Monday 30 August 2021


Finished August 29
Quakeland: On the Road to America's Next Devastating Earthquake by Kathryn Miles

This science novel by journalist Miles looks at the nature of earthquakes, mainly in the United States, both those naturally occurring and those that happened as a result of human actions. Many people think of earthquakes as something that happens in specific parts of the country like California, Hawaii, and Alaska, but as Miles travels around the country, she goes to many locations that have experienced major earthquakes in the past and/or lie of fault lines and that pose real risks of catastrophic earthquakes in the near future. 
She looks at the relatively short history of our understanding of earthquakes and how we have learned what we do know. She talks to many scientists from across the country, sometimes going on expeditions with them and accompanying them on research trips, lectures, and other explorations. While her main focus is on the risk of earthquakes in different parts of the United States, her discussions include earthquakes that have happened in other parts of the world, both in the distant and near past. I really enjoyed how she explored the subject from so many different angles. She looks at the study of core samples from fault lines, using tree rings to date earthquakes from the past, how actions such as mining, fracking, reservoirs, and other human activities have caused earthquakes in different areas and how we discovered and are still studying this connection. 
As a journalist she shows her discoveries through the science she is explaining in easily understandable terms, and doesn't impose judgement. She talks about the difficulties of mitigating risk due to much of the existing infrastructure not built to withstand the complex forces that earthquakes can have, and how they are one of the few natural disasters that it is difficult to predict in advance. 
She shows the scientists she talks to as people, with their own quirks and personalities, and makes her explorations come alive through her personal experiences. I learned so much from this book, and found the research that is going on in this area of science fascinating. 

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