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Train Wreck

The wreck of the Metro-North commuter train in the Bronx on 1 December, an accident that killed four and injured more than seventy, serves as a reminder that despite society’s best efforts, such disasters are unavoidable. Human error, material fatigue, flawed design, bad weather, geology, and sometimes a combination of these things can lead to catastrophe. Read about some of the best-known disasters, as well as the science behind them and the latest thinking on how to deal with events like these, in the following titles from Richland Library’s collection.


Amazon Says: Trains are massive—with some weighing 15,000 tons or more. When these metal monsters collide or go off the rails, their destructive power becomes clear. In this book, George more...
Amazon Says: Trains are massive—with some weighing 15,000 tons or more. When these metal monsters collide or go off the rails, their destructive power becomes clear. In this book, George Bibel presents riveting tales of trains gone wrong, the detective work of finding out why, and the safety improvements that were born of tragedy. Train Wreck details 17 crashes in which more than 200 people were killed. Readers follow investigators as they sift through the rubble and work with computerized event recorders to figure out what happened. Using a mix of eyewitness accounts and scientific explanations, Bibel draws us into a world of forensics and human drama. Train Wreck is a fascinating exploration of• runaway trains• bearing failures• metal fatigue• crash testing • collision dynamics• bad rails less...
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The Dynamics of Disaster by Susan W. Kieffer
Amazon Says: Natural disasters bedevil our planet, and each appears to be a unique event. Leading geologist Susan W. Kieffer shows how all disasters are connected. In 2011, there were four more...
Amazon Says: Natural disasters bedevil our planet, and each appears to be a unique event. Leading geologist Susan W. Kieffer shows how all disasters are connected. In 2011, there were fourteen natural calamities that each destroyed over a billion dollars’ worth of property in the United States alone. In 2012, Hurricane Sandy ravaged the East Coast and major earthquakes struck in Italy, the Philippines, Iran, and Afghanistan. In the first half of 2013, the awful drumbeat continued—a monster supertornado struck Moore, Oklahoma; a powerful earthquake shook Sichuan, China; a cyclone ravaged Queensland, Australia; massive floods inundated Jakarta, Indonesia; and the largest wildfire ever engulfed a large part of Colorado. Despite these events, we still behave as if natural disasters are outliers. Why else would we continue to build new communities near active volcanoes, on tectonically active faults, on flood plains, and in areas routinely lashed by vicious storms?A famous historian once observed that “civilization exists by geologic consent, subject to change without notice.” In the pages of this unique book, leading geologist Susan W. Kieffer provides a primer on most types of natural disasters: earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes, landslides, hurricanes, cyclones, and tornadoes. By taking us behind the scenes of the underlying geology that causes them, she shows why natural disasters are more common than we realize, and that their impact on us will increase as our growing population crowds us into ever more vulnerable areas.Kieffer describes how natural disasters result from “changes in state” in a geologic system, much as when water turns to steam. By understanding what causes these changes of state, we can begin to understand the dynamics of natural disasters.In the book’s concluding chapter, Kieffer outlines how we might better prepare for, and in some cases prevent, future disasters. She also calls for the creation of an organization, something akin to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention but focused on pending natural disasters. 40 illustrations less...
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Amazon Says: On December 18, 1867, the Buffalo and Erie Railroad’s eastbound New York Express derailed as it approached the high truss bridge over Big Sister Creek, just east of the smal more...
Amazon Says: On December 18, 1867, the Buffalo and Erie Railroad’s eastbound New York Express derailed as it approached the high truss bridge over Big Sister Creek, just east of the small settlement of Angola, New York, on the shores of Lake Erie. The last two cars of the express train were pitched completely off the tracks and plummeted into the creek bed below. When they struck bottom, one of the wrecked cars was immediately engulfed in flames as the heating stoves in the coach spilled out coals and ignited its wooden timbers. The other car was badly smashed. About fifty people died at the bottom of the gorge or shortly thereafter, and dozens more were injured. Rescuers from the small rural community responded with haste, but there was almost nothing they could do but listen to the cries of the dying—and carry away the dead and injured thrown clear of the fiery wreck. The next day and in the weeks that followed, newspapers across the country carried news of the “Angola Horror,” one of the deadliest railway accidents to that point in U.S. history.In a dramatic historical narrative, Charity Vogel tells the gripping, true-to-life story of the wreck and the characters involved in the tragic accident. Her tale weaves together the stories of the people—some unknown; others soon to be famous—caught up in the disaster, the facts of the New York Express’s fateful run, the fiery scenes in the creek ravine, and the subsequent legal, legislative, and journalistic search for answers to the question: what had happened at Angola, and why? The Angola Horror is a classic story of disaster and its aftermath, in which events coincide to produce horrific consequences and people are forced to respond to experiences that test the limits of their endurance. Vogel sets the Angola Horror against a broader context of the developing technology of railroads, the culture of the nation’s print media, the public policy legislation of the post–Civil War era, and, finally, the culture of death and mourning in the Victorian period. The Angola Horror sheds light on the psyche of the American nation. The fatal wreck of an express train nine years later, during a similar bridge crossing in Ashtabula, Ohio, serves as a chilling coda to the story. less...
