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In Suspect Terrain (1983)

– tekijä: John McPhee

JäseniäKirja-arvostelujaSuosituimmuussijaKeskimääräinen arvioMaininnat
433545,106 (4.02)7
From the outwash plains of Brooklyn to Indiana's drifted diamonds and gold, John McPhee's In Suspect Terrain is a narrative of the earth, told in four sections of equal length, each in a different way reflecting the three others-- a biography a set piece about a fragment of Appalachian landscape in illuminating counterpoint to the human history there a modern collision of ideas about the origins of the mountain range and, in contrast, a century-old collision of ideas about the existence of the Ice Age. The central figure is Anita Harris, an internationally celebrated geologist who went into her profession to get out of a Brooklyn ghetto. The unifying theme is plate tectonics-- here concentrating on the acceptance that all aspects of the theory do not universally enjoy. As such, In Suspect Terrain is a report from the rough spots at the front edge of a science. In Suspect Terrain is the second book in a series on geology and geologists, presenting a cross section of North America along the fortieth parallel, and gathered under the overall title Annals of the Former World. The other books in the series are Basin and Range, Rising from the Plains, and Assembling California.… (lisätietoja)
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näyttää 5/5
Unlike all the other John McPhee books I have read, this one involves more personality.

The opinions of Anita Harris are delivered in an unpleasant way as she and John traverse the land. ( )
  m.belljackson | Nov 16, 2019 |
Ugh. I can't put my finger on it, but this felt patronising and completely over the top. The plate tectonics scepticism doesn't help, but nor does the overawed style. I need to come to terms with the fact that I just don't like this guy. ( )
1 ääni seabear | Jan 7, 2013 |
Interesting but - scattered. I learned quite a bit about glacial terrain and the history of that theory...but the book was written in 1983 and is mostly in the voice of a geologist who did not believe in the theory of plate tectonics (or at least did not believe it was the answer to as many geological questions as its supporters claim); my immediate question, since I was taught plate tectonics as a given, was whether she was as crackpot conservative as Agassiz about evolution, or whether there is still serious question about plate tectonics. It's an interesting question, and I'm going to have to hunt for an answer. But that means that while I learned some interesting facts, the central focus of the book was an unanswered, and perhaps unanswerable, question - which makes it a somewhat unsatisfying read. There are also the usual McPhee diversions from the subject at hand to the personal life of the informing character (all of his books are written as someone telling him things - that someone I'm calling the informing character). I don't really need to know that Anita Epstein divorced one geologist husband and became Anita Harris when she married another - it's not particularly pertinent to the geology or to understanding what Anita is talking about as she discusses geology. If I were reading for people I'd be bored out of my wits by all the geology; as I'm reading for geology I'm annoyed at the diversions into personalities. It's OK, and I'm glad I read it, but I doubt I'll reread - actually, it makes me want to read my old textbook on the discovery of fossils and glaciers, Prehistoric America. It covers some of the same ground and is more enjoyable to read. I checked with a friend who's just finishing a graduate course in geology; yes, Anita was crackpot conservative. Plate tectonics is piling up the evidence. ( )
  jjmcgaffey | Jun 19, 2011 |
Classic John McPhee geology, disappointing only in that the geologist he travels with is less interesting than his typical guide. But if you're looking for an easy refresher on Appalachian tectonic history, this is a lovely choice. ( )
1 ääni jmccamant | Jun 15, 2011 |
My feelings about this essay pretty much match my earlier feelings regarding Basin and Range: interesting, but too "literary" and journalistic, with not enough science.

The interesting things I took home from it are:

* That ice ages are rare (every 300 million years or so), but that, like rivers but even faster, they change landscapes substantially on a pace far more rapid than the slowness of orogeny and tectonics; and that a lot of the landscape of the Northern US, Europe and Asia are the visible remnants of the last round of glaciation ending only ten or twenty thousand years ago.

* That one gets a not misleading map of geological time onto human historical time by treating a million years as one year.

* That diamonds (and kimberlite pipes) are remarkable phenomena, in that for a diamond to get to the earth's surface from the pressure/heat zone where it is created without decomposing requires some sort of explosive release of the earth, a squirting out of the material at supersonic speeds; and that kimberlite pipes are interesting because they contain other material from the same pressure/heat zone that, with luck, has also not decomposed.

* That while coal is easy to form, oil is a lot more tricky because it has to be created, and then maintained for its entire lifetime, within a fairly narrow temperature band; excursions to higher temperatures will decompose the material to natural gas.

* The dust jacket tries to make a big deal of the fact that the central geologist of this volume, Anita Harris, "does not believe in plate tectonics".
The reality is substantially more nuanced. She seems quite happy to accept some aspects of tectonics, doesn't like some of the wilder applications of the theory (the same sort of wild applications of theory we've also seen in fields like evolutionary psychology, nothing new there), and mostly seems to be something of an old fogey complaining about how "in my day geologists had it tough and really walked around on the rocks". ( )
1 ääni name99 | Nov 13, 2006 |
näyttää 5/5
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The paragraph that follows is an encapsulated history of the eastern United States, according to plate-tectonic theory and glacial geology.
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From the outwash plains of Brooklyn to Indiana's drifted diamonds and gold, John McPhee's In Suspect Terrain is a narrative of the earth, told in four sections of equal length, each in a different way reflecting the three others-- a biography a set piece about a fragment of Appalachian landscape in illuminating counterpoint to the human history there a modern collision of ideas about the origins of the mountain range and, in contrast, a century-old collision of ideas about the existence of the Ice Age. The central figure is Anita Harris, an internationally celebrated geologist who went into her profession to get out of a Brooklyn ghetto. The unifying theme is plate tectonics-- here concentrating on the acceptance that all aspects of the theory do not universally enjoy. As such, In Suspect Terrain is a report from the rough spots at the front edge of a science. In Suspect Terrain is the second book in a series on geology and geologists, presenting a cross section of North America along the fortieth parallel, and gathered under the overall title Annals of the Former World. The other books in the series are Basin and Range, Rising from the Plains, and Assembling California.

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