Although almost entirely focused on California, this is a fine popular primer on the subject, lucidly written and no more...

EARTHQUAKE STORMS

THE FASCINATING HISTORY AND VOLATILE FUTURE OF THE SAN ANDREAS FAULT

A thoroughly rewarding explanation of earthquakes built around the famous San Andreas fault, which runs the length of California.

Science writer Dvorak emphasizes that it was barely 50 years ago when scientists agreed that earthquakes were not the result of exploding underground gases, volcanism or a wrinkling of the Earth’s surface as it slowly cooled. Much of their enlightenment occurred in California, and the author turns up half a dozen intrepid, eccentric and largely unknown geologists (Grove Gilbert, Andrew Lawson, Charles Richter, Harry Fielding Reid) whose insights began to converge after the devastating 1906 San Francisco earthquake. In the massive studies that followed, scientists could not fail to notice the long San Andreas fault, a crack in the Earth’s surface soon found to extend the entire length of the state. No one doubted that movement along this fault had occurred during the quake since roads, pipes, rails and fences that crossed the line had shifted as much as 20 feet and always in the same direction. This was considered an effect, not a cause of the quake, and the few perceptive observers who disagreed were dismissed. It’s a rule of science that facts mean little in the absence of a good theory to explain them. This finally arrived in the 1960s with plate tectonics, which asserted that vast, floating segments of the Earth’s crust are creeping horizontally past each other. One segment often sticks fast against its neighbor; pressure builds over decades until it breaks loose, producing one or a series of quakes. “[T]he San Andreas Fault and its many subsidiary faults are slowly tearing California apart,” writes the author, “so that much of what is California today will be transformed into a collection of islands that are destined to be rafted northward across the Pacific.”

Although almost entirely focused on California, this is a fine popular primer on the subject, lucidly written and no more technical than necessary.

Pub Date: March 12, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-60598-495-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2014

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A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

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NO ONE IS TOO SMALL TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE

A collection of articulate, forceful speeches made from September 2018 to September 2019 by the Swedish climate activist who was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Speaking in such venues as the European and British Parliaments, the French National Assembly, the Austrian World Summit, and the U.N. General Assembly, Thunberg has always been refreshingly—and necessarily—blunt in her demands for action from world leaders who refuse to address climate change. With clarity and unbridled passion, she presents her message that climate change is an emergency that must be addressed immediately, and she fills her speeches with punchy sound bites delivered in her characteristic pull-no-punches style: “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.” In speech after speech, to persuade her listeners, she cites uncomfortable, even alarming statistics about global temperature rise and carbon dioxide emissions. Although this inevitably makes the text rather repetitive, the repetition itself has an impact, driving home her point so that no one can fail to understand its importance. Thunberg varies her style for different audiences. Sometimes it is the rousing “our house is on fire” approach; other times she speaks more quietly about herself and her hopes and her dreams. When addressing the U.S. Congress, she knowingly calls to mind the words and deeds of Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy. The last speech in the book ends on a note that is both challenging and upbeat: “We are the change and change is coming.” The edition published in Britain earlier this year contained 11 speeches; this updated edition has 16, all worth reading.

A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

Pub Date: Nov. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-14-313356-8

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2019

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A quirky wonder of a book.

WHY FISH DON'T EXIST

A STORY OF LOSS, LOVE, AND THE HIDDEN ORDER OF LIFE

A Peabody Award–winning NPR science reporter chronicles the life of a turn-of-the-century scientist and how her quest led to significant revelations about the meaning of order, chaos, and her own existence.

Miller began doing research on David Starr Jordan (1851-1931) to understand how he had managed to carry on after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake destroyed his work. A taxonomist who is credited with discovering “a full fifth of fish known to man in his day,” Jordan had amassed an unparalleled collection of ichthyological specimens. Gathering up all the fish he could save, Jordan sewed the nameplates that had been on the destroyed jars directly onto the fish. His perseverance intrigued the author, who also discusses the struggles she underwent after her affair with a woman ended a heterosexual relationship. Born into an upstate New York farm family, Jordan attended Cornell and then became an itinerant scholar and field researcher until he landed at Indiana University, where his first ichthyological collection was destroyed by lightning. In between this catastrophe and others involving family members’ deaths, he reconstructed his collection. Later, he was appointed as the founding president of Stanford, where he evolved into a Machiavellian figure who trampled on colleagues and sang the praises of eugenics. Miller concludes that Jordan displayed the characteristics of someone who relied on “positive illusions” to rebound from disaster and that his stand on eugenics came from a belief in “a divine hierarchy from bacteria to humans that point[ed]…toward better.” Considering recent research that negates biological hierarchies, the author then suggests that Jordan’s beloved taxonomic category—fish—does not exist. Part biography, part science report, and part meditation on how the chaos that caused Miller’s existential misery could also bring self-acceptance and a loving wife, this unique book is an ingenious celebration of diversity and the mysterious order that underlies all existence.

A quirky wonder of a book.

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6027-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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