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review 2018-06-21 07:03
Tides: The Science and Spirit of the Ocean by Jonathan White
Tides: The Science and Spirit of the Ocean - Jonathan White,Peter Matthiessen

TITLE:   Tides: The Science and Spirit of the Ocean

 

AUTHOR:  Jonathan White

 

PUBLICATION DATE:  2017

 

FORMAT:  ebook

 

ISBN-13:  978-1-59534-806-7

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NOTE:  I received a copy of this book from NetGalley.  This review is my honest opinion of the book.

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Jonathan White is a sailor, surfer, writer, and active marine conservationist who takes his readers on an adventure around the world to discover the science and spirit of ocean tides.

 

Some of the fascinating topics covered in this book include tidal bores, tidal anomalies, the difference between spring and neap tides, the science and history of forecasting tides, resonance, geophysics, the different methods of harvesting energy from the ocean, and a rather poor attempt to describe the effects of rising tides on civilization. 

 

The author provides a superficial explanation of tidal mechanics – I really was looking for more information on this, especially in a book subtitled “the science and spirit of the ocean”.  The “spirit” part of the subtitle takes over the book in terms of personal anecdotes, “travel writing”, tangential stories and philosophical musings that didn’t particularly appeal to me. 

 

The book was also arranged in an odd manner by explaining specific tidal anomalies before explaining tides in general.  Trying to sift the interesting scientific information out of all the extraneous text didn’t help with the conveyance of information.  However, the book does provide numerous black & white photographs, explanatory diagrams and sixteen colour photographs.

 

If you want to know more about tides and like personal, chatty stories mixed with your science, then you will probably enjoy this book.  If you want more science and less “fluff”, you need to look elsewhere.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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review 2018-06-04 06:03
The Big Ones by Lucy Jones
The Big Ones: How Natural Disasters Have Shaped Us (and What We Can Do about Them) - Lucy Jones

TITLE:  The Big Ones: How Natural Disasters Have Shaped Us (and What We Can Do about Them).

 

AUTHOR:  Lucy Jones

 

DATE PUBLISHED:  2018

 

FORMAT:  Hardcover

 

ISBN-13:  9780385542708

 

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From the blurb:

"By a veteran seismologist of the U.S. Geological Survey, a lively and revealing history of the world's most disruptive natural disasters, their impact on our culture, and new ways of thinking about the ones to come.

Natural disasters emerge from the same forces that give our planet life. Earthquakes have provided us with natural springs. Volcanoes have given us fertile soil. A world without floods would be a world without rain. It is only when these forces exceed our ability to withstand them that they become disasters. Together, these colossal events have shaped our cities and their architecture; elevated leaders and toppled governments; influenced the way we reason, feel, fight, unite, and pray. The history of natural disasters is a history of ourselves.


The Big Ones is a look at some of the most devastating disasters in human history, whose reverberations we continue to feel today. It considers Pompeii, and how a volcanic eruption in the first century AD challenged and reinforced prevailing views of religion for centuries to come. It explores the California floods of 1862, examining the failures of our collective memory. And it transports us to today, showing what Hurricane Katrina and the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami can tell us about governance and globalization.


With global temperatures rising, natural disasters are striking with greater frequency. More than just history, The Big Ones is a call to action. Natural disasters are inevitable; human catastrophes are not. With this energizing and richly researched book, Jones offers a look at our past, readying us to face down the Big Ones in our future."

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This book provides a superficial look at a few of the world's biggest natural disasters and how these disasters effected societies.  Jones explores how the disaster victims and relevant governments dealt with the catastrophe and what they are doing to mitigate the adverse effects of any subsequent natural disasters.  This is a history book with minimal, superficial science.  The book is informative with an easy going writing style, however, I was hoping for more specific information on the disaster themselves and the engineering options used to mitigate disaster impacts.  This book makes for a good introductory text to the subject.

 

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-05-30 09:28
The Evolution Underground by Anthony J. Martin
The Evolution Underground: Burrows, Bunkers, and the Marvelous Subterranean World Beneath our Feet - Anthony J. Martin

TITLE:  The Evolution Underground:  Burrows, Bunkers, and the Marvelous Subterranean World Beneath our Feet.

 

AUTHOR:  Anthony J. Martin

 

DATE PUBLISHED:  2017

 

FORMAT:  Paperback

 

ISBN-13:  978-1-68177-312-4

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In this book, ichnologist Anthony J. Martin takes a look at how burrowing animals have evolved and influenced the ecology of this planet.  Martin starts off with alligators and gopher tortoises, ancient subterranean human settlements in Turkey and more modern underground Cold War bunkers, then travels through time to see what trace evidence and fossils prehistoric animals have left for burrowing behaviour - everything from the first worms, the first vertebrates and invertebrates, insects, dinosaurs, birds, penguins, giant ground sloths, crabs, shrimp, moles, gophers, earthworms and more.  

Martin shows  that burrowing animals are ecosystem engineers that alter their habitats through burrowing action.    He provides a fascinating eye-opening account of earth altering underground activities that effect the flora and fauna that exist on the surface of the planet.  

Martin also theorises that burrowing strategies of prehistoric and contemporary animals help in their survival during catastrophes and the survival of their species, and thus their evolutionary development, after the catastrophes.  Afterall, burrows provide shelter and protection, a reduction in extreme temperature fluctuations, minimized dessication during droughts, safe places to procreate and raise young, and on occassion food storage facilities.  Martin compares the survivors of major prehistoric catastrophes with the survivors of minor modern catastrophes, using examples like the pocket gophers that were hibernating during the eruption of Mt St. Helens.  The sleeping pocket gophers awoke to found an ash and lava covered landscape with minimal food, but due to a shortage in predators and a full storage larder, the gophers survived, prospered and also helped with seed dispersal and soil movement.

