Volcano Cowboys (Anglais) Broché – janvier 2002
Descriptions du produit
Aucun appareil Kindle n'est requis. Téléchargez l'une des applis Kindle gratuites et commencez à lire les livres Kindle sur votre smartphone, tablette ou ordinateur.
Pour obtenir l'appli gratuite, saisissez votre adresse e-mail ou numéro de téléphone mobile.
Détails sur le produit
En savoir plus sur l'auteur
Commentaires en ligne
Commentaires client les plus utiles sur Amazon.com (beta)
My degree of enjoyment was muted, though, by Thompson's over emphasis on discord and disagreement within the cadre of USGS volcanologists. In my experience, cooperation and agreement dominated. I think I made this feeling clear when Thompson interviewed me. However, I remember his questions tending to be phrased in such a way that almost any answer would bolster the notion of internal USGS discord, between his "Musketeers and Stratigraphers" and between his "Coneheads and Meatheads". My impression was then, and is now, having read the book, that Thompson's mind was made up before he talked with me. Of course, if there aren't SOME disagreements during a group scientific endeavor, the scientists aren't doing their jobs. Whether such wrangling is the rule, rather than the exception, is a call difficult to make by an outside party.
It's often said that sex and violence are what sell books. Perhaps the pursuit of this notion helped shape this book's story emphasis? Incidentally, speaking of sex, the book almost completely ignores female scientists who have made significant contributions to USGS volcano studies. Terry Keith, Maggie Mangan and Tina Neal come quickly to mind.
Here's another reason for my muted enjoyment. Thompson repeatedly marginalizes and denigrates the value of studying Hawaiian volcanoes as training for understanding the more-violent types, such as Mount St. Helens and Pinatubo. In fact, near the end of the book, he pooh poohs the idea that such training is valuable. No one would disagree that composite volcanoes and Hawaiian shield volcanoes differ in many ways. It may be equally important to remember, though, that every volcano is unique in ways that make broad generalizations virtually useless, even perhaps dangerous. Training at a Mount St. Helens, rather than at HVO, is not necessarily a better way to prepare for understanding the behavior of a Pinatubo, and vice versa.
An important consideration in trying to learn about volcano behavior, one not pointed out in the book, is the frequency with which the different types of volcanoes erupt. Composite volcanoes, like Mount St. Helens and Pinatubo, tend to erupt with repeat times of hundreds of years. Most of the dormant interval is quiet time, with little if any volcano unrest. When they do come back to life, composite volcanoes seem to give volcanologists a few weeks or months of lead time to gather information that can help with forecasting eruption. In stark contrast, a Hawaiian type of volcano tends to erupt with repeat times of only a few years, and provides lots of scientific information about its behavior in the interim. Imagine the folly and futility of establishing a volcano observatory at a composite volcano and then having to wait through multiple human generations before having even one eruption to study! A volcano SWAT team is great for helping to address short-fused needs. But only long-term systematic studies at one volcano (or more, if necessary resources are available) hold much promise of making breakthroughs in a more generic understanding of these powerful outlets for Earth's internal energy.
The book's shortcomings notwithstanding, I recommend it to anyone interested in volcanoes and their eruptions. It has much to offer, in understandable and engaging language, about the complex workings of volcanoes and of human societies that complicate the mission of those "volcano cowboys", who are just trying to round up enough information to make life a bit safer for us all.
The book follows the adventures of a dozen or so United States Geological Survey geologists (the "volcano cowboys") from the late 1970s through the early 1990s, focusing on two major episodes -- the Mt. St. Helens eruption of 1980 and the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in 1991.
Mr. Thomspon, a long-time science correspondent for Time Magazine, has really done it right. The stories and travails of the researchers are related in an interesting and intimate manner, but never mined for soap opera or cheap drama. The power of volcanic eruptions is made vividly clear (I've been a lifelong geo buff, but I had no idea). And Mr. Thompson has a particuar flair for explaining complete scientific matters with such grace and economy that you hardly notice that you're absorbing technical material. He knows precisely how much detail to leave out for the general audience -- his perfect two-sentence description of why geologist study road cuts (bottom of page 294) should be studied by every science writer.
This is not a book that will satisfy someone looking for extremely fine-grained detail on volcanology, but presumably if you are looking for information on mathematical modelling of particle-size interaction in pyroclastic flows, you'll go to the scientific literature. As someone who knows a fair amount about geology, but didn't know much about volcanoes, I was entirely satisfied. My only gripe -- I would have loved a list of further reading & resources. This book left me hungry for more info!
I also thought it had just enough info on the political context of volcanology -- the explanation of how and why the USGS fouled up an attempt at eruption prediction near Mammoth Lakes, Californa was a great little tale. Once again, Thompson gives you enough, but not too much. This book is the work of an extremely talented writer with a great sense of balance and control.
Mount Saint Helens became a living laboratory for just that problem because many people lived and worked near this volcano. Early on, the geologists correctly perceived that Mount St. Helens was likely to create an explosive eruption (with even as much force as created Crater Lake). Unfortunately, the science and the process of keeping people out of harm's way did not develop fast enough. Despite warnings of the danger, many people voluntarily stayed in the area and were killed in the eruption.
Through a series of unsuccessful (Mammoth Lakes and Armero) experiences, the geologists determined that a rapid response team was needed that could quickly ascertain the risk, communicate the danger, and stimulate the authorities to take appropriate action. All of these insights came together in the successful handling of the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Phillippines that menaced the U.S. Clark Air Base and a large population.
The book is exciting in its focus on placing you in the shoes of the geologists who are trying to figure out when an eruption might occur, and how to get someone to pay attention to them. We owe these brave people a large debt of gratitude for the risks they routinely take on our behalf and the inconveniences they suffer (both from the elements and from the U.S. government's bureaucracy). Beyond that, we owe gratitude as well to those who have fallen in their pursuit of this important endeavor. Because of their sacrifices, millions will be saved in the future. I hope we are wise enough to build on their foundation to expand and improve on this work.
At another level, you will learn some more geology if you like that dynamic science. At a higher level, you will get insights into learning. Measurements are critical, and different volanoes require different measurments and interpretations. It is like treating a new veterinary species each time you take on one of these challenges. You are taken through the developing thought processes, and can take your own guesses about what might happen next (unless you just happen to remember the details).
The book also contains many wonderful photographs from the eruptions. At key moments, Mount Pinatubo was giving off the same energy as a Hiroshima-sized atomic bomb every few seconds. Debris from the volcano would reach 80,000 feet and foul airplane engines in just a few seconds as well.
The author deserves lots of credit for this book. Mr. Thompson has found a fascinating subject and made it compelling. He has taught us about the details without bogging us down in unnecessary information. He has kept the language as simple as possible without harming the story or the accuracy of what is being described. This is one of the best written books about science that I have had the pleasure to read.
After you have finished enjoying this wonderful book, ask yourself what else should be forecast and communicated about well in areas where you have some influence. Then see if you can use this book to get ideas for how you can encourage and stimulate others to want to improve their forecasting adn communications. We will all be grateful!
The book is well-written, with only a couple of inaccuracies, and you will struggle to put it down once you start reading it. If you enjoyed it you'd also like "Ice Ages" - sorry can't remember who it's by off the top of my head, but hey, that's what amazon is for....