinberg, James Howard (frw) Kunstler

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anti-communist, back-to-the-land, clean water, Community Supported Agriculture, deindustrialization, delayed gratification, demographic transition, ending welfare as we know it, energy transition, Fractional reserve banking, greed is good, Haber-Bosch Process, happiness index / gross national happiness, income inequality, land reform, means of production, oil shale / tar sands, peak oil, Plutocrats, plutocrats, post-oil, reserve currency, ride hailing / ride sharing, Ronald Reagan, the built environment, the scientific method, Thomas Malthus, too big to fail, urban planning

Writing, mathematics, metallurgy, and, ultimately, the trappings of modern life as we know it thus followed not so much from planting in general, as from agriculture in particular. As important an instance of intensification as agriculture was, in many respects it pales in comparison with what has occurred within the past century or so, with the application of fossil fuels to farming. Petroleum-fed tractors replaced horses and oxen, freeing up more land to grow food for far more people. The Haber-Bosch process for synthesizing ammonia from fossil fuels, invented just prior to World War I, has doubled the amount of nitrogen available to green plants — with nearly all of that increase going directly to food crops. New hybrid plant varieties also led to higher yields. Technologies for food storage improved radically. And fuel-fed transport systems enabled local surpluses to be sold not just regionally, but nationally and even globally.

Campbell, Joseph carbon dioxide emissions. see also greenhouse gas emissions carbon trading Carlowitz, Hanns Carl von cars Carter, Jimmy “Century of Self ” (Curtis) China CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) cities civilization (see also industrialization): basis of; development; and emergent phenomena, garbage from; v. wild societies climate Climate Change (see also psychology of peak oil/climate change; techno-collapse): after techno-collapse; benefits of cooperation with Peak Oil; from burning fossil fuels (see also greenhouse gas emissions); concerted campaign for; conflict with Peak Oil; consequences of; experts in; peak levels of; possible strategies for; psychological theories on; scientific agreement on; strategies for psychologically coping with Clinton, Bill coal: “clean,” future role; and greenhouse gases; production levels Cold War The Collapse of Complex Societies (Tainter) Colodzin, Benjamin community building computers conures Cornwall, England corporations Crane, Walter CTL (coal-to-liquids) Cuba’s Special Period culture, preservation of. see also arts, preservation of currency collapse Curtis, Adam D Damasio, Antonio democracy design: industrial; and industrialized society; in a techno-collapsed world developing countries Diamond, Jared Diamond, Stanley dignity E Earth Day economic inequality economics: after techno-collapse; free market; of future agriculture; and idea of steady growth- and industrial revolution education egalitarianism Ehrlich, Paul emergent phenomena energy. see also alternative energy sources; fossil fuels; non-renewable resources Energy and Equity (Illich) environmental damage (see also Climate Change): after techno-collapse; from agriculture; by invasive species; and language barrier environmental movement EROEI (energy returned on energy invested) ethanol Ewen, Stuart ExxonMobil F famine: in early history; prediction of feedback loops, reinforcing fish harvests food production (see also agriculture): after techno-collapse; as key to human society; and Malthus; in pre-history; and rationing; in US; and use of fossil fuels forests fossil fuels (see also coal; natural gas; oil; tar sands): and agriculture; and concentrations of greenhouse gases (see also greenhouse gas emissions); consequences of continuing use of; earliest technology run on; and feedback loops; future of; and hippie aesthetic- and industrial revolution; and level of happiness; modern problems connected to; and modern technology; predictions on how long they will last; scenarios of running out of; strategies for dealing with depletion of; substitutes for Fostering Sustainable Behavior (MacKenzie-Mohr and Smith) France Frank, Justin Freud, Sigmund G Gage, Phineas GDP (Gross Domestic Product) generation gap genetic engineering genetically modified crops Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI) Gini index Glendinning, Chellis global warming. see also Climate Change Gore, Al government: after techno-collapse; and beginnings of political organization; and democracy; environmental legislation; and language; reaction to disaster; reaction to Peak Oil; and sustainability measures GPI (Genuine Progress Indicator) grain Great Britain The Greatest Generation (Brokaw) greenhouse gas emissions: from coal; concentrations by source; from fossil fuels; how much they need to be reduced; peak levels; strategies for reducing Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth v. sustainability H Haber-Bosch process Hansen, James happiness Harris, Marvin Hawkins, Louis W. Heather, Peter heavy oil Herman, Judith hippies Hirsch, Robert Holmgren, David Hopkins, Rob horticulture Hubbard, Elbert Hubbert, M. King Huebner, Jonathan human rights Human Scale (Sale) hydrocarbons. see fossil fuels I ideological changes: away from fossil fuels; away from industrialization; from perpetual growth to sustainability; role of language in Illich, Ivan An Inconvenient Truth (Gore) Indian Line Farm industrial design industrialization (see also fossil fuels; techno-collapse): adapted to disasters; and crafts; history of; how it’s changed humans; and industrial revolution; modern criticism of; plan for de-industrialization; as savior; weeding ourselves off inventions Iroquois Irving, Judy J Jackson, Wes Jeavons, John K Kelly, R.


pages: 262 words: 66,800

Progress: Ten Reasons to Look Forward to the Future by Johan Norberg

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agricultural Revolution, anti-communist, availability heuristic, Bartolomé de las Casas, Berlin Wall, British Empire, business climate, clean water, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, demographic transition, desegregation, Donald Trump, Flynn Effect, germ theory of disease, Gini coefficient, Haber-Bosch Process, Hans Island, Hans Rosling, Ignaz Semmelweis: hand washing, income inequality, income per capita, indoor plumbing, Isaac Newton, Jane Jacobs, John Snow's cholera map, Kibera, Louis Pasteur, Mahatma Gandhi, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Mikhail Gorbachev, more computing power than Apollo, moveable type in China, Naomi Klein, open economy, place-making, Rosa Parks, special economic zone, Steven Pinker, telerobotics, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, transatlantic slave trade, very high income, working poor, Xiaogang Anhui farmers

