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Fragile Earth Book Review: Seismic Waves and Sources

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posted on Jan, 13 2005 @ 02:18 PM
Seismic Waves and Sources, Second Edition
Ari Ben-Menahem and Sarva Jit Singh

From the back cover:

This well-written, comprehensive text was the first book since the 1879 invention of modern seismology to present earthquake seismology as a science firmly resting on its own theoretical foundations.

Covering more than 160 years in the history of the discipline, the authors trace the mathematical theory of seismic fields from first principles to modern developments, presenting a many-faceted, rigorous, and lucid account of the propagation of elastic waves in the earth. Earthquake waves receive the main emphasis; however, theories of gravity waves in water and acoustic-gravity waves in the atmosphere are also discussed. The entire spectral range of recorded wave phenomena receives in-depth quantitative assessments. Well illustrated with figures, tables, and solved examples, the text includes several useful appendices.

In recent years, extensive advances in seismology, achieved through the use of modern computers and improved data acquisition systems, have produced tremendous progress in the knowledge of the earth's structure and the nature of earthquakes. The authors drew on those advances to produce this excellent textbook and reference, essential for students of seismology, geology, applied mathematics, and researchers in the earth sciences.

This is a great, comprehensive textbook for the quantitative study of seismic waves. The first part I ended up reading were the appendices, which got me up to speed quickly on the math used in the main body of the text. The appendices were concise and covered no more mathematics than was necessary to understand the chapters. The level of mathematical literacy needed to delve into the book without any assistance (other than the appendices) would be about an introductory understanding of linearl algebra and calculus; however, and other internet resources could be a boost to those sincerely interested in the subject but lacking the math background.

The chapters are:

1) Classical Continuum Dynamics
2) Waves in Infinite Media
3) Seismic Plane Waves in a Layered Half-Space
4) Representation of Seismic Sources
5) Surface-Wave Amplitude Theory
6) Normal-Mode Solution for Spherical Earth Models
7) Geometric Elastodynamics: Rays and Generalized Rays
8) Asymptotic Theory of the Earth's Normal Modes
9) Atmospheric and Water Waves and Companion Seismic Phenomena
(found this one interesting after the tsunami)
10) Seismic Wave Motion in Anelastic Media

The chapters are cleanly separated and self-contained. Illustrations abound which helps the reader understand the many abstract mathematical concepts that are so crucial in building an intuitive understanding of Earthquake waves; it's likely that one could reach this understanding without the equations because of the richness in graphs and diagrams. Historical seismic events are described and related to the concepts presented in the book.

My favourite thing about the book is its inclusiveness. The reader can choose the degree of mathematical detail in which he or she wishes to experience the book, and at any rate resources are available on the web which come in handy for brushing up on concepts as one comes across them. The only prerequisites to enjoying this book are an interest in the field, and perhaps an illustrated children's book on geology to stimulate the imagination.

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