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Richter's Scale: Measure of an Earthquake, Measure of a Man Hardcover – January 22, 2007
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But far more disturbing was the author's use of supposition. She presents a whole chapter on her case for Asperger's syndrome as an explaination of Richter's quirks. However, carefully examination of her evidence shows a number of areas where she contradicts herself. Moreover, she spends an enormous amount of time discussing what may or may not have been Richter's ample sex life, including repeated references to an insestous relationship with his sister, which may or may not have occurred.
Ratheer than coming away from this book with a better understanding of the meshing of the personal and professional life of one of seismology's best known names, we are left with the National Enquirer report on Richter's life.
The only area in which this book shines is it's final chapter. In it, the author clearly expresses her love and passion for seismology. As an earthquke scientist and educator she has a long and illustrious future ahead of her, that much is clear. However, as a scientist she should have realized how much supposition, in place of fact, might rankle other scientists consuming her product.
Well, his personal life was strange, so the idly curious might be titillated by it. The first question, though, is more directly relevant: Until somebody devised a method of quantifying earthquakes, there was no way to approach any estimate of danger.
Buildings (including not just houses and schools but bridges, highways, dams and power plants) could have been designed to be earthquake-safe without Richter. But the cost can be high, so it would be wasteful to overbuild where the hazard is slight. Underbuilding can be catastrophic. The Tangshan earthquake, as recent as 1976, may have killed 750,000 people. The Chinese government has suppressed the real cost. The 2004 Sumatran quake, on the other hand, which killed close to 200,000, was not so much a matter of building design as of monitoring and evacuation warnings.
So Richter's Scale is a fundamental tool by which to manage our lives. He announced it in 1935. Amazingly, according to geologist turned biographer Susan Elizabeth Hough, many people think it is a machine, like a butcher's scale. It is not a thing but a concept to organize a database.
It took an unusual sort of mind to work out the scale, one capable of holding vast amounts of (at the time) diffuse data, while also having the insight to pick out the relevant relationships among the facts and the application to grind out the numbers. The last was no easy task before the digital computer.Read more ›
For the general reader, however, "Richter's Scale" may prove tough going. Like Richter himself, the book suffers from a split personality. In part it's a straightforward biography of Richter, and in part a history of the development of major ideas in seismology (at least those that touched on Richter's career). Hough presents extensive evidence to suggest that Richter suffered from some sort of neurological disorder, possibly Asperger's Syndrome (a mild form of autism), and that his interests swung back and forth from science to poetry with manic instensity. If you're primarily interested in the science, be warned that there is an awful lot of poetry in this book!
On the flip side, the book comes up short on some technical background information. Although the book includes numerous photographs, there are no illustrations of seismograms (the squiggles that record earth movements following an earthquake). Chapter nine in particular attempts to describe the importance of the development of a consistent system for measuring earthquakes without maps, seismograms or even data tables. Unless you already have a basic understanding of earthquake science, this chapter might stop you dead in your tracks.Read more ›
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Excellent product, great price and outstanding shipping. Highly recommended.Published 17 months ago by Alberto L. Valldejuli