A colleague at BASF, Carl Bosch, carried out over 20,000 experiments in over twenty reactors before he came up with the right process to synthesize ammonia on an industrial scale. The Haber-Bosch Process made artificial fertilizer cheap and abundant, and soon it was used all over the world. ‘What has been the most important technical invention of the twentieth century?’ asks Vaclav Smil in Enriching the Earth. He rejects suggestions like computers and aeroplanes, going on to explain that nothing has been as important as the industrial fixing of nitrogen: ‘the single most important change affecting the world’s population – its expansion from 1.6 billion people in 1900 to today’s six billion – would not have been possible without the synthesis of ammonia.’ Without the Haber-Bosch Process about two-fifths of the world population would not exist at all, Smil claims.17 Sadly, Fritz Haber’s brilliant mind was also put to the task of killing.


pages: 421 words: 125,417

Common Wealth: Economics for a Crowded Planet by Jeffrey Sachs

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agricultural Revolution, air freight, back-to-the-land, British Empire, business process, carbon footprint, clean water, colonial rule, corporate social responsibility, correlation does not imply causation, demographic transition, Diane Coyle, Edward Glaeser, energy security, failed state, Gini coefficient, Haber-Bosch Process, income inequality, income per capita, intermodal, invention of agriculture, invention of the steam engine, invisible hand, Joseph Schumpeter, knowledge worker, labor-force participation, labour mobility, low skilled workers, microcredit, oil shale / tar sands, peak oil, profit maximization, profit motive, purchasing power parity, road to serfdom, Ronald Reagan, Simon Kuznets, Skype, statistical model, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus, trade route, transaction costs, unemployed young men, War on Poverty, women in the workforce, working-age population

Between 1908 and 1914, a group of industrial scientists, led by Fritz Haber and Carl Bosch, developed a way to use energy (natural gas and to a lesser extent hydropower) to convert atmospheric nitrogen (N2) into nitrogen-based compounds, such as urea, which provide nutrients to plants. The invention of the Haber-Bosch process for synthesizing nitrogen-based chemical fertilizers not only created a vast global industry but also created the biological possibility of a massive expansion of the world’s food supplies. The limiting factor of soil nitrogen had been overcome. Energy, and specifically fossil fuel, had set free the human population. Technology historian Vaclav Smil estimates that the Haber-Bosch process stands behind 80 percent of the increase of cereal production in the twentieth century. The most important result was an explosion of human population, which on average was also better fed. Despite two world wars, ongoing epidemic diseases, massive dislocations of populations, and other checks to population increase, the world’s population rose fourfold in the twentieth century, from 1.5 billion to around 6 billion.

Lightning, too, can split the N2 molecule and deposit nitrates and ammonia naturally on Earth. The process of converting atmospheric nitrogen to active nitrogen is called nitrogen fixation. The problem today is that the natural fixation processes are too slow to provide the vast stores of nitrogen needed to grow food crops sufficient to feed the 6.6 billion people on the planet, much less the 7 to 9 billion the world will have by midcentury. That’s where the Haber-Bosch process came in at the start of the twentieth century. And in addition to chemical fertilizers, farmers also abet the natural cycle by planting leguminous crops such as alfafa and soybeans, which have root systems that contain nitrogen-fixing bacteria. As Figure 3.3 indicates, the amount of nitrogen fixed by chemical fertilizers and human crop choice is now around 60 percent of the Earth’s total nitrogen fixation.


pages: 467 words: 503

The omnivore's dilemma: a natural history of four meals by Michael Pollan

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additive manufacturing, back-to-the-land, clean water, cognitive dissonance, Community Supported Agriculture, double entry bookkeeping, Gary Taubes, Haber-Bosch Process, index card, informal economy, invention of agriculture, means of production, new economy, Steven Pinker, the scientific method, transaction costs, Upton Sinclair, Whole Earth Catalog

By 1900, European scientists recognized that unless a way was found to augment this naturally occurring nitrogen, the growth of the human population would soon grind to a very painful halt. The same recognition by Chinese scientists a few decades later is probably what compelled China's opening to the West: After Nixon's 1972 trip the first major order the Chinese government placed was for thirteen massive fertilizer factories. Without them, China would probably have starved. This is why it may not be hyperbole to claim, as Smil does, that the Haber-Bosch process (Carl Bosch gets the credit for commercializing Haber's idea) for fixing nitrogen is the most important invention of the twentieth century. He estimates that two of every five humans on earth today would not be alive if not for Fritz Haber's invention. We can easily imagine a world without computers or electricity, Smil points out, but without synthetic fertilizer billions of people would never have been born.

Haber brought a vital new source of fertility and an awful new weapon into the world; as his biographer wrote, "[I]t's the same science and the same man doing both." Yet this dualism dividing the benefactor of agriculture from the chemical weapons maker is far too pat, for even Haber's benefaction has proven decidedly to be a mixed blessing. When humankind acquired the power to fix nitrogen, the basis of soil fertility shifted from a total reliance on the energy of the sun to a new reliance on fossil fuel. For the Haber-Bosch process works by combining nitrogen and hydrogen gases under immense heat and pressure in the presence of a catalyst. The heat and pressure are supplied by prodigious amounts of electricity, and the hydrogen is supplied by oil, coal, or, most commonly today, natural gas—fossil fuels. True, these fossil fuels were at one time billions of years ago created by the sun, but they are not renewable in the same way that the fertility created by a legume nourished by sunlight is.

