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Magnitude 8: Earthquakes and Life along the…

Magnitude 8: Earthquakes and Life along the San Andreas Fault

by Philip L. Fradkin

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Every couple of years I seem to end up reading about California quakes. I'm lucky enough to be in a geologically inert part of the state, but it's always good to be aware of what's possible. Fradkin looks at earthquakes along the San Andreas fault, starting with some 18th century Spanish accounts and ending with the 1994 Northridge quake. Very good reading, though it made me desperately want to go live somewhere where the ground stays put. I only wish the book were a little more up-to-date: the publication date is 1999. ( )
  melonbrawl | Feb 25, 2015 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0520221192, Paperback)

"The tectonic history of any one part of the earth, like the life of a soldier, consists of long periods of boredom and short periods of terror." With this quotation from geologist Derek Ager, Pulitzer Prize-winning environmental journalist Philip Fradkin, "a literary geologist with a notebook in one hand and a hammer in the other," begins his trip along the San Andreas Fault. His persistent question is how "a culture could ignore this powerful natural agent while simultaneously being shaped by it." Fradkin himself lives near the fault, and he understands the human reluctance to remember the past and to prepare for the inevitable. He looks at the history and impact of the major California earthquakes of the past 150 years, from Fort Teijin in 1857 to Northridge in 1994. Throughout, he exposes the problems caused by human shortcomings: the amnesia of the general public, earthquake engineers' conflicts of interest, and the failures of science. His discussions of the politics of earthquake prediction and of the "arcane systems" used to measure earthquake magnitudes are the best in print. "I wanted others to be aware of the fault's physical presence and its awesome power," Fradkin writes. He may also succeed at raising Californians' awareness of how to prepare for earthquakes--and at shortening their feelings of boredom while lengthening their periods of prudent terror. --Mary Ellen Curtin

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:36 -0400)

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A "superb cautionary tale (that) should be required reading for every Californian" (Mike Davis, author of "City of Quartz"), "Magnitude 8" reaches beyond the earthshaking moment to examine the mythology, culture, social implications, politics, and science of earthquakes.… (more)

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