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Amazon Says: S.O.S.: Spirit of Survival is a captivating story of the incredible fortitude that ordinary people can conjure in order to overcome even the most harrowing of disasters more...
Amazon Says: S.O.S.: Spirit of Survival is a captivating story of the incredible fortitude that ordinary people can conjure in order to overcome even the most harrowing of disasters. Told from the point of view of each of the five members of one family, this book offers a unique and detailed look into the truth behind the headlines surrounding the Carnival Cruise Line's Costa Concordia cruise ship sinking off the coast of Italy in January of 2012. The Ananias family were some of the last passengers to leave the ship and almost died four times. Their astounding account of the tragic events before, during and, perhaps most shockingly, after the cruise ship ran aground are sure to shock readers. Find out what happened to them hour by hour and why they can't cruise again after being veteran cruisers for decades. The book puts a spotlight on passenger safety and calls for reform in the cruise line industry. If you have ever traveled or cruised, this is a must read book for you before you take your next trip. Learn about the new Passenger Bill of Rights, some helpful travel tips and how to survive against all odds. less...
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Amazon Says: Nature's disasters may be horrifying, but the calamities caused by man, which could have been prevented, are even more tragic. Now TIME tells the full story of history's most more...
Amazon Says: Nature's disasters may be horrifying, but the calamities caused by man, which could have been prevented, are even more tragic. Now TIME tells the full story of history's most memorable man-made disasters, from the sinking of the Titanic to the explosions of the space shuttles Challenger and Columbia. Here are deadly train wrecks and airplane collisions, the great fires that destroyed London and Chicago, the Johnstown Flood, the crash of the Hindenburg, the nuclear accidents at Chernobyl and Fukushima-and many more historic calamities. less...
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Amazon Says: Why can’t we look away? Whether we admit it or not, we’re fascinated by evil. Dark fantasies, morbid curiosities, Schadenfreude: As conventional wisdom has it, these are more...
Amazon Says: Why can’t we look away? Whether we admit it or not, we’re fascinated by evil. Dark fantasies, morbid curiosities, Schadenfreude: As conventional wisdom has it, these are the symptoms of our wicked side, and we succumb to them at our own peril. But we’re still compelled to look whenever we pass a grisly accident on the highway, and there’s no slaking our thirst for gory entertainments like horror movies and police procedurals. What makes these spectacles so irresistible?In Everyone Loves a Good Train Wreck, the scholar Eric G. Wilson sets out to discover the source of our attraction to the caustic, drawing on the findings of biologists, sociologists, psychologists, anthropologists, philosophers, theologians, and artists. A professor of English literature and a lifelong student of the macabre, Wilson believes there’s something nourishing in darkness. “To repress death is to lose the feeling of life,” he writes. “A closeness to death discloses our most fertile energies.”His examples are legion, and startling in their diversity. Citing everything from elephant graveyards and Susan Sontag’s On Photography to the Tiger Woods sex scandal and Steel Magnolias, Wilson finds heartening truths wherever he confronts death. In Everyone Loves a Good Train Wreck, the perverse is never far from the sublime. The result is a powerful and delightfully provocative defense of what it means to be human—for better and for worse. less...
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Amazon Says: On April 20, 2010, the gigantic drilling rig Deepwater Horizon blew up in the Gulf of Mexico, killing eleven crew members and causing a massive eruption of oil from BP's Maco more...
Amazon Says: On April 20, 2010, the gigantic drilling rig Deepwater Horizon blew up in the Gulf of Mexico, killing eleven crew members and causing a massive eruption of oil from BP's Macondo well. For months, oil gushed into the Gulf, spreading death and destruction. Americans watched real-time video of the huge column of oil and gas spewing from the obviously failed "blowout preventer." What was missing, though, was the larger story of this disaster. In Blowout in the Gulf, energy experts William Freudenburg and Robert Gramling explain both the disaster and the decisions that led up to it. Blowout in the Gulf weaves a fascinating narrative of failures, missteps, and bad decisions, explaining why this oil spill was a disaster waiting to happen--and how making better energy choices will help prevent others like it. less...