The nitrates in the water bind to hemoglobin, compromising the blood's ability to carry oxygen to the brain. So I guess I was wrong to suggest we don't sip fossil fuels directly; sometimes we do. It has been less than a century since Fritz Haber's invention, yet already it has changed earth's ecology More than half of the world's supply of usable nitrogen is now man-made. (Unless you grew up on organic food, most of the kilo or so of nitrogen in your body was fixed by the Haber-Bosch process.) "We have perturbed the global nitrogen cycle," Smil wrote, "more than any other, even carbon." The effects may be harder to predict than the effects of the global warming caused by our disturbance of the carbon cycle, but they may be no less momentous. The flood of synthetic nitrogen has fertilized not just the farm fields but the forests and the oceans too, to the benefit of some species (corn and algae being two of the biggest beneficiaries), and to the detriment of countless others.


pages: 614 words: 176,458

Meat: A Benign Extravagance by Simon Fairlie

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agricultural Revolution, Albert Einstein, back-to-the-land, call centre, carbon footprint, Community Supported Agriculture, deindustrialization, en.wikipedia.org, food miles, Food sovereignty, Haber-Bosch Process, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, informal economy, Just-in-time delivery, land reform, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Wolf, megacity, Northern Rock, Panamax, peak oil, refrigerator car, scientific mainstream, stem cell, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, trade liberalization, University of East Anglia, upwardly mobile, women in the workforce

But while the phosphate quarries were still producing, the supply of guano could not last forever, and in 1909 an economic process for manufacturing nitrogen fertilizers from the atmosphere was invented in 1909 by another German, Fritz Haber – a man who might have become as great a hero in the annals of science as Liebig if he hadn’t gone on to invent the gas used to kill Jews in Hitler’s concentra-tion camps.19 The Haber/Bosch process, although it creates fertilizer from thin air, is not without its costs, as it requires energy, quite a lot in fact. It takes roughly a tonne of coal to produce one tonne of sulphate of ammonia fertilizer (213 kg N – sufficient for about two hectares of wheat). The European Fertilizer Manufacturer association states that ‘of all the energy used to produce wheat ‘ including other fertilizers and all tractor use, ‘approximately 50 per cent is needed to produce, transport and apply nitrogen fertilizers.’

The reasoning behind this accolade is best expressed in one particular graph, on page 147 of Smil’s book. In the early 1960s China’s population was about 660 million, its consumption of synthetic fertilizer was negligible, and almost all its nitrogen was derived from organic sources. By 1996 the population was close to 1.2 billion, applications of synthetic nitrogen had increased more than 50 fold, and 75 per cent of all nitrogen applied to crops was synthetic, produced by the Haber/Bosch process. In the same period average per capita food consumption increased from about 2,000 calories, to 2,700; and meat consumption increased from a reported figure of 1.4 kg per year in 1961, to a widely accepted figure of around 47 kg per year in the late 1990s.38 Meanwhile, very little new agricultural land has been opened up, and in recent years the amount of arable land has shrunk, owing to urban development and desertification.

Imported chemical fertility cannot be had for nothing, and it requires the export of equivalent amounts of biomass (to the city or possibly abroad), making the rural community beholden to the industrial economy for the functioning of its primary resource. The progressive industrialization of the rural economy results in the majority of people being forced into cities, where the rewards of living close to the land are supplanted by the pressure to compete and consume. It is possible that Smil could be wrong. What would have happened if the Haber/Bosch process and all the rest of the agrochemical armoury had never been developed, either because such developments were technically impossible, or else because, in the context of a pattern of civilization that one might usefully call Sino-Luddite, they were banned? Would the world’s population have expanded as it did in Europe in the 14th century? Would it have encroached upon grazing land and suffered declining yields, until humanity succumbed to a global demographic catastrophe analogous to the Black Death?


pages: 273 words: 93,419

Let them eat junk: how capitalism creates hunger and obesity by Robert Albritton

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Bretton Woods, California gold rush, clean water, collective bargaining, computer age, corporate personhood, deindustrialization, Food sovereignty, Haber-Bosch Process, illegal immigration, immigration reform, invisible hand, joint-stock company, joint-stock limited liability company, land reform, late capitalism, means of production, offshore financial centre, oil shale / tar sands, peak oil, price stability, profit maximization, profit motive, South Sea Bubble, the built environment, union organizing, Unsafe at Any Speed, upwardly mobile

Nor was much thought given to the impact of the car on city planning, on public transportation and on air quality.21 A study in the early 1990s estimated that the social costs (not including the costs of global warming) of driving in the United States amounted to $300 billion per year.22 Arguably there were no sectors of the economy where the petrochemical industry had a greater impact than agriculture and transportation. It has been claimed that the Haber–Bosch process for fixing nitrogen was the most important invention of the twentieth century.23 This may seem like a most surprising claim since most people have never heard of this process. But when Haber invented the process in 1909, it was the first commercially important synthesis of nitrogen out of natural gas. It could be argued that this invention was 58 L E T T H E M E AT J U N K important to the petrochemical revolution, and it is certainly the case that it eventually revolutionized agriculture.

