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Assembling California

por John McPhee

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7241232,019 (4.18)35
Thirty years ago, the theory that continents are comprised of drifting plates-plate tectonics-evoked more scorn than serious research. Today, this revolutionary theory continues to dazzle and challenge geologists and laymen alike. Assembling California explores an area uniquely demonstrative of the plate tectonic theory: California, which according to "tectonicists," is breaking apart at its seams.… (mais)
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    Roadside Geology of Northern and Central California por David Alt (RBeffa)
    RBeffa: This should be essential reading for prospective readers
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Having grown up in the relatively featureless Midwest, living in California and traveling in the American West in general has been a revelation in terms of geology. I am endlessly fascinated about this place and how it came to be that way.

Assembling California is about thirty years old now but well describes a whole lot of features of geology and history. Yes, the author travels with a noted geologist and is given insight into the development of the Sierra Nevada, the Central Valley, and the Coast Ranges. Some description of the Transverse Ranges is offered.

In short, California has been series of island rings and ocean crust which has uplifted by subduction; Southern California has been formed as much by land pressures caused by the East Pacific Rise in the Gulf of California.

There’s also a lot else: how the gold got to California, and how the gold rush played itself out. The geology of many parts of the Mediterranean. The history of geology itself and the plate tectonics revolution which had taken place well within living memory.

Many would find the whole narrative problematic since it presumes a very long time frame. I believe all such things can be understood in terms of God creating all things in such a way as to express a history.

But what I found so notable about this work is just how new the theory of plate tectonics proves to be; major studies which advanced the theory into common acceptance are barely older than I am. It’s a reminder how even things we think we know well may be founded on assumptions which might be overthrown at any time.

I have spoken before of how science is like shifting sand: by its very nature its conclusions change considerably over time, and generally in ways which could not be expected or imagined beforehand. Such a recognition is not an invitation to dispense with science entirely, but it should represent a call to humility regarding dogmatism based on the most recent (or a past) scientific framework or understanding. ( )
  deusvitae | Sep 13, 2023 |
Judging by book reviews most if not all readers love John McPhee's writing and books.

Starting with the first page, I expected to love this book.

I didn't. Rather quickly, I intensely disliked some of McPhee's writing style. I will assume that he usually does much better in his other books.

Much of this book is based on travels and discussions with Eldridge Moores over a period of 15 years. Eldridge was a geologist and professor at the University of California at Davis. During my college years there in the early 70's I took a geology course from Moores co-taught with paleontologist James Valentine which was probably the most interesting and exciting elective course I ever took. The idea of plate tectonics was new and fascinating. The best part of this book for me, which is part memoir and biography, was being able to visit just a bit with a college professor I have remembered with great fondness.

Beginning on page 110, James Valentine gets a shout out for his work with Moores and their joint publications in 1970 in Nature and 1972 in the Journal of Geology. The title of the second one was 'Global Tectonics and the Fossil Record'. I enjoyed reading how their partnership arose.

So some of this story is personally fascinating to me. Otherwise I trudged through this finding a few interesting things. The last chapter of the book on the Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989 was probably the best thing written here, as well as the one that preceded it.

Readers interested in McPhee's book might want to first spend a lot of time with [Roadside Geology of Northern and Central California] by Alt & Hyndman at their side. The Introduction and the first chapter on the Sierra Nevada with photos should be required reading before the McPhee book if you want half a clue what McPhee babbles about. I found myself running to pull the book off my shelf. It also has a good glossary, a long list of selected reading, an excellent index and plentiful informative maps, photos and illustrations. It won't directly help you with Mussel rock however, or Eldridge Moores. It will help you get a rough familiarity with rocks and terminology.

For those that want to know a lot more about Mussel Rock, may I direct you to a 2010 masters thesis: https://scholarworks.calstate.edu/downloads/vd66w1722?locale=pt-BR

There is some great history in this thesis.

For those wanting a little more about Eldridge Moores let me refer you to this: https://www.ucdavis.edu/news/geologist-beloved-campus-citizen-eldridge-moores-di... ( )
  RBeffa | Oct 21, 2022 |
An exploration of geology especially . I learned that there are theories but that there is also observations that don't fit the theory. ( )
  Kristelh | Oct 17, 2022 |
When I learned a few years ago that plate tectonics, the theory that the form of the earth's surface is created by rigid plates moving over the mantle, colliding with one another and pulling apart, was actually quite new, I was startled. As I had seen it explained on PBS documentaries it seemed so obvious that I assumed it was an idea that had been around for a very long time, not just since the 1960's.

And so my eye was caught by this book when I went looking for something written by John McPhee in audio format. Although McPhee's primary focus is the state of California, his discussions with his guide, tectonicist Eldridge Moores, cover the formation of current and previous continents all over the globe. [Aside: Plate tectonics grew out of the idea of continental drift, the theory that there was once just a single continent ("Pangea"), first posited by German scientist Alfred Wegener in the early 20th century. When reading about this I found myself thinking about another German, Alexander von Humboldt, who proposed nearly a hundred years earlier that Africa and South America must once have been connected given not only the "fit" of the two continents, but the similarities of plant life in the areas that would have been adjoined.]

The story of the geological evidence of the land masses that collided, moved under, moved over, and separated to create the area we know as California truly is fascinating, and McPhee is an excellent story teller. This book is the last in a four part series [b:Annals of the Former World|78|Annals of the Former World|John McPhee|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1386924382l/78._SY75_.jpg|88676], a geographical cross section of North America, for which McPhee was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1999, a richly deserved honor.

My only reservation with the book is purely my own. I should have been more patient and waited until I could find the time to read it in print, rather than to listen. It was far too easy for me to become confused by geological terms and have to re-read to make sure I understood, or to Google words I wasn't sure I heard clearly. None of this should be charged again McPhee! My next venture into his writing will be in print. ( )
  BarbKBooks | Aug 15, 2022 |
The field of geology has progressed a lot since this book was published in 1993, but McPhee is such a good writer that it's worth everyone's while to read it. ( )
1 vote imagists | Nov 3, 2021 |
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Thirty years ago, the theory that continents are comprised of drifting plates-plate tectonics-evoked more scorn than serious research. Today, this revolutionary theory continues to dazzle and challenge geologists and laymen alike. Assembling California explores an area uniquely demonstrative of the plate tectonic theory: California, which according to "tectonicists," is breaking apart at its seams.

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