Volcanoes: Crucibles of Change

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Princeton University Press, 1998 - Nature - 317 pages
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Whenever a volcano threatens to erupt, scientists and adventurers from around the world flock to the site in response to the irresistible allure of one of nature's most dangerous and unpredictable phenomena. In a unique book probing the science and mystery of these fiery features, the authors chronicle not only their geologic behavior but also their profound effect on human life. From Mount Vesuvius to Mount St. Helens, the book covers the surprisingly large variety of volcanoes, the subtle to conspicuous signs preceding their eruptions, and their far-reaching atmospheric consequences. Here scientific facts take on a very human dimension, as the authors draw upon actual encounters with volcanoes, often through firsthand accounts of those who have witnessed eruptions and miraculously survived the aftermath.

The book begins with a description of the lethal May 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens--complete with an explanation of how safety officials and scientists tried to predict events, and how unsuspecting campers and loggers miles away struggled against terrifying blasts of ash, stone, and heat. The story moves quickly to the ways volcanoes have enhanced our lives, creating mineral-rich land, clean thermal energy, and haunting landscapes that in turn benefit agriculture, recreation, mining, and commerce. Religion and psychology embroider the account, as the authors explore the impact of volcanoes on the human psyche through tales of the capricious volcano gods and attempts to appease them, ranging from simple homage to horrific ritual sacrifice.

Volcanoes concludes by assisting readers in experiencing these geological phenomena for themselves. An unprecedented "tourist guide to volcanoes" outlines over forty sites throughout the world. Not only will travelers find information on where to go and how to get there, they will also learn what precautions to take at each volcano. Tourists, amateur naturalists, and armchair travelers alike will find their scientific curiosity whetted by this informative and entertaining book.

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About the author (1998)

Fisher is Professor Emeritus of Geological Sciences at the University of California.

Grant Heiken is an expert in volcanology and interdisciplinary urban studies, having investigated volcanic regions on four continents and the Moon and co-written or edited 10 books, including Volcanoes: Crucibles of Change (1997). He holds a PhD in geology and has worked for NASA during the Apollo program as a researcher and a geology instructor for astronauts. For many years he worked at Los Alamos National Laboratory on geothermal development, many aspects of volcanology from hazard analysis to scientific drilling, and integrated urban science. He was President of the International Association of Volcanology and Chemistry of the Earth's Interior from 1995 to 1999, and now works as a freelance writer.

Hulen is a research geologist at the Energy and Geoscience Institute of the University of Utah.

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