Coli 115 ecology 6–7, 24, 148, 161, 219 see also environment Ecuador 138 election campaigns (US) 185–6 El Salvador 159 empty calories 3, 5, 94 see also junk food enclosures of commons 12, 21 England 31, 44, 54 environment 152, 146–65 environmental costs 61, 148, 183 environmental debt 147 environmental degradation 61, 147, 151 environmental regulations 45 see also ecology Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 137, 151, 159, 192 equality x, 197 see also inequality erosion 157 ethanol 5, 15, 23, 107, 135, 147, 150–2, 154, 189, 212 Everglades 45, 100–1, 171, 216 exercise 104 export-oriented agriculture 125, 134–6, 141 externalities xii, 28, 208 see also social costs extinction 156 extreme weather 35, 153, 156, 158 F Factory Acts 31 factory farms 19, 29, 36, 150, 157 see also agriculture fair trade 204 254 INDEX family farms 8, 18, 19, 25, 42, 45, 49, 59, 69, 82, 83, 120, 123, 128–30, 138, 140–1, 144, 203 see also agriculture farm income 128–30 fashion 69 fast food 32, 92, 97–8, 109, 120 fast food chains 133, 120–2 feedlots 103 see also confined animal feeding operation (CAFO) field workers 126–8 Fiji Islands 176 fish 160 flourishing 6 food 10 food additives 63, 113 food aid 108 food crisis ix, x, 89 food disparagement laws 189 food inspection 112, 189 food prices ix, 5, 23, 41, 88, 108, 129, 135, 141–2, 150, 152, 187, 204 see also hunger, starvation, structural adjustment policies, subsidies food provisioning 164 food pyramid 188 food regime/system 6 food safety 189 food security 153 see also food prices, hunger, starvation, structural adjustment policies, subsidies food sovereignty 204 Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) ix, 89, 97, 153, 188 forced labour 124, 127 see also slavery fossil fuel 148, 151, 155 see also coal, petroleum Framework Convention on Tobacco Control 187 Frank Statement 191–2 freedom 47, 189 see also rights French revolution 2 G General Marshall 182 General Pershing 182 genetically modified organisms (GMOs) 118–19, 147, 161–3, 193 Bt crops 162 Roundup ready crops 162 global warming xi, 4, 5, 35, 147, 150, 154–6, 159, 179, 218 globalization 43–6, 71 glyposate 118–19 see also Roundup golden age 13, 52, 53 Gore, Al 100 government 183 government regulation 168, 193, 206 grain crops 155 green house gas emissions 142, 146, 148, 151, 155, 157 Greenland ice sheet 154 green revolution 58, 61, 115, 118, 124, 135, 149 green tobacco sickness 220 group of eight xii guaranteed annual income 35, 205, 210 guest workers 127, 140 H Haber–Bosch process 57 Haiti 128 Hammer, Armand 63 health 6, 16, 81, 92–4, 144, 174, 190–1, 210 high blood pressure 109 high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) 96, 101 historical analysis 13 historical directionality 12 homogenization 24, 33–7, 66 see also monoculture, species loss human flourishing 213 INDEX human rights 132 human right to food 197 see also rights Human Rights Watch 131, 138–9 hunger 4, 80, 89, 91, 105–8, 158, 204 see also starvation I identity 6, 10 island identity 46–7 see also subjectivity, individualism, possessive individualism ideology 74–5, 168, 182, 196 see also capitalist ideology illegal drugs 141 immigrant labour 40, 124, 126 see also guest workers, undocumented workers India 142 Indian Ocean 158 indifference to use-value 28, 29, 77 see also quality versus quantity individualism 26, 73–4, 166, 168, 170, 179 Indonesia 142, 155 industrial reserve army 39 inelasticity 24 inequality 8, 72, 134, 152, 180, 184, 194, 213 see also equality, poverty, poverty line, wages inner logic 12 see also abstract theory, deep structure/cause, pure capitalism intensification 30, 131 see also speed international cooperation 204, 207, 211 see also movements International Monetary Fund (IMF) 134 invisible hand 11 irrationality x, xi, 6, 29, 195, 202, 207 see also contradiction, rationality irrigation 157 255 Ivory Coast 138, 202 J jobs 126 job security 125–6 job turnover 131, 133 Joe Camel 171 Johnson, President L.


pages: 385 words: 111,807

A Pelican Introduction Economics: A User's Guide by Ha-Joon Chang

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Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, Albert Einstein, Asian financial crisis, asset-backed security, bank run, banking crisis, banks create money, Berlin Wall, bilateral investment treaty, borderless world, Bretton Woods, British Empire, call centre, capital controls, central bank independence, collateralized debt obligation, colonial rule, Corn Laws, corporate governance, Credit Default Swap, credit default swaps / collateralized debt obligations, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, deindustrialization, discovery of the americas, Eugene Fama: efficient market hypothesis, eurozone crisis, experimental economics, Fall of the Berlin Wall, falling living standards, financial deregulation, financial innovation, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, Frederick Winslow Taylor, full employment, George Akerlof, Gini coefficient, global value chain, Goldman Sachs: Vampire Squid, Gordon Gekko, greed is good, Haber-Bosch Process, happiness index / gross national happiness, high net worth, income inequality, income per capita, interchangeable parts, interest rate swap, inventory management, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, John Maynard Keynes: technological unemployment, joint-stock company, joint-stock limited liability company, Joseph Schumpeter, knowledge economy, laissez-faire capitalism, land reform, manufacturing employment, Mark Zuckerberg, market clearing, market fundamentalism, Martin Wolf, means of production, Mexican peso crisis / tequila crisis, Northern Rock, obamacare, offshore financial centre, oil shock, open borders, post-industrial society, precariat, principal–agent problem, profit maximization, profit motive, purchasing power parity, quantitative easing, road to serfdom, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, Ronald Coase, Ronald Reagan, savings glut, Scramble for Africa, shareholder value, Silicon Valley, Simon Kuznets, sovereign wealth fund, spinning jenny, structural adjustment programs, The Great Moderation, The Market for Lemons, The Spirit Level, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thorstein Veblen, trade liberalization, transaction costs, transfer pricing, trickle-down economics, Washington Consensus, working-age population, World Values Survey

After Germany and Britain developed technologies to synthesize natural chemicals in the mid-nineteenth century, some countries saw dramatic falls in their incomes. Guatemala used to earn quite a lot of money by being the main producer of cochineal (cochinilla), the crimson dye favoured by the Pope and the European royalties for their robes, until the invention of the artificial dye alizarin crimson. The Chilean economy was plunged into years of crisis when the Haber–Bosch process was developed in the early twentieth century to manufacture chemical substitutes for saltpetre (nitrate), the country’s main export at the time. Changes in technologies are at the root of economic development Not so long ago, if someone could command a thousand horses at the same time, carry hundreds of books in his pocket, generate intense heat without any flame, turn thousands of litres of seawater into freshwater or make clothes out of stone, people would have said he was a magician.

