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Subject: new seismology book
From: BOB BARNS royb1@...........
Date: Thu, 02 Oct 2003 10:03:05 -0400

Hi gang,
   Physics Today Oct. 2003 reviewed (very favorably) a new seismology 
book.  It sounds like a winner.  For those not a subscriber, I append 
the complete review.
An Introduction to Seismology, Earthquakes, and Earth Structure
Seth Stein and Michael Wysession
Blackwell, Malden, Mass., 2003. $34.95 paper (498 pp.). ISBN 0-86542-078-5
Seismology is the study of earthquakes and Earth structure using the 
waves that accompany quakes and other Earth vibrations. Analysis of 
those seismic waves is the basis of most current knowledge about our 
planet's interior. Seth Stein and Michael Wysession, two highly regarded 
seismologists, have written a massive book that is a welcome addition to 
the handful of seismology texts appropriate for graduate or advanced 
undergraduate study. But with its enormous quantity of material, often 
presented in detailed figures, and its emphasis on deep-Earth examples, 
An Introduction to Seismology, Earthquakes, and Earth Structure is a 
valuable reference for specialists as well.

The text covers the meat and potatoes of seismology--seismic-wave 
propagation, Earth structure, and earthquake sources. Much more is 
presented, though, including plate tectonics, signal processing, 
seismometry, and inverse theory. An extensive appendix outlines matrix 
algebra, vector calculus, and even principles of computer programming. 
Each chapter ends with a brief discussion of classic and current 
references, followed by homework problems. Some of those problems are 
designed to be solved with computers. Answers to odd-numbered problems 
are in the back of the book, and solutions to all of them are available 
to instructors over the Internet.

Stein and Wysession begin their book with an introduction on the 
societal implications of earthquakes, which, worldwide, cause 
significant economic disruption and an average of more than 10 000 
deaths per year. The authors then present the basic seismological 
theory, beginning with a rather long section that discusses waves on a 
string. That treatment is followed by a more traditional development of 
waves in elastic solids, moving from stress and strain to wave 
equations. The book fully treats reflection and transmission of waves, 
including conversions between compressional and shear waves.

Theory, starting with reflection and refraction techniques, is then 
applied to determine Earth structure. Stein and Wysession pay particular 
attention to waves that travel through, bounce off, or refract around 
Earth's core. That's perhaps not surprising, because Wysession's 
research is in deep-Earth structure. The development of wave propagation 
is followed by a welcome section on the implications of seismological 
results--particularly Earth's radial velocity structure--for the 
composition of the crust, mantle, and core.

Stein and Wysession thoroughly describe earthquake sources and include a 
useful account of body and surface waveform modeling. Also notable is 
their discussion of ground deformation during the entire earthquake 
cycle, and new deformation mapping techniques, such as those using 
interference of space-based radar images.

The material on plate tectonics highlights one of Stein's research 
specialties, the thermal evolution of the lithosphere. The text offers a 
clear and complete explanation of how a single physical process--the 
cooling of the lithosphere at mid-ocean ridges--controls ocean depth, 
plate thickness, and heat flow.

The description of the heating of oceanic plates as they reenter the 
mantle at subduction zones is likewise well developed. The mathematical 
descriptions of the lithosphere lead naturally to a clear explication of 
the forces that drive tectonic plates. The book presents, as well, 
extended and appreciated discussions of faulting, friction, and crustal 

The clear, precise, but sometimes long-winded style of the book reflects 
its comprehensive nature. The lengthy, thorough discussions contrast 
with the elegant brevity of Peter Shearer's Introduction to Seismology 
(Cambridge U. Press, 1999). On some topics, the book's very thoroughness 
renders it unwieldy, and the mathematical formalism is sometimes more 
complicated than necessary. Look elsewhere for a quick refresher on 
Snell's law--even the subscripts have subscripts.

The book's numerous figures are a key asset. Those illustrations, 
available online, often seem to have been constructed particularly for 
the text. In many cases, they compactly convey large amounts of detailed 
information. For example, a number of figures illustrate the surprising 
complexity of the interaction of seismic waves with material having 
jumps or gradients in wave velocity. That complexity is better conveyed 
by Stein and Wysession's book than any other text I know of.

An Introduction to Seismology, Earthquakes, and Earth Structure is a 
very good text with an up-to-date point of view. It's a bit expensive 
for a course textbook, but it is quite versatile. The large amount of 
material covered makes the book useful for several different courses. As 
the basis for a standard seismology course, it would work best for the 
more tenacious student. The text is appropriate for a geophysically 
oriented plate-tectonics course or for a course on time-series analysis 
and inverse theory with examples and homework problems taken from 
geophysics. All in all, it is an indispensable reference for serious 
students of solid-Earth geophysics.

Heidi Houston
University of California
Los Angeles


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