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Saturday, September 02, 2006

The upcoming book entitled "Extreme Waves"

A few months ago, my daughter and her family vacationed at Washington, D.C. and attended a Book Convention while there. They got me a wonderful gift from the Book Convention – a book, of course, entitled “Extreme Waves.” I was really thrilled to receive this book. It is an advanced copy of the book by Craig B. Smith which is scheduled to be published by Joseph Henry Press in November.

My thrill with this book is mainly induced by the title of the book, which I thought it is timely when I first see it, as the media interest on the topic has been quite high. But after I flipped through the book, I must admit that I was rather disappointed. One of my feelings was that the title of the book does not accurately reflect what the book is actually about. It talks about, among other things, Columbus and Magellan, sailing, Rayleigh distribution, tides, cyclones, hurricanes, swell, tsunami, solitary waves, ship safety, and yes, extreme waves are in there. It could be a good book for general reading, if its title is changed to “An Amateur Sailor’s Journal of Ocean Waves” or something similar. It will be less lurid, but certainly accurately reflects what’s really inside the book.

I have no intention of doing a review of the book here, as it is only an advanced copy. Of course things will be appropriately revised hopefully, but I doubt there will be a title change in the final finished version. Notwithstanding the title is catchy but illusory. Anyway here are some of the things that I found disquieting in my first quick reading:

  1. I wonder if the author has a clear sense of the meaning or definition of the terms he use while he was using them in his writing. For instance in the chapter “Freaks, Rogues, and Giants” he commented: “What are rogue waves like? Until recently, there was no generally accepted definition of what constitutes an extreme wave – as noted by the fact that oceanic literature refers to them variously as freaks, rogues, or giants. . .” Bold face emphasis added. Yes, indeed, it is confusing out there, but did the author make any effort to sort them out? What appears to me, however, is that he really thinks rogue waves and extreme waves are the same. That certainly does not help clarify what the book is about.
  2. In the chapter “A Confused Sea,” it is somewhat amusing to find the confused things the author discussed are wave reflection, refraction, diffraction, and solitary waves. I think the publisher should have invited an established fluid dynamist or hydrodynamist to work with the author and explain to him why they are not at all confused by those things.
  3. One of the main confusion out there in the media is the intermingled use of rogue waves and tsunamis. This book is no exception. Intuitively a tsunami is a kind of extreme waves, but that certainly at odds as the author also thinks an extreme wave is also a rogue wave. I suggested another title for the book, because it is really a kind of journal collection lacking a unified theme. That’s why I found it was refreshing to read the Foreword by Susanne Lehner. Susanne is an active practitioner in the forefront of current freaque wave researches specialized in satellite images in particular. Her Foreword in this book is superb because she was talking about freaque waves as she probably thinks the book is all about, but her Foreword turns out to be markedly unharmonious with the rest of the book. I'm doubtful if Susanne had a chance to read the complete book before she wrote that foreword.

Enough ramblings for now, I'm probably not ready to send in my order for the final book yet!

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