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Forget taking down the Internet or launching a military strike. If malign forces really want to “bring civilization to its knees,” argues Tom Jackson, “all they need to do is turn off all the fridges.” To understand why electric cool is so important–which is the premise of Jackson’s new book–it helps to remember a world without it, when people relied on ice cut from ponds and rivers to preserve their food and chill their drinks. This method, while popular, was also risky (stream ice often contained pollutants, which led to outbreaks of typhoid fever and more) and restrictive (it was tough to ship ice to warmer regions). But refrigeration tech didn’t only enable safer, healthier diets, Jackson reveals. It was also instrumental in developing cloud storage (servers would overheat without air-conditioning), MRI scanners (their mechanics rely on cold magnets) and even the world’s most popular drug, the statin Lipitor (made using supercold liquid nitrogen).


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