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Author Jonathan White speaks to the 'Science and Spirit' of the tides

by Take Two®

Tides: The science and spirit of the ocean.

Jonathan White's new book is a sailor, diver and fisherman. He was also born in Malibu so it's no surprise that he knows a few things about the ocean tides.

But even though he knows more than most, he decided that he needed to learn a lot more if he wanted to completely understand them. 

To do that he traveled the world to learn more about not just the physics of tides, but also how people felt about them. He collected his findings in a book entitled 'Tides: The Science and Spirit of the Ocean.'

On where he traveled and why

"Basically what I did with the book was take some element of the tide, whether it be tidal bores or tide energy or sea-level rise or whatever, and go to where that element is most dramatically at play in the world. A Tidal bore is when the tide goes up a river in the form of a wave, a solid wall of water. The largest in the world is in China. I went there to study that and talk with fishermen there and scientists and all kinds of different people ... about their relationship with this tidal bore. I did that for all 9 chapters of the book."

On whether the tides as a clean energy can work

"In some ways, it has been [used] for quite a while. Taking a half-step back, we think about tide energy as something that's fairly new, but actually, there were tide mills all over Europe and the Eastern coasts in the United States in the 1600's. The newest efforts are really what they call instream...  I spent my whole adult career in marine conservation and land conservation and I was a naysayer about tide energy when I started! But I completely came around in my studies and I am an advocate of tide energy now. I don't think it's a silver bullet, it's not renewable energy that's going to solve our problem and our reliance on petroleum. But I think it's a viable part of the puzzle."

On what he's learned about the tides

"There are so many fascinating facts, mind-blowing facts about the tides. It just kept drawing me further and further in. For example, the tides create friction by rubbing against the ocean floor. So much of it that it's actually slowing down the rotation of the earth. So by a very little amount, the earth is turning slower and our days are getting longer because of the tide. So 400 million years ago our days were 21 hours long not 24. So the tides have this huge impact on the solar system, on the universe, for the matter. Not just the beaches that we walk on."

 

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