By James S. Trefil

ISBN-10: 048644564X

ISBN-13: 9780486445649

A famous physicist and renowned technology author heads for the seashore to respond to universal and unusual questions on the ocean: why the ocean is salty, how bubbles shape at the water's floor, the place waves come from, and different curiosities of the marine world. 90 figures. 20 halftones. 1987 variation.

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Additional info for A Scientist at the Seashore (Dover Science Books)

Example text

Ver, IS still m deep water, so It keeps moving along at its usual speed. Tl result of this situation is that the wave will begin to rotate arottncl the shallow water, as shown. As more of the wave encounters shallow water this rotation accentuates until the direction in which the crests move has been completely changed. The motion of thc wave is very similar to that of a cavalry troop executing a wheel. The soldiers on aile side of the line slow down, allowing their fellows to turn around thcli\.

These numbers, with some uncertainty associated with distinguishing fine rings on old fossils, are precisely what would be predicted if the presently observed rate of despinning were to be extrapolated backward in time almost half a billion years. The tides, then, playa role in a much bigger arena than human commerce and recreation. It appears that we cannot think about the tides without being led to contemplate their effects on the entire history of the earth-moon system. If the day is getting longer now, with the moon moving farther from the earth each year, it is only natural to ask whether we can use our knowledge of the effects of the tides to trace the history of the system back to its beginning and forward to its ultimate end.

8 Moon Figure 5-9. Because the ultimate cause of this outward spiral is the presence of tidal friction in the oceans, and because the lag of the tidal bulge produces both a slowdown in the earth's rotation and an increase in the distance to the moon, physicists sometimes say that tidal friction provides a way for energy to be transferred from the earth's rotation to the orbital motion of the moon. This statement is true, but if I had s~arted ~ur discussion of tidal effects by putting it in that way, everyone (including me) would have been mystified.

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A Scientist at the Seashore (Dover Science Books) by James S. Trefil


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