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WONDERS OF GEOLOGY by Michael Collier Kirkus Star


An Aerial View of America's Mountains

by Michael Collier photographed by Michael Collier developed by Mikaya Digital

Pub Date: Dec. 2nd, 2011
Publisher: Mikaya Digital

A captivating introduction, technical but not difficult, to the rumblings within the Earth that produce the world’s mountains.

Few readers will ever have the experience of flying over Denali/Mount McKinley, fewer still in a 1955 Cessna 180. Pilot, photographer, writer, geologist and medical doctor Collier, the owner of that craft, writes that it has “carried me from Fairbanks to Honduras, from Bangor to Baja.” As he traverses the skies, he has been photographing the geologic features he encounters. This app, excellent in both design and content, performs two main jobs: First, it provides a top-flight portfolio of photographs that look fine on earlier models but that leap off the screen with the retina display of the new iPad; this is no small thing, for Collier is esteemed as a landscape photographer, shooting in both film and digital formats. Second, it takes readers on a rigorous—but not off-putting—tour of geologic basics, beginning with the rock cycle (all rocks are, at some time or another, igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary) and ending with a close look at the various geologic provinces of North America. These range from the Appalachian Highlands of the East to the Basin and Range of the West—and then, of course, the mountains of Alaska, which are a world of their own. The app is accompanied by sound files of Collier commenting on his photographs, as well as animations showing geologic features such as subduction, continental drift and sheet erosion at play. Geology can be notoriously dull, but Collier writes in an easy and encouraging manner (“To begin to know a mountain, you have to look past its exterior shape and see the rocks inside”). Overall, the text is clear and easy to read, though it lacks a bookmarking feature; navigation is accomplished by means of a table of contents, as well as a band of thumbnails at screen bottom. Of added value are the hyperlinked pop-up definitions of geologic terms as they appear (“Sandstone: sedimentary rock composed of quartz, feldspar or other grains with diameters from 0.062 to 2 millimeters”). 

For the budding geologist—or photographer, or pilot—in the household, a thing of wonder, and an exemplary work of feature-rich multimedia publishing.