Today, genetic engineering, renewable energy, ‘advanced’ materials (e.g., graphene) and nano-technologies are emerging to transform the world yet again. In the early days of the Industrial Revolution, new technologies were often developed by individual visionaries. As a result, until the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, many technologies were known by their inventors’ names – Kay’s flying shuttle, Watt’s steam engine, the Haber–Bosch process and so on. From the late nineteenth century, with technologies becoming increasingly complex, fewer and fewer of them have been invented by individuals. Companies started developing the capability to generate new technologies through R&D in their corporate labs. Around this time, governments also started investing actively in developing new technologies by either establishing public research labs (especially in agriculture) or subsidizing private-sector R&D activities.


pages: 421 words: 110,406

Platform Revolution: How Networked Markets Are Transforming the Economy--And How to Make Them Work for You by Sangeet Paul Choudary, Marshall W. van Alstyne, Geoffrey G. Parker

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3D printing, Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, Airbnb, Amazon Mechanical Turk, Amazon Web Services, Andrei Shleifer, Apple's 1984 Super Bowl advert, autonomous vehicles, barriers to entry, big data - Walmart - Pop Tarts, bitcoin, blockchain, business process, buy low sell high, chief data officer, clean water, cloud computing, connected car, corporate governance, crowdsourcing, data acquisition, data is the new oil, discounted cash flows, disintermediation, Edward Glaeser, Elon Musk, en.wikipedia.org, Erik Brynjolfsson, financial innovation, Haber-Bosch Process, High speed trading, Internet of things, inventory management, invisible hand, Jean Tirole, Jeff Bezos, jimmy wales, Khan Academy, Kickstarter, Lean Startup, Lyft, market design, multi-sided market, Network effects, new economy, payday loans, peer-to-peer lending, Peter Thiel, pets.com, pre–internet, price mechanism, recommendation engine, RFID, Richard Stallman, ride hailing / ride sharing, Ronald Coase, Satoshi Nakamoto, self-driving car, shareholder value, sharing economy, side project, Silicon Valley, Skype, smart contracts, smart grid, Snapchat, software is eating the world, Steve Jobs, TaskRabbit, The Chicago School, the payments system, Tim Cook: Apple, transaction costs, two-sided market, Uber and Lyft, Uber for X, winner-take-all economy, Zipcar

Consider some of the giant businesses that grew up during the industrial era. In steel production, the British Bessemer process of blowing air through molten slag removed impurities and cut costs of production from £40 to £7 per ton. Operating eighteen five-ton Bessemer blast furnaces, Barrow Hematite Steel Company became the largest steel mill in the world at the turn of the twentieth century. Similarly, the German Haber-Bosch process of producing fertilizer from nitrogen in air, which is used in the production of half of all foodstuffs consumed today, was one factor contributing to rise of giant BASF, which is still the world’s largest chemical company. And American Thomas Edison’s inventions in lighting and cheap power generation gave rise to General Electric, while Henry Ford’s use of mass production accelerated the rise of Ford Motor Company.

