Half of the world's population today lives in coastal regions lapped by tidal waters. But the tide rises and falls according to rules that are a mystery to almost all of us. In The Tide , celebrated science writer Hugh Aldersey-Williams weaves together centuries of scientific thinking with the literature and folklore the tide has inspired to explain the power and workings of this most remarkable force.Read more...
Half of the world's population today lives in coastal regions lapped by tidal waters. But the tide rises and falls according to rules that are a mystery to almost all of us. In The Tide, celebrated science writer Hugh Aldersey-Williams weaves together centuries of scientific thinking with the literature and folklore the tide has inspired to explain the power and workings of this most remarkable force.
Here is the epic story of the long search to understand the tide: from Aristotle, who is said to have drowned himself in his efforts to figure out the Greek tides, to the pioneering investigations into the role of the moon by Galileo and Newton, to the quest to understand and even control the tide in our own time. Throughout, Aldersey-Williams whisks the reader along on his travels in search of the most remarkable tidal phenomena. He visits the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia, where the tides are the strongest in the world; arctic Norway, home of the raging tidal whirlpool known as the maelstrom; and Venice, to investigate efforts to defend the city against flooding caused by the famed acqua alta.
Along the way, Aldersey-Williams delves into classic literary portrayals of the tide from Shakespeare to Dickens, Melville to Jules Verne. And he reveals the tidal truths behind the Homeric tale of Scylla and Charybdis, the biblical story of Moses parting the Red Sea, the conquests of Julius Caesar, the Boston Tea Party, and the D-Day landings in Normandy.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2016-07-11
- Reviewer: Staff
English science writer Aldersey-Williams (In Search of Thomas Browne) capably serves as a guide to the tide, a powerful, often underappreciated force of nature. He begins his examination by experiencing a full tidal cycle in his home county of Norfolk before traveling to the Euripus Strait, where Aristotle studied one of the few areas of the Mediterranean with significant tides. Aldersey-Williams also discusses Charybdis, Odysseus’s famous whirlpool, starting with Homer’s description and working forward; he notes that the Strait of Messina has been identified as the potential source of the legend. The ineffective attempt by Canute (the 11th-century Danish king of England) to command the tide receives a thorough consideration, as do the much later tidal calculations that preceded the amphibious landings on D-Day—made possible by the tidal harmonic analyzer, a mechanical device created by a team lead by the future Lord Kelvin. No discussion of tides would be complete without a visit to the record-holding Bay of Fundy, to which Aldersey-Williams devotes an entire chapter. Inevitably, his final thoughts turn to global climate change and the rise of the tides. Throughout the book, Aldersey-Williams’s inclusion of a range of stories gives a broad view of humans’ continued fascination with the movement of the waters. Agent: Antony Topping, Greene & Heaton. (Sept.)