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Amazon Says: The first full account of the most tragic oil rig disaster in history, the human story behind it, and the true nature of its legacy.   July 6, 1988, began as a normal day on more...
Amazon Says: The first full account of the most tragic oil rig disaster in history, the human story behind it, and the true nature of its legacy.   July 6, 1988, began as a normal day on Piper Alpha, the biggest offshore oil rig on the North Sea. But just after 10:00 p.m., a series of explosions rocked the platform, and the inferno continued to burn for weeks. Of the 226 men working on the platform, 162 died, along with two of their would-be rescuers. Brad Matsen talked to the survivors and their families; to the rescue teams, firefighters, and hospital workers; and to other witnesses. Now he brings together the full story of the human error and corporate malfeasance behind this tragedy.   Here is a comprehensive account of the catastrophe, from the origins of the fires on the rig to the investigation into the causes of its demise to the pain it continues to cause the survivors and the families of the dead. Written with a novelist’s sense of pace and eye for detail, it is a riveting, gut-wrenching saga, made even more timely and important in light of recent disasters. less...
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Amazon Says: Combining original reporting with dramatic photographs and detailed illustrations, Popular Mechanics looks at the science behind the most devastating events of the past 100 ye more...
Amazon Says: Combining original reporting with dramatic photographs and detailed illustrations, Popular Mechanics looks at the science behind the most devastating events of the past 100 years—including San Francisco’s 7.8 earthquake in 1906, the Gulf oil spill, the Apollo 13 Space Mission, and Hurricane Katrina’s devastating landfall near New Orleans. Plus, each chapter includes practical advice on surviving disasters, from industrial accidents to deadly tsunamis. Coverage spans from 1900 to today, and includes: Earthquakes   •  Volcanic Eruptions  •  Fires  •  Blizzards and Avalanches  •  Tornadoes  •  Hurricanes  •  Floods  •  Aviation and Space Disasters  •  Shipwrecks  •  Industrial Accidents  •  Transportation catastrophes less...
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Amazon Says: Each year dozens of military aircraft come to grief, ranging from fighters and bombers to trainers and transports. David Gero covers major military disasters worldwide and giv more...
Amazon Says: Each year dozens of military aircraft come to grief, ranging from fighters and bombers to trainers and transports. David Gero covers major military disasters worldwide and gives full details of the aircraft involved, its operator, route, location of crash, loss of life, and where known the reason for the crash. The author has undertaken considerable detective work to piece together details of many of the incidents recorded here. In this revised and updated second edition, he has investigated significant military aircraft disasters from 1999 to 2008, including the conflicts in Bosnia, the Second Gulf War and Afghanistan. less...
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Amazon Says: What they didn’t want you to know   "We all watched in shock and disbelief when Challenger was lost. Probably no one felt more disappointment and regret than All more...
Amazon Says: What they didn’t want you to know   "We all watched in shock and disbelief when Challenger was lost. Probably no one felt more disappointment and regret than Allan McDonald, who had warned us not to launch that day. His story tells of loss, grief, and the eventual rebuilding and recovery."--Robert "Hoot" Gibson, former Space Shuttle pilot and commander   "A major contribution to a difficult episode in the history of human spaceflight."--Roger D. Launius, Division of Space History, Smithsonian Institution   “McDonald tells the heartbreaking tale of how he saw his words of warning ignored, and the fateful consequences of that decision.”--Donald C. Elder III, Eastern New Mexico University   On a cold January morning in 1986, NASA launched the Space Shuttle Challenger, despite warnings against doing so by many individuals, including Allan McDonald. The fiery destruction of Challenger on live television moments after launch remains an indelible image in the nation’s collective memory.   In Truth, Lies, and O-Rings, McDonald, a skilled engineer and executive, relives the tragedy from where he stood at Launch Control Center.  As he fought to draw attention to the real reasons behind the disaster, he was the only one targeted for retribution by both NASA and his employer, Morton Thiokol, Inc., makers of the shuttle’s solid rocket boosters. In this whistle-blowing yet rigorous and fair-minded book, McDonald, with the assistance of internationally distinguished aerospace historian James R. Hansen, addresses all of the factors that led to the accident, some of which were never included in NASA’s Failure Team report submitted to the Presidential Commission.   Truth, Lies, and O-Rings is the first look at the Challenger tragedy and its aftermath from someone who was on the inside, recognized the potential disaster, and tried to prevent it. It also addresses the early warnings of very severe debris issues from the first two post-Challenger flights, which ultimately resulted in the loss of Columbia some fifteen years later. less...
