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Book Reviews:
On the Shelf for the Holidays

Quakes, Shakes and Fakes: The Big One

Maps:
New Maps from the U.S. Geological Survey


On the Shelf for the Holidays
Every year, Geotimes receives dozens and dozens of books to consider for reviews. While we run full reviews for a handful of them (for example, The Big One, reviewed below), we still end up leaving many great books on our shelves that we regrettably were not able to review. So this holiday season, we’ve sorted through our collection to offer up some nice gift ideas for the georeader on your holiday list. Enjoy!

Charles Darwin’s The Life of Erasmus Darwin, edited by Desmond King-Hele. Cambridge University Press, 2003. ISBN 0 5218 1526 6. Hardcover, $30.00.

Versions of Charles Darwin’s book about his grandfather, Erasmus, have been published since it was first written in 1879, but Desmond King-Hele’s edited edition is the first unabridged version and includes many passages once cut out by Charles’ daughter. Published in the bicentennial year of Erasmus Darwin’s death, Charles Darwin’s The Life of Erasmus Darwin is a short book about one of the most prominent intellectuals of the 18th century that plays out like a biopic, rather than a true narrative or biography. It includes private letters and notes from the family, some of Erasmus’ poetry — he was a doctor, poet, inventor and astronomer — and anecdotes told by a grandson.

Wesley Earl Dunkle: Alaska’s Flying Miner, by Charles Caldwell Hawley. University Press of Colorado, 2003. ISBN 0 8708 1723 x. Hardcover, $34.95.

The life of Wesley Earl Dunkle is an account of dangerous adventures on land and in the air. As a manager of mines for such industry moguls as J.P. Morgan and the Guggenheims, Dunkle brought forth a new age of copper and coal mining in the highly disputed lands of early 20th century Alaska. Dunkle went on to earn his pilot’s license and then to develop what would eventually be Alaska Airlines, all in an effort to aid prospecting an undeniably harsh region. Charles Caldwell Hawley, an economic geologist for more than 50 years, follows the footprints left behind by Wesley Earl Dunkle: Alaska’s Flying Miner.
The Whale and the Supercomputer: On the Northern Front of Climate Change, by Charles Wohlforth. North Point Press, 2004. ISBN 0 8654 7659 4. Hardcover, $25.00.

“Climate change isn’t an abstraction in the Far North. It is a reality that has already altered daily life for Native people who still live largely off the land and sea,” writes Charles Wohlforth in his new book The Whale and the Supercomputer. What makes this book fascinating is how Wohlforth weaves together the science of climate change in Alaska, the anecdotal tales of Natives experiencing environmental changes firsthand, and the scientists who come in droves to study climate in the Arctic. This is a good book for the conservationists and outdoor enthusiasts on your holiday gift list.
Better Off: Flipping the Switch on Technology, by Eric Brende. HarperCollins Publishers, 2004. ISBN 0 0605 7004 0. Hardcover, $24.95.

The only reason Eric Brende has an e-mail address is because his editor demands it. After graduating from MIT, Brende and his wife set off to join an obscure band of farmers known as the Minimites, considered primitive even by Amish standards. Leaving the world of technocrats, cars and electricity behind, the Brendes set out to determine “what is the least we need to achieve the most?” The result is an 18-month experiment, described in Better Off: Flipping the Switch on Technology. The surprising and entertaining results could shed light on energy conservation, especially in this time of high oil prices and uncertainty in global oil supply.
The Winemaker’s Dance, by Jonathan Swinchatt and David G. Howell. University of California Press, 2004. ISBN 0 5202 3513 4. Hardcover, $34.95.

In this beautifully illustrated tale of the interplay between geology and wine, geologists Jonathan Swinchatt and David Howell hop from winery to winery in Napa Valley, adroitly explaining why California’s complex geologic environment makes each vineyard the perfect place to grow a particular wine grape. Unlike other books on “terroir” — that certain “je ne sais quoi” blend of climate, soil, geology and culture that influences the character and quality of wine — The Winemaker’s Dance is also an interesting story, punctuated by scientific facts. For that wine or geology connoisseur, this well-written book would make an excellent gift.

Beasts of Eden, by David Rains Wallace. University of California Press, 2004. ISBN 0 5202 3731 5. Hardcover, $24.95.

