The National Academies

The National Academies: What You Need to Know About the World Around You

What You Need to Know About the World Around You

What You Need to Know About the World Around You

Given the complexity and scope of challenges we face related to science, engineering, and medicine, it can be difficult at times to separate fact from opinion. The “What You Need to Know” websites are primers on topics of social and scientific interest. By providing basic, objective information about issues that affect us as individuals and as a nation, they aim to help people make better decisions, informed by science.


American society, with a standard of living unprecedented in human history, can attribute a large measure of its success to increasingly sophisticated uses of energy. But that condition has come at a cost—to irreplaceable resources, to the environment, and to our national independence. Discover how we produce and utilize energy today and how that might change in the future.

View the Site

  • Understanding Efficiency

    Learn about energy loss and how our choices can minimize it.

    Read More
    Steering Wheel
  • Our Energy System

    Where does our energy come from? Where’s it going? Find out.

    Read More
    Pie Chart
  • Car

    Exploring Emerging Technologies

    An increasing share of future needs will be met by technologies now in the research or development stage.

    Read More
  • Pie Chart

    Consider Environmental Impact

    Many of the world’s poorest people, who lack the resources to respond to the impacts of climate change, are likely to suffer the most.

    Read More

Infectious Disease

Most of our body weight is made up of microbes. They live on our skin, in our gut, and throughout our bodies. Most don’t do us any harm—in fact, many help us survive. But there are certain bacteria, viruses, and other microbial life forms that can cause illness, or even death. Learn the basics about microbes and the fascinating relationship we have with them.

View the Site

  • Types of Microbes

    Microbes come in many forms. Discover their many shapes and sizes.

    Learn More
  • Disease Watchlist

    Find out about some of the diseases that affect humans.

    Learn More
    Disease Watchlist