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The Earth in Turmoil: Earthquakes, Volcanoes, and Their Impact on Humankind Hardcover – June, 1998

4.8 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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A million and a half people have died in the last century as a result of geological cataclysms--a small number compared to those who have died in storms, floods, or wars, to be sure, but still enough to give us a reasonable fear of the planet's unpredictable motions. In this handy primer, Sieh and Levay explore the scientific issues surrounding such matters as making buildings and roadways earthquake-tolerant, noting that the behavior of seismic energy cannot be reliably forecast "because the rupture is not a small focus of energy like a light bulb but an event that propagates across a large surface over an appreciable period of time." They also note that plenty of places besides California and Japan are due for quakes and volcanoes in the near future. --Gregory McNamee


"The Earth in Turmoil is a highly readable and entertaining volume that provides important background...regarding the geologic hazards of the natural environment. Kerry Sieh provides the insights of a prominent research investigator and his characterization of the evolution of scientific conclusions...provides a unique opportunity for the reader to glimpse the dynamics of observation and interpretation that affect...public policies regarding citizen safety. It is a very satisfying book." -- James F. Davis, California State Geologist

Anyone who thinks we reside on terra firma will be jolted into reality by this unique and eminently readable book. -- Steven M. Stanley, Professor of Paleobiology, John Hopkins University and author of Children of the Ice Age

Scientists and non-scientists alike will appreciate this enjoyable mixture of interesting anecdotes and scientific explorations, and in particular the way the research scientists come alive as people in this book. -- John Ebel, Director and Professor, Weston Observatory of Boston College

The Earth in Turmoil is a truly splendid book, engagingly written and solidly grounded in scientific fact and interpretation. -- Gordon P. Eaton, Former Director, U.S. Geological Survey

The authors provide riveting information about the mechanisms of converging tectonic plates and about the past, present, and future implications of such cataclysms. -- Natural History

Well-informed on all fronts. -- Science News

[The Earth in Turmoil] is well-written and informative, encompassing the latest knowledge of earthquakes and their effects on mankind. I highly recommend this book. -- James E. Roberts, Director of Engineering Services and Chief Structures Engineer, California State Department of Transportation

[The Earth in Turmoil] works because the authors are experts in both the science and in the art of telling the story behind the science. -- American Scientist

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 324 pages
  • Publisher: W H Freeman & Co; First Printing edition (June 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0716731517
  • ISBN-13: 978-0716731511
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.5 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,862,731 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This book looks at ten or so regions in the USA that suffer major earthquake and seismic hazards in a very readable fashion. Some of these are the familar ones in the news such as Mt. St. Helens and California, Others are not so well known like New York City and Tennesee, because they haven't been active in a while, but could potentially be as deadly.
It is written in a Scientific America-like journalistic style: a readable introduction for high school students as well as meaty detail for a seasoned geologist. It contains a number of up-to-date maps and photgraphs illustrating the destruction and how the geology works. It conveniently assembles into a single volume a number of case histories previously scattered among different scientific journals, government reports and popular science articles. It crosses the sub-fields of geology, seismology, volcanology and civil engineering- topics often seperated in other works.
The main author, Sieh, is a CalTech geologist who is one of the leading figures in geological seismology, and studied several of the areas described in the book. Geological seismology looks at disturbed soil layers, rocks, and old trees to estimate seismic activity over the past several thousand years, before there were seismic instruments. The second author, LeVay, is a former LaJolla neuroscientist and presently a science journalist. He probably contributed heavily to making the volume readable. Some of the chapters are personal reports of scientific investigations in manner of Sullivan or McPhee.
The book is not intended to be comprehensive textbook of geology, seismology, volcanology, etc., although there are introductions to such woven into the text and appendices.
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Format: Paperback
One of the things that makes this book stand out is that its geology is up-to-date and detailed. I was a geology major back in the late 70s and while I decided not to go on in the field, I've kept up reasonably well. I learned a great deal of new info from this book, including the only coherent explanation I've ever read of the "hot spots" responsible for volcanoes like those in Hawaii.
The basic format of the book is of a west-to-east journey through the U.S., although Southern California (where co-author Sieh lives and works) gets by far the most detailed coverage. We get some vivid anecdotal accounts of earthquakes and eruptions, but the overall focus is more "what we think we know and why we think we know it." As another reviewer said, you must be interested enough in the subject to follow some reasonably complex logical arguments.
The color photos in the book are a valuable addition -- among other things, they made me realize that the oddly ramp-like block just south of Sunset Boulevard in LA is actually the scarp of the fault that has raised the Hollywood Hills.
The writing style is clear and approachable. All in all a very enjoyable read for folks with a serious interest in Earth Science.
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Format: Paperback
This is a book about geological hazards in the United States. The general focus is on the West Coast, if only because that is the most tectoncally active area. Some color plates, and a few black and white photos, are included, but the primary emphasis is on a well-written text. The book is highly readable and keeps one's attention throughout.
The authors begin their examination with a review of the Northwest, discussing both volcanic hazards and the lesser known, recently discovered, but far more dangerous hazard of a truly giant earthquake in that region. Every citizen of that part of the United States should carefully peruse this section.
Attention then turns to California and the San Andreas Fault. Author Sieh is a renowned expert on this transform fault, and thoroughly discusses the extensive research he and others have done on this peril. Again, as with the Northwest, this section is very highly recommended.
The earthquake hazards of the Great Basin and the volcanic hazards of Yellowstone are examined in detail, as are mid-continent earthquake problems in the central Mississippi valley. The book also looks at potential East Coast earthquake and tsunami hazards.
The authors use particular care in explaining geologic termnology in an understandable manner, and this is rare and impressive. Many books of this genre are deficient in that they either oversimplify the material at hand, leading to inaccuracies and potentially dangerous distortions, or by making geology appear so difficult that the reader with a non-scientific background becomes frustrated. The authors have carefully avoided either pitfall, and the book has profited though such care.
If you live in the United States, you should own and read this book. It may save your investments. or your life.
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