Intrigued by the Yale Peabody Museum’s giant Age of Mammals mural since the age of 10, naturalist and author David Rains Wallace has brought the mural to life in a new book about the history of mammal evolution. Probably fittingly, Wallace starts his exploration with the wooly mammoth (pictured in the last frame of the mural, and perhaps the best-known of ancient mammals), and then works his way backward through some familiar characters, such as camels and bison, and some less familiar and odd looking creatures. As interesting as the paleontological descriptions is Wallace’s discussion of the people involved in mammalian studies over the years, intertwining the science with personal and professional disagreements among major players in the field. Not a light book, it is interesting in its outlook: using art to describe a scientific endeavor.
Bones Rock! Everything You Need to Know to Be a Paleontologist, by Peter Larson and Kristin Donnan. Invisible Cities Press, 2004. ISBN 1 9312 2935 x. Paperback, $19.95.

Curious kids can learn about how to find, dig up and identify bones with this exciting guide to becoming a dinosaur paleontologist. Even parents and teachers will appreciate Bones Rock!, which details how science works and how some kids have changed the face of paleontology with actual discoveries. Written by paleontologist Peter Larson and journalist Kristin Donnan, the book includes a teacher’s guide, a companion Web site and various Web links to rock clubs and dig programs nationwide, and is a must-have for all aspiring paleontologists.
Creation of the Teton Landscape: A Geologic Chronicle of Jackson Hole and the Teton Range, by J. David Love, John C. Reed Jr., and Kenneth L. Pierce. Grand Teton Natural History Association, 2003. ISBN 0 9318 9557 x. Paperback, $16.95.

As the geologist authors state in this updated version of Creation of the Teton Landscape, anyone who has visited the majestic Tetons mountain range in Wyoming has a new (or renewed) appreciation for the power of Earth’s forces. The authors take a comprehensive look at the geologic landscape and history of the Grand Tetons and Jackson Hole, and break down the science to provide a good source for anyone studying this region. Filled with stunning pictures and interesting graphics, this makes a good coffee table book for geologists and Western enthusiasts alike.

Book review
The Big One — The Earthquake That Rocked Early America and Helped Create a Science

by Jake Page and Charles Officer. Houghton Mifflin, 2004. ISBN 0 6183 4150 1. Hardcover, $24.00.


Quakes, Shakes and Fakes
Charles A. Langston

The iconography of earthquakes is a real problem for earthquake scientists. Let’s face it: Earthquakes get a deserved bum rap, especially the big ones, because they are scary and can cause destruction and death. But from the perspective of a practicing seismologist, earthquakes are a fascinating phenomenon, a mysterious result of largely unknown fracture physics that gives rise to majestic trains of seismic waves traveling thousands of kilometers per hour, illuminating Earth’s interior for scientific view.
The metaphorical icon of Jake Page and Charles Officer’s new book, The Big One, is the standard historical and emotional one: brokenness and disaster. The cover displays a large gaping crack in the ground waiting to swallow the unwary reader, and the title graphic on the book’s spine is cracked by a fault.

The book begins by describing the experiences of the 1811-1812 New Madrid earthquakes, with Page and Officer making the point that the three large events of this incredible earthquake sequence produced almost unbelievable ground failure in a huge area around the earthquakes, and that the temblors were widely felt throughout the United States. The authors give us a particularly nice touch by placing the New Madrid earthquakes squarely into the historic timeline through accounts of other important events, such as the great comet of 1811 and the War of 1812.

The greatest strength of the book is that it tells the stories of people rather than of science: people who experienced the earthquakes, people who observed (and even foretold) the events and people who developed the science of geology, geophysics and tectonics. These stories entertainingly come up to the present in both the development of scientific ideas and the recounting of two particular episodes of earthquake “prediction”: the Brady-Spence prediction for the west coast of South America in the late 1970s and Iben Browning’s prediction in the New Madrid seismic zone in 1990.

Frankly, much of the entertainment value was simply because I personally know many of the modern scientists mentioned in the book. Don Anderson, for example, now a retired geophysicist from the seismology lab at Caltech, is described as “the renegade Anderson” for his views that mantle plumes do not exist. Arch Johnston and Buddy Schweig, my colleagues here at the University of Memphis, are the source of much of the scientific material on the New Madrid earthquakes, and play foils to some of the more speculative theories that Page and Officer came up with in trying to explain the New Madrid events. It is an even smaller world when Page and Officer talk about the characters in the Browning prediction saga. My wife was hired by the University of North Carolina because a seismology position opened after David Stewart, who figured prominently in the Browning affair, was denied tenure there, mainly for his use of a psychic for predicting earthquakes.

