So the apocalypse arrived and the world as we know it has come to an end. What to do next? Assuming you’re one of a handful of survivors, do you have what it takes to make it more than a couple of winters and maybe even sow the seeds for the rebirth of humanity? You will if you have a copy of “The Knowledge,” a handy guide to rebooting the world in the event of, say, a plague that wipes out 99.9% of humanity. Many books from literary hotshots boast that they’re “important.” How many of them would actually be of much use amid mass destruction and the stench of masses of bloated corpses? Author Lewis Dartnell, a 32-year-old British astrobiologist and polymath, isn’t writing with tongue in cheek. Though the book is brief and points out in a daunting introduction exactly what you’re up against — the world is so complex that no single person starting from scratch could even make a pencil, much less a motor — “The Knowledge” is an actual starter guide that proposes quick-and-dirty solutions to the most elementary issues. It’s also a stimulating read, a grand thought experiment on re-engineering the food, housing, clothing, heat, clean water and every other building block of civilization. In 25 breezy pages, for instance, Dartnell gives a rundown of the history of agriculture. Once all the canned food you find in abandoned supermarkets is gone, could you grow your own crops? You could if you had a few implements such as a manual hoe, plow, seed drill, scythe and thresher taken from museums. It’s comforting to know that vast stores of millions of different seed varieties — the vegetarian Noah’s Ark — are currently being preserved in hundreds of seed banks around the world in case of apocalypse. The most durable of these is a little inaccessible, though: It’s built into the side of a mountain on a Norwegian island in the Arctic Circle (where the permafrost will keep the material fresh in the event that the electrical grid gets knocked out). Dartnell touches on the really important questions at: New York Post.
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