., 19 Fortune 500, 65 Foursquare, 97, 98 fragmented industries, 131, 262, 265, 268–69, 289 fraud, 175, 196–97, 255, 257, 276 Free: The Future of a Radical Price (Anderson), 22 freelancers (independent contractors), 21, 36, 37, 64, 65, 117–18, 193–94, 196, 210, 213, 233–34, 249–51, 279, 280, 287, 297, 299 free trade, 205, 206, 235 Friedersdorf, Conor, 236 Friendster, 98 FuelBand, 74, 75 full-time employees, 249–50 FUSE Labs, 252–53 games, gaming, 94, 103, 124, 132, 159, 163, 178, 211, 212, 217, 221, 240 “Gangnam Style,” 84, 147 gatekeepers, 7–8, 151–52, 171–73, 243, 253, 262, 265, 268, 275–76, 281, 289, 298 Gawer, Annabelle, 58, 178–79 Gebbia, Joe, 1–2 General Electric (GE), 4, 13, 19, 76, 78, 86, 110, 201, 204, 208, 247, 284 Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, 238–39 geographic focus, 98–99, 271 Germany, 96–97, 161, 205 Gillette, King, 109–10 Global 500, 209–10 Go-Jek, 278 Goldberg, Whoopi, 23 Goodwin, Tom, 11–12 Google, vii, 3–7, 21–25, 30–33, 49–50, 55, 58, 64, 72, 111, 112, 120, 121, 125, 134, 137, 140–41, 148, 153–54, 159, 198–99, 214–17, 226, 240, 242, 250, 267, 270–71 Google AdWords, 72, 120, 121, 125 Google Maps, 49–50, 55, 148, 200 Google Play, 154 government platforms, 261, 281–83, 289 graphical processing units (GPUs), 56, 57, 58 graphic design, 67, 226 Great Britain, 160, 205 gross domestic product (GDP), 160, 161 Grossman, Nick, 253, 254, 255, 256 Guardian, 144–45 Gurley, Bill, 16–18, 21 Haber-Bosch process, 19 Hachette Book Group, 251 Haier Group, vii, 76, 125, 198–99, 222 Halo, 94, 240 Halo: Combat Evolved, 94 Hammurabi, Code of, 274 hard drives (HDs), 56, 57, 58 hardware, 56, 57–58, 136, 152–53, 178–79 Harvard University, 98–99, 266 hashtags, 58, 104 Havas Media, 11–12 health care, 32–33, 35, 69, 71, 77, 200, 233, 234, 238, 245, 261, 263, 265, 268–72, 277, 280, 289 health insurance, 234, 263, 271–72, 277, 280 Heiferman, Scott, 113–14, 126 heirlooms, 161–62 Here, 49–50 Hertz, 9 heuristics, 123–24 Hilton Hotels, 8, 64 Hipstamatic, 100 homeowners’ insurance, 175, 232 horizontal integration, 33, 74–76, 208 hospitals, 69, 71, 233, 270, 271–72 hosting sites, 88, 198, 223–24 hotel industry, 1–2, 8–9, 10, 12, 64, 67, 101, 111, 142–43, 198, 224, 229–33, 236, 253, 287 Hotmail, 103, 104 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 204, 208, 225 HTTP, 177 Huffington Post, 90 human resources, 14, 39 human rights, 159, 160–61 hypercompetition, 209–10, 213 IBM, x, 137, 152, 179, 284 iCloud, 75 identity theft, 244 InCloudCounsel, 279 income streams, 139–41, 143, 144, 215 India, 73, 91 Indiegogo, 96, 124 Indonesia, 278 Industrial Awakening, 285–86 industrial development, 205–10, 224–25, 268 industrial-era firms, 19, 32, 34, 256, 285, 288 Industrial Revolution, 288 Industry Standard Architecture (ISA), 58 information, 40, 42 agencies for, 243–44 age of, 253, 256, 260 asymmetries of, 161–62, 164, 181, 182, 220, 228, 258–59, 262–63, 265, 269, 281, 289 exchange of, 36, 37, 39, 41, 47–48, 51, 134 intensive need for, 262–63, 265, 268, 281, 289 mis-, 129–30 platforms for, 190, 200, 287 units of, 296–97 initial public offerings (IPOs), ix, 91, 204–5 Instagram, 3, 13, 32, 46, 47, 66, 85, 100, 102–3, 104, 204, 217, 218, 299 instant messaging, 131, 198, 211 insurance industry, 9, 62, 71, 142, 164, 175–76, 232, 268, 277 integrated systems, 33, 74, 131 Intel, vii, x, 57–58, 89, 137, 178–81, 270–71, 284 Intel Architecture Labs (IAL), 179–81 intellectual property (IP), 33, 57, 167, 174–75, 180, 258 interaction failures, 190, 192, 196–97 Interbrand, 198–99 interest rates, 170, 244, 276 Internal Revenue Service (IRS), 93 internal transparency, 176–79 International Financial Reporting Standards, 238–39 Internet, 24–25, 32, 60–63, 76–79, 95–96, 107–13, 121, 167, 201, 204, 205, 209, 244, 249, 250, 263, 264, 283–89, 299 Internet of things, 76, 201, 204, 283–86, 289 inventory, 9, 11–12, 25, 42, 141, 184, 186, 262 investment, ix, 16, 63, 164, 168–69, 184–86, 209, 278 iPads, 95 iPhone, 3, 6–7, 72, 131, 140, 147, 148, 178, 211, 213–14, 222 iStockphoto, 167–68, 173 iTunes, 75, 131, 142, 153, 164, 214, 231 Japan, 66, 205–6 Jassy, Andrew, 177–78 Java programming language, 140 Jawbone, x, 77, 245 job listings, 39, 49, 50, 51, 63, 111, 118–19, 120, 131, 133–34, 137, 184–86, 196, 201, 218 Jobs, Steve, viii, 53, 131, 214 joint venture model, 137, 138 judiciary, 237, 238, 250 JVC, 138–39 Kalanick, Travis, 18, 62 Kelley, Brian P., 157 Kenya, 277–78 Kercher, Meredith, 129–30, 149–50 Keurig Green Mountain, 143, 157–58, 159, 181 Kickstarter, 40, 92, 96, 102, 111 Kindle, 7, 10, 67, 140, 154, 243 Kindle Fire, 140 Knox, Amanda, 129–30, 149–50 Korengold, Barry, 61 Kozmo, 22–23 Kretschmer, Tobias, 257 Kuraitis, Vince, 270, 271 labor: child, 164 division of, 280 market for, 39, 49, 50, 51, 63, 111, 118–19, 120, 131, 133–34, 137, 196, 201, 218, 235 platforms for, 200, 201, 213, 233–34, 248–51, 279–81, 289 regulation of, 230, 249–51, 260, 288 self-employed, 21, 36, 37, 64, 65, 117–18, 193–94, 196, 210, 213, 233–34, 249–51, 279, 280, 287, 297, 299 unions for, 280, 288 Laffont, Jean-Jacques, 235, 237 law firms, 8, 204, 279 laws and legal systems, 88, 164–70, 182, 230, 247–49, 257, 258, 260, 281 lead generation, 113, 117 Lean Analytics (Croll and Yoskovitz), 191, 196 lean startups, 199, 201–2 Lee