Some of the book’s entertainment also comes from inadvertent gaffes. For example, Sue Hough, a well-known scientist at the Pasadena office of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), was described as the 2002 “president of the American Seismological Society.” There is no “American Seismological Society” nor was she ever president of the Seismological Society of America.
The book also has some problematic descriptions and scientific confusions. For example, the authors describe observations of low frequency electromagnetic waves as a precursor to the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake but implied that they were sound waves. They also state that “hundreds of thousands of people worldwide die in earthquakes every year.” According to USGS statistics, the numbers are an order of magnitude lower at about 11,000 per year on the average (between 1990 and 1999).

The authors do a great job in bringing the earthquake events of 1811-1812 into the geophysical mainstream and public consciousness while pointing out the real scientific mystery. The ways we think earthquakes are generated at plate margins seem to have no bearing on the causes of midplate earthquakes. The subtitle of the book, however, implies that the New Madrid events have had an important influence on the development of seismology and tectonics. And the sections on the history of seismology, seismological instrumentation and plate tectonics, while a great historical perspective, clearly demonstrate that the New Madrid events had very little to do with the development of these sciences. On the other hand, the authors make a good case that engineer and surveyor Jared Brooks of Louisville, Ky., may have been the first to quantitatively detect and classify earthquakes with his measurements of nearly 1,900 New Madrid aftershocks.

I would recommend this book to my graduate students, to anyone who wants an overview of the events of New Madrid or to anyone who wants an overview of the field of seismology. Despite some technical flaws and some distracting speculations, the book was a good read and very entertaining. Now if someone would just work on another view of the earthquake as a thing of natural beauty rather than disaster — but what do I know? I’m just a seismologist.


Langston is a professor of seismology at the Center for Earthquake Research and Information, University of Memphis. He has spent his career quantifying earthquakes and understanding seismic wave propagation throughout the crust and mantle. Email: clangstn@memphis.edu.

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Mapping
New Maps from the U.S. Geological Survey

MF-2327-D. NEVADA. Geologic insights and suggestions on mineral potential based on analyses of geophysical data of the southern Toquima Range, Nye County, Nevada, by D.R. Shaw, R.P. Kucks, and T.G. Hildenbrand. 2004. Scale 1:48,000. One color sheet 71 X 40 inches with 14-page text. Avaliable for $20.00 from USGS Information Services or free at pubs.usgs.gov/mf/2004/2327/D/.

MF-2413. ALASKA. Geologic and fossil locality maps of the west-central part of the Howard Pass quadrangle and part of the adjacent Misheguk Mountain quadrangle, western Brooks Range, Alaska, by J.H. Dover, I.L. Tailleur, and J.A. Dumoulin. 2004. Scale 1:100,000. Two black and white sheets with 76-page text. Sheet 1, 46 X 48 inches. Sheet 2, 46 X 29 inches. Available for $40.00 from USGS Information Services or free at pubs.usgs.gov/mf/2004/2413/.

I-2655. UTAH and ARIZONA. Geologic map of the Kanab 30' X 60' quadrangle, Utah and Arizona, by E.G. Sable and Richard Hereford. 2004. Scale 1:100,000. One color sheet 57 X 42 inches. Available for $7.00 from USGS Information Services.

I-2660. WASHINGTON. Geologic map of the Mount Baker 30' X 60' quadrangle, Washington, by R.W. Tabor, R.A. Haugerud, Wes Hildreth, and E.H. Brown. Prepared in cooperation with the Washington Division of Geology and Earth Resources. 2003. Scale 1:100,000. Two color sheets with 74-page text. Sheet 1, 49 X 41 inches. Sheet 2, 37 X 39 inches. Available free at pubs.usgs.gov/imap/i2660/.

I-2683. OREGON. Geologic map of the Bend 30' X 60' quadrangle, central Oregon, by D.R. Sherrod, E.M. Taylor, M.L. Ferns, W.E. Scott, R.M. Conrey, and G.A. Smith. 2004. Scale 1:100,000. Two color sheets with 48-page text. Sheet 1, 51 X 41 inches. Sheet 2, 39 X 32 inches. Available for $14.00 from USGS Information.

I-2759. HAWAII. Geologic map of the summit region of Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii, by C.A. Neal and J.P. Lockwood. 2003. Scale 1:24,000. One color sheet 49 X 37 inches with 14-page text. Available for $7.00 from USGS Information Services or free at pubs.usgs.gov/imap/i2759/.

I-2771. ARIZONA. Map showing Quaternary geology and geomorphology of the Lonely Dell Reach of the Paria River, Lees Ferry, Arizona, by Richard Hereford. 2003. Scale 1:5,000. One color sheet 51 X 39 inches with accompanying 21-page pamphlet of comparative landscape photographs of the Lonely Dell area and the mouth of the Paria River. Available for $7.00 from USGS Information Services.