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Amazon Says: A startling investigation of what people do in disasters and why it matters Why is it that in the aftermath of a disaster? whether manmade or natural?people suddenly more...
Amazon Says: A startling investigation of what people do in disasters and why it matters Why is it that in the aftermath of a disaster? whether manmade or natural?people suddenly become altruistic, resourceful, and brave? What makes the newfound communities and purpose many find in the ruins and crises after disaster so joyous? And what does this joy reveal about ordinarily unmet social desires and possibilities? In A Paradise Built in Hell, award-winning author Rebecca Solnit explores these phenomena, looking at major calamities from the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco through the 1917 explosion that tore up Halifax, Nova Scotia, the 1985 Mexico City earthquake, 9/11, and Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. She examines how disaster throws people into a temporary utopia of changed states of mind and social possibilities, as well as looking at the cost of the widespread myths and rarer real cases of social deterioration during crisis. This is a timely and important book from an acclaimed author whose work consistently locates unseen patterns and meanings in broad cultural histories. less...
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Amazon Says: Amazon Best of the Month, April 2009: In 1966, a mid-air collision off the coast of Spain between a fueling tanker and a B2 bomber resulted in a loss of life, strained more...
Amazon Says: Amazon Best of the Month, April 2009: In 1966, a mid-air collision off the coast of Spain between a fueling tanker and a B2 bomber resulted in a loss of life, strained international relations, and a PR nightmare for the US government. Not only had the crash put innocent civilians at risk from raining debris, but it also produced a much larger problem once the dust had cleared: four hydrogen bombs were now unaccounted for. The Day We Lost the H-Bomb explores an awakening to the realities of a nuclear age. Despite a handful of plutonium-grade foul-ups on our own soil, Americans were seemingly at ease with a burgeoning arsenal of nuclear weaponry. Cold War anxiety over the ever-reaching arm of Communism fueled massive increases in U.S. military spending, yet not enough attention was given to the dangers of an arms race until this fatal accident abroad. --Dave Callanan Amazon Exclusive: An Essay by Barbara Moran The Swim Two years ago, on a chilly February morning, I found myself standing on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea. I was wearing a bathing suit, shivering in the cold and feeling like a complete idiot. It was all Ellen’s fault. A few weeks earlier, before leaving for Spain to research The Day We Lost the H-Bomb, I had had lunch with Ellen Ruppel Shell, a former writing teacher. As we chatted about my upcoming trip, I told her the story of Angier Biddle Duke, the American Ambassador to Spain in 1966. After the United States accidentally dropped four hydrogen bombs near a Spanish village, Duke orchestrated a PR stunt, swimming in the chilly Med to prove that the water wasn’t radioactive. I mentioned that I was planning to visit the beach where Angie swam. Ellen looked at me and said, “Well, of course you have to swim there, too.” I had to admit she was right. It’s always easier to write about something you’ve experienced firsthand. Now, here I was on the beach. I had been anxious about the swim, searching for any excuse to get out of it. My translator had mentioned something about a jellyfish invasion of the Mediterranean, which gave me hope. But I had scoped out the beach the previous day and there wasn’t a jellyfish in sight. No people in sight, either. In my few days on the coast I had seen no one in the water and hardly anyone on the beach, just a few pasty Brits and backpackers sprawled on the sand. It was, after all, February. The next morning I got up at dawn. My plan was to sneak down to the beach without anyone seeing me. The Spanish were used to gringos acting strangely, but a dip in the Med in the middle of winter was surely a bit too far. The beach was deserted, but I noted with alarm that a tour bus was parked beside the road overlooking the ocean. Unlike Angie Duke, my goal was to attract as little attention as possible. I took off my shirt and shorts, and stood on the beach on my bathing suit, cursing Ellen for putting this idea in my head. Where were those jellyfish when I needed them? I wondered if the tour bus was filling with old folks who now had something interesting to look at. I took my first step in. The water was clear and cold, the bottom soft and pebbled. I took a few more steps, my feet sinking into the sand. There was a steep drop and I was suddenly up to my waist. A quick count of one, two, three and I ducked underwater. I came back up, shook my hair and tasted the salty water on my face. My job was done. My 30-second dip in the Med, after all my anxiety, was anticlimactic. Angie’s swim was completely the opposite. --Barbara Moran (Photo © John G. Nikolai) less...
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Amazon Says: On January 15, 2009, a US Airways Airbus A320 had just taken off from LaGuardia Airport in New York when a flock of Canada geese collided with it, destroying both of its engin more...
