PERILS OF A RESTLESS PLANET by Jr. Zebrowski

PERILS OF A RESTLESS PLANET

Scientific Perspectives on Natural Disasters
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

 A wide-ranging, gratifyingly lively investigation into the more violent ravings of Mother Nature from Zebrowski (College of Technology/Penn. State Univ.). All of the great natural catastrophes are visited here- -earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, epidemics, hurricanes, tornadoes, and firestorms--from Thera to Kobe, with stops at Lisbon, Messina, Galveston, San Francisco, Alaska, and other notable venues. Yet this isn't just a litany of the most godawful cataclysms, for Zebrowski is interested in the whys and wherefores behind such events, curious to make sense of their seeming randomness, anxious to gain a step toward predictability. To this end he plumbs atmospheric dynamics, wave physics, plate tectonics, plague vectors; explores the history of science (highlighting the work of Pythagoras, Galileo, and Newton); and argues for the support of arcane scientific projects, as he is a believer in the crucial need for all kinds of research, as well as in the creative leap of faith and inductive reasoning. Interesting as all this is--pleasingly accessible via Zebrowski's unhurried, skeptical, clear style--it is nature's fury that makes this book vibrate: a phosphorescent tsunami that lifts the man-of-war USS Wateree and delivers it into the Atacama Desert, two miles from its anchorage off the coast of southern Peru; the strange and silent lakes of Cameroon that on two occasions in the 1980s displaced the atmospheric oxygen and suffocated all those nearby; the witnessing by five British monks in 1178 of the results of a huge asteroid colliding with the moon. Zebrowski's infectious relish makes it hard not to look forward to the next plague--of, say, black widows--as he might tell it. Mother Nature raves on, unpredicatbly and unsparingly. Zebrowski loves her still, though, like any vexed and fascinated scientist, he sure would like to know what sends her off her rocker. (b&w illustrations, not seen)

Pub Date: July 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-521-57374-2
Page count: 302pp
Publisher: Cambridge Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 1997