A nifty popularization of the hard science and history of volcanoes and earthquakes. Levy and Salvadori are structural engineers who admit that we ``still do not entirely understand `how earthquakes work,' '' and the ability to predict when they will occur still eludes us. But we can ``forecast quite accurately where they will happen and how powerful they might be.'' The understanding that an earthquake is the ``sudden slipping'' of tectonic plates goes back only 40 years, the authors note, and represents the ``resounding triumph of seismology.'' A prime objective of Levy and Salvadori is to demonstrate the interrelationship of volcanoes and earthquakes. They do so successfully by using several examples such as the 1991 eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in the Philippines. It is believed that a series of earthquakes in 1990 triggered that eruption, which, though it claimed 900 lives, could have been far worse but for the attentive monitoring of seismographs, thermometers, and inclinometers spread throughout the islands. The authors recount numerous other quakes and eruptions, including that of Mount Saint Helens in 1980; Krakatau, an island off Sumatra that ``destroyed itself'' in 1883; and the ruin of the glorious city of Lisbon in 1755 from ``three great shock waves'' and the resulting tsunami and raging fires. The Lisbon disaster and the devastation of southern Italy in 1783 led, according to the authors, to the formal study of earthquakes, i.e., seismology. They also provide a look at what architects have learned from these occurrences and offer advice to individuals and homeowners on safety precautions and correct survival behavior during these powerful phenomena. A fun, sturdy book filled with helpful charts and dozens of illustrations.
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