Amazon Says: On January 15, 2009, a US Airways Airbus A320 had just taken off from LaGuardia Airport in New York when a flock of Canada geese collided with it, destroying both of its engines. Over the next three minutes, the plane’s pilot, Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, managed to glide it to a safe landing in the Hudson River. It was an instant media sensation, the “Miracle on the Hudson,” and Captain Sully was the hero. But how much of the success of this dramatic landing can actually be credited to the genius of the pilot? To what extent is the “miracle” on the Hudson the result of extraordinary—but not widely known, and in some cases quite controversial—advances in aviation and computer technology over the past twenty years? In Fly by Wire, one of America’s greatest journalists takes us on a strange and unexpected journey into the fascinating world of advanced aviation. From the testing laboratories where engineers struggle to build a jet engine that can systematically resist bird attacks, through the creation of the A320 in France, to the political and social forces that have sought to minimize the impact of the revolutionary fly-by-wire technology, William Langewiesche assembles the untold stories necessary to truly understand the“miracle” on the Hudson, and makes us question our assumptions about human beings inmodern aviation. less...
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Amazon Says: The black box is orange—and there are actually two of them. They house the cockpit voice recorder and the flight data recorder, instruments vital to airplane crash analyses. more...
Amazon Says: The black box is orange—and there are actually two of them. They house the cockpit voice recorder and the flight data recorder, instruments vital to airplane crash analyses.But accident investigators cannot rely on the black boxes alone. Beginning with the 1931 Fokker F-10A crash that killed legendary football coach Knute Rockne, this fascinating book provides a behind-the-scenes look at plane wreck investigations. Professor George Bibel shows how forensic experts, scientists, and engineers analyze factors like impact, debris, loading, fire patterns, metallurgy, fracture, crash testing, and human tolerances to determine why planes fall from the sky—and how the information gleaned from accident reconstruction is incorporated into aircraft design and operation to keep commercial aviation as safe as possible. less...
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Amazon Says: It lurks in the corner of our imagination, almost beyond our ability to see it: the possibility that a tear in the fabric of life could open up without warning, upending a hou more...
Amazon Says: It lurks in the corner of our imagination, almost beyond our ability to see it: the possibility that a tear in the fabric of life could open up without warning, upending a house, a skyscraper, or a civilization. Today, nine out of ten Americans live in places at significant risk of earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, terrorism, or other disasters. Tomorrow, some of us will have to make split-second choices to save ourselves and our families. How will we react? What will it feel like? Will we be heroes or victims? Will our upbringing, our gender, our personality–anything we’ve ever learned, thought, or dreamed of–ultimately matter?      Amanda Ripley, an award-winning journalist for Time magazine who has covered some of the most devastating disasters of our age, set out to discover what lies beyond fear and speculation. In this magnificent work of investigative journalism, Ripley retraces the human response to some of history’s epic disasters, from the explosion of the Mont Blanc munitions ship in 1917–one of the biggest explosions before the invention of the atomic bomb–to a plane crash in England in 1985 that mystified investigators for years, to the journeys of the 15,000 people who found their way out of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Then, to understand the science behind the stories, Ripley turns to leading brain scientists, trauma psychologists, and other disaster experts, formal and informal, from a Holocaust survivor who studies heroism to a master gunfighter who learned to overcome the effects of extreme fear. Finally, Ripley steps into the dark corners of her own imagination, having her brain examined by military researchers and experiencing through realistic simulations what it might be like to survive a plane crash into the ocean or to escape a raging fire.      Ripley comes back with precious wisdom about the surprising humanity of crowds, the elegance of the brain’s fear circuits, and the stunning inadequacy of many of our evolutionary responses. Most unexpectedly, she discovers the brain’s ability to do much, much better, with just a little help. The Unthinkable escorts us into the bleakest regions of our nightmares, flicks on a flashlight, and takes a steady look around. Then it leads us home, smarter and stronger than we were before. less...
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Amazon Says: Meticulously researched and supported by pictures from all over the world, this new edition of the authoritative work on the subject brings the grim but important story of ai more...
Amazon Says: Meticulously researched and supported by pictures from all over the world, this new edition of the authoritative work on the subject brings the grim but important story of air disasters up to date. Fully updated, includes all major air accidents since the last edition was published in 2000, for example, Alaska Airlines MD-83 (January 2000), Concorde Air France (July 2000), plus a full account of the September terrorist attacks on New York City and the Pentegon, and  then goes on to crashes worldwide up to and including Sosoliso Airlines DC-9 (October 2005). less...
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