I-2775. MISSOURI. Geologic map of the Fremont quadrangle, Shannon, Carter, and Oregon Counties, Missouri, by R.C. Orndorff. 2003. Scale 1:24,000. One color sheet 45 X 33 inches. Available for $7.00 from USGS Information Services.

SIM-2816. MONTANA, WYOMING, and IDAHO. Geologic map of the Hebgen Lake quadrangle, Beaverhead, Madison, and Gallatin Counties, Montana, Park and Teton Counties, Wyoming, and Clark and Fremont Counties, Idaho, by J.M. O'Neill and R.L. Christiansen. 2004. Scale 1:100,000. One color sheet 58 X 32 inches. Available for $7.00 from USGS Information Services.

SIM-2826. WASHINGTON. Geologic map of the Ariel quadrangle, Clark and Cowlitz Counties, Washington, by R.C. Evarts. 2004. Scale 1:24,000. One color sheet 60 X 36 inches with 35-page text. Available for $20.00 from USGS Information Services or free at pubs.usgs.gov/sim/2004/2826/.

SIM-2827. WASHINGTON. Geologic map of the Woodland quadrangle, Clark and Cowlitz Counties, Washington, by R.C. Evarts. 2004. Scale 1:24,000. One color sheet 48 X 36 inches with 38-page text. Available for $20.00 from USGS Information Services or free at pubs.usgs.gov/sim/2004/2827/.

SIM-2834. OREGON and WASHINGTON. Geologic map of the Saint Helens quadrangle, Columbia County, Oregon, and Clark and Cowlitz Counties, Washington, by R.C. Evarts. 2004. Scale 1:24,000. One color sheet 34 X 44 inches with 23-page text. Available for $20.00 from USGS Information Services or free at pubs.usgs.gov/sim/2004/2834/.

SIM-2835. WYOMING and COLORADO. Geologic map of the Peach Orchard Flat quadrangle, Carbon County Wyoming, and descriptions of new stratigraphic units in the Upper Cretaceous Lance Formation and Paleocene Fort Union Formation, eastern Greater Green River Basin, Wyoming-Colorado, by J.G. Honey and R.D. Hettinger. 2004. Scale 1:24,000. Two sheets with 9-page text. Sheet 1, color 45 X 37 inches. Sheet 2, black and white 35 X 43 inches. Available for $40.00 from USGS Information Services or free at pubs.usgs.gov/sim/2004/2835/.

SIM-2836. TENNESSEE. Surficial geologic map of the Ellendale quadrangle, Shelby County, Tennessee, by Roy Van Arsdale. 2004. Scale 1:24,000. One color sheet 29 X 35 inches. Available for $20.00 from USGS Information Services or free at pubs.usgs.gov/sim/2004/2836/.

SIM-2837. TENNESSEE. Surficial geologic map of the Germantown quadrangle, Shelby County, Tennessee, by Roy Van Arsdale. 2004. Scale 1:24,000. One color sheet 33 X 35 inches. Available for $20.00 from USGS Information Services or free at pubs.usgs.gov/sim/2004/2837/.

SIM-2838. TENNESSEE and ARKANSAS. Surficial geologic map of the northwest Memphis quadrangle, Shelby County, Tennessee and Crittenden County, Arkansas, by Jason Broughton and Roy Van Arsdale. 2004. Scale 1:24,000. One color sheet 29 X 34 inches. Available for $20.00 from USGS Information Services or free at pubs.usgs.gov/sim/2004/2838/.

SIM-2839. TENNESSEE. Surficial geologic map of the northeast Memphis quadrangle, Shelby County, Tennessee, by Randy Cox. 2004. Scale 1:24,000. One color sheet 33 X 34 inches. Available for $20.00 from USGS Information Services or free at pubs.usgs.gov/sim/2004/2839/.

SIM-2847. ARKANSAS. Geologic map of the Hasty quadrangle, Boone and Newton Counties, Arkansas, by M.R. Hudson and K.E. Murray. 2004. Scale 1:24,000. One color sheet 44 X 33.5 inches. Available for $20.00 from USGS Information Services or free at pubs.usgs.gov/sim/2004/2847/.

To order USGS maps: Contact USGS Information Services, P.O. Box 25286, Denver, Colo. 80225. Phone: 888-ASK-USGS (888-275-8747). Or go online: ask.usgs.gov/maps.html


Randall Orndorff compiles the Maps section and is the associate program coordinator for the USGS National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program. Email: rorndorf@usgs.gov.

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