Kuan Yew, 160–61 LegalZoom, 204, 225 Lending Club, 77, 275, 276 Lessig, Lawrence, 164–65, 166 Levchin, Max, 79–81 Lexis, 204, 225 liability coverage, 175, 232 libertarianism, 79, 80, 236, 238 licensing fees, 61, 131, 258–59 licensing model, 136–37, 138, 139, 214, 235, 296 lightbulbs, 284–85 linear value chains (pipelines), 6, 183–84, 297, 298 LinkedIn, 39, 41–42, 48, 50–51, 103, 111, 119, 170, 173, 184, 197, 218–19, 223, 226, 245 Linux, 137, 138, 154, 200 liquidity, 189–91, 193, 194–95, 201–2, 297 local content regulations, 246–47 logos (icons), 82, 83 “long tail” (software adoption), 216–17, 219 Lyft, 49, 50–51, 67, 213, 227, 250–51, 297 Ma, Jack, 125, 206, 215 MacCormack, Alan, 57 magazines, 72, 151, 197, 244, 264, 275 magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), 69, 71 mail, 63, 94–95, 171 MailChimp, 109 Malaysia, 160 Management Science (MacCormack and Baldwin), 57 mandis (market-makers), 42–44 Manghani, Ravi, 273–74 manufacturing efficiencies, 208, 209, 261 MapMyFitness, 75 mapping services, 49–50, 55, 148, 200 marginal economics, 72, 78 Marini, Rick, 184–85 marketing, 14, 19, 25, 52–53, 72, 73–74, 84–85, 100, 101, 105, 183–84, 209–10, 267 Marketplace Fairness Act (2013), 249 marketplaces, 60, 91, 190, 204, 249 markets: access to, 87–88, 98, 194, 215, 218, 220 aggregation of, 68–69, 72–73, 78, 262, 297 controls for, 164–65 data on, 42–44 emerging, 210–11 entry barriers to, 207–8, 215, 219–20 expansion of, 4, 20, 31–32 failure of, xiii, 161–63, 164, 170–71, 182, 234–35, 256, 257, 258–59, 263, 289 free, 149, 161–65, 173–76, 180, 182, 234–36 frictionless entry into, 25–26, 34, 81, 107–8, 111, 117, 124–25, 130, 168, 206, 297 incumbent advantage in, 86, 218, 261, 263 late-mover problem in, 87–88, 98 liquidity of, 171, 196 local, 70–71, 117–18, 264 manipulation of, 238, 251–53, 260, 287 micro-, 98–99, 105 multi-sided, 159, 164 new entrants to, 207–10, 262, 296 niche, 88, 216, 223–24, 228, 300 one-sided, 157–58, 159 share of, 16–22, 33, 53, 60–62, 65, 81, 87–88, 112–13, 131–33, 132, 133, 137–40, 152–53, 157, 222–26, 260, 287 strategy for, viii, xi, 10, 16–18, 20, 21, 31–32, 33, 42–44, 57–58, 69–73, 77, 78, 89, 111, 124, 173, 210–11, 272–74, 278 supply and demand in, 69–71, 173, 210–11, 272–74, 278 “thickness” of, 164, 171, 173 two-sided, 81, 89, 93, 110, 119, 175, 196, 215, 218, 295, 298 winner-take-all, viii, 224–27, 228, 279–80, 300 marquee strategy, 94–95, 105 Marriott Hotels, 8–9 massive open online courses (MOOCs), 266–67 mass media, 40, 63, 72, 77, 262, 264 MasterCard, 226, 275 matching services, 17, 47–48 Matharu, Taran, 4–5 McCormick Foods, 76 McGraw-Hill, 204, 208 Mechanical Turk, 249, 280 Medicare, 250 Medicast, 269, 279 Medium, 71–72 Meetup, 113–15, 126 Megaupload, 87–88 membership fees, 123, 125 Mercateo, 96–97 mergers and acquisitions, 208, 216, 220–21, 228 Metcalfe, Robert, 20, 297 Metcalfe’s law, 20, 21, 295, 297 metering tools, 272–73 Microsoft, vii, x, 3, 13, 20, 29, 33, 52–53, 94, 103–4, 110, 124, 131, 140, 152–53, 179, 181, 200, 211, 216, 226, 240, 241, 252, 267, 270–71 Microsoft Outlook, 103–4 Microsoft Vista, 52–53 Microsoft Windows, 30, 53, 140, 152–53, 200, 222, 240 Microsoft Windows XP, 53 middlemen, 68–69, 71–72, 78, 161–62, 170–71, 298 Minerva Project, 268 mining, 225, 263 mislabeled bargains, 161–62, 170–71 MIT, ix–x, xi, 214, 266, 267 MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy, ix–x MIT Platform Strategy Summit, xi, 214 moderators, 151–52 modular design, 54–57, 221 monetary policy, 159, 173–74 monetization, 38, 63, 106–27, 188, 215 MonkeyParking, 233, 234 monopolies, 18–19, 162, 163, 172–73, 182, 208–9, 227, 237, 238, 240–41, 242 Monster, 218–19, 223, 226 mortgages, 237, 243, 263 Mount, David, 285–86 MP3 players, 178 multidirectional platforms, 272–74 multihoming, 213–15, 223–28, 250–51, 297, 300 multinational corporations, 246–48 multi-sponsor decision-making, 139–40 multi-user feedback loop, 46, 100–101 music industry, 63, 71, 75, 87, 111, 134–35, 147, 178, 213, 226, 231, 258, 287, 297 MyFitnessPal, 75, 245 Myspace, 87, 92, 98, 125–26, 131–34, 132, 133, 135, 143, 204, 221, 226 Nakamoto, Satoshi, 171–73 Nalebuff, Barry J., 212 NASDAQ, ix, 80 National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), 237 navigation tools, 191, 297 NBC, 204, 225 negative cross-side effects, 30–32, 34, 295 negative externalities, 163, 229–34, 257, 287 negative feedback, 28, 157–58, 166–67 negative network effects, 17, 26–32, 34, 47, 49, 51, 68, 112–15, 120, 121, 123, 126, 151, 229–34, 287, 298 negative same-side effects, 30, 298 Nest, 204, 225 Netflix, 63, 163, 204, 225 Netscape, 62, 110 network matching, 26–28 network orchestrators, 32 News Corp., 126 news feeds, 121, 168, 251–52 newspapers, 63, 144–45, 264, 287 New York City, 61, 113, 123, 229–30, 231, 258–59 New York State, 69–70, 274 New York Stock Exchange, 55, 171 New York Times, 205 NeXT, 53 Nigeria, 247 Nike, 4, 74–76, 78, 205, 271 9/11 attacks, 113 99designs, 66, 106 Nintendo, 94, 211, 240 noise, 28, 114, 120, 199, 200 Nokia, 49–50, 64, 131, 226 Novel Writing Month, 4–5 NTT, 89 oDesk, 201 oil and gas industry, 225, 235, 259, 263, 272 OkCupid, xi, 26–28, 30, 195–96 oligopolies, 209, 238 on-boarding effect, 90–91, 97 online courses, 96, 111, 265–68, 289 Open Data, 282 “open in” vs.