Martin is clearly passionate and knowledgeable about his subject.  This book adds a new perspective to evolution, extinction and ecosystem engineering.  There are 85 pages of note references, a whole wad of colour photographs/ illustrations, and a list of genera and species mentioned in the book.  The writing style manages to lively, fun, on the odd occasion amusing,  and informative at the same time.

 

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review 2018-04-29 17:21
Ocean Worlds by Jan Zalasiewicz & Mark Williams
Ocean Worlds: The Story of Seas on Earth and Other Planets - Mark Williams,Jan Zalasiewicz

TITLE:  Ocean Worlds: The Story of Seas on Earth and Other Planets

 

AUTHOR:  Jan Zalasiewicz & Mark Williams

 

DATE PUBLISHED:  2014

 

FORMAT:  Hardcover

 

ISBN-13:  978-0-19-967288-2

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From the blurb:

"Water, water everywhere?

 

So it would seem, and not ust on our home planet, but across the Universe,  In this exciting exploration of oceans, Jan Zalasiewicz and Mark Willimas take us to the beginnings of oceans on the hot, young Earth and show the critical role oceans have played in plate tectonics, in the development of the Earth's climate, and in the evolution of life on the planet.  There is much we still have to learn about the depths of our wold;s oceans.

 

Beyond the Earth, we explore possible oceans past on Mars and Venus, the ocean below the icy carapace of Euopa, and the water jets of Enceladus.  Will the Earth become another Mars or Venus in the future, when its oceans have boiled away?  Do the oceans of Saturn's moons harbour life - at least microbial life?  And the tantalizing possibility of finding another Earth-like world with oceans beckons.  Understanding oceans is central to understanding our planet, managing its future, and seeking life on other worlds."

 

Ocean Worlds is a well written science book that covers information and theories about the history, evolution and future development of the Earth's oceans, and then takes a look at other ocean worlds.  In short, the book is as described on the "tin".  The narrative is clearly written, fast paced and easy to understand but not overly simplified.  Numerous illustrations, diagrams and colour photographs are included.

 

OTHER BOOKS

 

- Ocean of Life by Callum Roberts

- The Attacking Ocean: The Past, Present, and Future of Rising Sea Levels by Brian M. Fagan

- The Worst of Times: How Life on Earth Survived Eighty Million Years of Extinctions by Paul B. Wignall

- The Goldilocks Planet: The Four Billion Year Story of Earth's Climate by Jan Zalasiewicz & Mark Williams

 

 

 

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review 2018-01-22 01:08
When the Earth was Flat: All the bits of science we got wrong
When the Earth Was Flat: All the Bits of Science We Got Wrong - Graeme Donald

In my review of The Accidental Scientist, I raved about how much I enjoyed the book, but that I had reservations about the way the author's style, no matter how entertaining it was.  Turns out those reservations are well founded.  In When the Earth was Flat, his penchant for pedantry and generalisations are so broad as to be misleading.  

 

The book is broken up into chapters that each cover a "scientific" theory believed to be fact at some point in history.  Flat Earth, Hollow Earth, Phrenology, Hysteria, etc.  Each includes a basic description of the belief and the effect it had on humanity both at the time, and sometimes, up to the present day.

 

Most of these are, I believe, pretty well researched, and they are well written; I learned a lot, and while I won't take any of it as gospel truth without some additional fact-checking, I have a level of confidence that the book is generally sound.  I'm agog at the implications of certain medical "advancements" of the 1920's and their possible links to HIV.  

 

But where he loses ground is in his breakout boxes that list "Popular Scientific Ideas Debunked".  These are just bullet point statements refuting what are widely believed to be scientific facts.  Most of them are gimmes; anyone who has read any similar book would recognise them as myths rather than facts.  But a number of them are - while factually correct if your pedantic - irresponsibly phrased.  For example:

 

Heat does not rise but disperses itself equally and evenly throughout its environment. 

 

Yes, but no.  Or not immediately.  A gas that is heated up will have less mass and more volume, and therefore will rise up through a colder gas until the heat is dispersed equally and evenly throughout.   That's how weather works.  Anyone who has ever seen a thunderstorm form, especially a microcell, has seen the hotter air rising up through the atmosphere (really, the colder air is sinking, but anyway...).  This is nature's way of re-establishing equilibrium, or as close as it can get before the sun comes back out.

 

The same applies to water (until water hits the freezing point); cold water is denser than warm water, so the colder water sinks to the bottom and the warmer water rises to the top, until the temperature is equal throughout.  We're lucky that that equilibrium is never achieved in our oceans, else life on Earth would become rather untenable. 

 

So while his statement is factualit's oversimplified to the point of being wrong, and since he does not trouble himself, or the reader, to explain beyond these casual, throw-way refutations, I find them incredibly irresponsible.   This is why there are so many ignorant people who cannot see that they are ignorant: they read things like this and think themselves informed... and then run for political office.  Simplification, like everything else in life, should only be practiced in moderation.

 

To sum up, it's not a bad read; I believe 90% of the information can be relied upon and for the reader who is new to science or just enjoys fun facts, this is entertainingly written. But, as in any non-fiction book, the reader should be cautious of single sentence statements of facts.  It's rarely that simple.

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