Archive for the ‘Caltech’ Category

Smogtown set for e-book for Kindle and other mobile devices August 23. It’s a helluva, brown story for a warming age.

Monday, August 15th, 2011

Click here at and let the journey begin

Some reasons to download it:

* Named one of 2008′s best environmental books by Booklist magazine

* Awarded silver medals at The Green Book Festival and Independent Book Publishers (IPPY) Awards. Winner of the Green Prize for Sustainable Literature from Santa Monica.

* Reviews

“[A] remarkably entertaining and informative chronicle of the birth and—so far—inexorable evolution of smog… This book is just amazing, a gripping story well told, with the requisite plucky scientists (including Arie Haagen-Smit, a Dutch biochemist who was “the Elvis of his field”), hapless politicians, and a nebulous biochemical villain who just will not be stopped.” –Booklist (Starred review)

“The history of smog has never been so sexy” — Los Angeles Times

“Smog in all its hazy-and sometimes humorous-permutations … a zany and provocative cultural history.” — Kirkus

“Finished with a particularly powerful, forward-looking epilogue, this friendly, accessible history should appeal to any American environmentalist.”– Publishers Weekly

“… a meticulous chronicle of the city’s signature airborne grime and of the civic and social forces that emerged to stop it … … The story of Smogtown is that of a city vying against time to reconcile incommensurables … ” — Bookforum

“The narrative that emerges is more than a tale of a region and a populace besieged by smog; it is also a parable for a nation beset by environmental and social problems … (a) well-researched cultural history” — Slate

“Writing in a hip, lively style, …[An] intriguing social history of an environmental problem that won’t go away. Recommended.” – Library Journal

“A well-documented, highly engaging, and widely relevant account of southern California’s battle with “the beast,” as the authors lovingly refer to smog. … Smogtown is not your typical “green’s” diatribe against big business and weak government. No, Jacobs and Kelly are much smarter-and fairer-than that” — Sustainablog

* From the dust jacket description:

“The smog beast wafted into downtown Los Angeles on July 26, 1943. Nobody knew what it was. Secretaries rubbed their eyes. Traffic cops seemed to disappear in the mysterious haze. Were Japanese saboteurs responsible? A reckless factory? The truth was much worse–it came from within, from Southern California’s burgeoning car-addicted, suburban lifestyle. Smogtown is the story of pollution, progress, and how an optimistic people confronted the epic struggle against airborne poisons barraging their hometowns. With wit, verve, and a fresh look at history, California based journalists Chip Jacobs and William J. Kelly highlight the bold personalities involved, the corporate- tainted science, the terrifying health costs, the attempts at cleanup, and how the smog battle helped mold the modern-day culture of Los Angeles. There are scofflaws aplenty and dirty deals, plus murders, suicides, spiritual despair, and an ever-present paranoia about mass disaster. Brimming with historic photographs, forgotten anecdotes, and new revelations about our environmentally precarious present, Smogtown is a journalistic classic for the modern age.”

Caltech’s preeminent Engineering & Science magazine does book overview with emphasis on the High Priest of Hydrocarbons himself, Caltech’s very own Dr. Haagen-Smit.

Monday, January 31st, 2011

Good meat and potatoes roundup (article link) …

“On July 8, 1943, a thick blanket of gray mist engulfed Los Angeles, burning eyes and searing throats. The gaseous assault was so sudden that some thought the Japanese were beginning an invasion with chemical weapons. But the suffocating pall wasn’t foreign—it was smog. And so begins Smogtown, by Chip Jacobs and William J. Kelly, a history of the fight against air pollution in Southern California.

The authors deliver a blow-by-blow account of subsequent struggles to find the source of the smog and return to Los Angeles the clear blue skies that had drawn so many westward in the first place. The themes and characters are all too familiar: relentless economic growth versus the environment and health; timid politicians or, worse, political leaders who fail to recognize the magnitude of the problem; businesses and industries that care only about the bottom line; a public reluctant to sacrifice an unsustainable lifestyle; and the regulatory agencies caught in between.

The primary players include Caltech’s own Arnold Beckman (PhD ’28) and Arie J. Haagen-Smit, a chemistry professor from 1937 until his retirement in 1971. As a science advisor to the city, Beckman recruited Haagen-Smit, now considered the father of smog control, to figure out the smog’s underlying chemistry …”