pages: 225 words: 54,010

A Short History of Progress by Ronald Wright

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Albert Einstein, Atahualpa, Bretton Woods, British Empire, clean water, Columbian Exchange, cuban missile crisis, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, Haber-Bosch Process, Hernando de Soto, invention of agriculture, James Watt: steam engine, Jane Jacobs, land reform, Mahatma Gandhi, nuclear winter, out of africa, Parkinson's law, Ronald Reagan, Thomas Malthus, urban sprawl

(The word “guano” is from the Quechua wanu, meaning dung or manure.) In the nineteenth century, the deposits were rapidly mined out, mainly by British interests; the miners were convicts and slaves, including hundreds kidnapped from Easter Island (see notes to chapter 3). In the early twentieth century, similar deposits were found in Micronesia, on Banaba and Nauru; these are now exhausted, and there are probably no others. The common Haber-Bosch process for making chemical fertilizer combines nitrogen from the air with hydrogen from natural gas or oil. 26. See Manning, “The Oil We Eat,” for an alarming analysis of the hidden costs of modern agriculture. In preindustrial civilizations, 80 to 90 per cent of people were farmers. In North America today, only 2 per cent work the land. However, if all the people employed in farmingrelated machinery, petroleum, petrochemical, and freight industries are included, the true number in food production is much higher.


pages: 603 words: 182,781

Aerotropolis by John D. Kasarda, Greg Lindsay

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3D printing, air freight, airline deregulation, airport security, Akira Okazaki, Asian financial crisis, back-to-the-land, barriers to entry, Berlin Wall, big-box store, blood diamonds, borderless world, British Empire, call centre, carbon footprint, Clayton Christensen, cleantech, cognitive dissonance, conceptual framework, credit crunch, David Brooks, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, Deng Xiaoping, deskilling, edge city, Edward Glaeser, failed state, food miles, Ford paid five dollars a day, Frank Gehry, fudge factor, full employment, future of work, Geoffrey West, Santa Fe Institute, George Gilder, global supply chain, global village, gravity well, Haber-Bosch Process, Hernando de Soto, hive mind, if you build it, they will come, illegal immigration, inflight wifi, interchangeable parts, intermodal, invention of the telephone, inventory management, invisible hand, Jane Jacobs, Jeff Bezos, Kangaroo Route, knowledge worker, kremlinology, labour mobility, Marshall McLuhan, Masdar, McMansion, megacity, Menlo Park, microcredit, Network effects, New Economic Geography, new economy, New Urbanism, oil shale / tar sands, oil shock, peak oil, Peter Thiel, pets.com, pink-collar, pre–internet, RFID, Richard Florida, Ronald Coase, Ronald Reagan, savings glut, Seaside, Florida, Shenzhen was a fishing village, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, Skype, smart cities, smart grid, South China Sea, South Sea Bubble, sovereign wealth fund, special economic zone, spice trade, spinning jenny, stem cell, Steve Jobs, supply-chain management, sustainable-tourism, telepresence, the built environment, The Chicago School, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, The Nature of the Firm, thinkpad, Thomas L Friedman, Thomas Malthus, Tony Hsieh, trade route, transcontinental railway, transit-oriented development, traveling salesman, trickle-down economics, upwardly mobile, urban planning, urban renewal, urban sprawl, walkable city, white flight, Yogi Berra

Once again we’re debating virtue, pitting local, organic, preferably artisanal foodstuffs against the cool chain and our current globe-spanning system. But we never defined the stakes: growing a local, tasty, organic tomato is a problem facing the developed world; growing enough tomatoes for six, soon to be nine billion people able to afford them is the dilemma facing the developing one. A century ago, the world faced an impending Malthusian crisis: farmers had run up against the hard limits of soil productivity. The Haber-Bosch process for synthesizing fertilizer averted disaster and was largely responsible for the fourfold increase in food supply known as the Green Revolution. Now the world faces another, with the UN warning us that food production must double in the next forty years to feed, clothe, and fuel nine billion people. More than half of the world’s remaining arable land is in Africa and Latin America. Feeding another two billion people will require a second revolution to replace the carbon-spewing fossil fuels behind the fertilizers and pesticides of the first.


pages: 687 words: 189,243

A Culture of Growth: The Origins of the Modern Economy by Joel Mokyr

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Andrei Shleifer, barriers to entry, Berlin Wall, clockwork universe, cognitive dissonance, Copley Medal, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, delayed gratification, deliberate practice, Deng Xiaoping, Edmond Halley, epigenetics, Fellow of the Royal Society, financial independence, framing effect, germ theory of disease, Haber-Bosch Process, hindsight bias, income inequality, invention of movable type, invention of the printing press, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, Jacquard loom, Jacquard loom, Jacques de Vaucanson, James Watt: steam engine, John Harrison: Longitude, Joseph Schumpeter, knowledge economy, labor-force participation, land tenure, law of one price, Menlo Park, moveable type in China, new economy, phenotype, price stability, principal–agent problem, rent-seeking, Republic of Letters, Ronald Reagan, South Sea Bubble, statistical model, the market place, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, transaction costs, ultimatum game, World Values Survey, Wunderkammern

One could also mention Tobias Cohn (or Toviyyah ben Moshe ha-Kohen,1652–1729), who wrote an encyclopedic work on medicine and natural philosophy published in 1707 and who criticized some of his fellow Jewish intellectuals for being too devoted to Kabbalah; at the same time, however, he viciously attacked heliocentrism as opposed to the scriptures (Neher, 1977). 16 Among the more notable names (beside Einstein and Freud) are those of the physical chemist Fritz Haber, inventor of the Haber-Bosch process, arguably one of the most important inventions of all times; Lazar L. Zamenhof, the inventor of Esperanto; Paul Ehrlich, the originator of modern Immunology; the flight pioneer Otto Lilienthal; Theodore von Kármán, the father of supersonic flight; László Bíró, the inventor of the ballpoint pen; and Carl Djerassi, the pioneer of birth control pills. 17 Neher (1977, p. 213) claims implausibly that within the Jewish community “freedom of thought was not an inaccessible value” and that it was an integral part of the Jewish conception of science.