About Coe > Thursday Forum > November

The Science of Natural Disasters

October 29, November 5, 12, 19

Recent events have shown that it is critical that we understand the process that generates natural disasters. Physics plays a big role in the way we attempt to model and predict the behavior of these events. Physics Professor Mario Affatigato will combine the study of science and the way in which nature affects culture and history.

How did the Krakatoa volcano help undermine Dutch colonial power in Asia? How did a cyclone and tidal wave cause a civil war that separated Pakistan and Bangladesh? Why was Japan never invaded by the Mongol armies of Kublai Khan? The people and times affected by these events will give a better understanding of the human scale of disasters.

The series begins with disasters that get their energy from the earth, with an emphasis on earthquakes and tsunamis. The second week will tackle volcanoes and then move to disasters that are powered by the sun, starting with hurricanes. This theme will continue the third week, addressing Iowa's favorites, tornadoes and floods. In the fourth week, discussion will focus on broader trends that affect natural disasters, including global warming, and more far-fetched possibilities, like meteoric impacts.

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Mario Affatigato
Mario Affatigato
Fran Allison and Francis Halpin Professor of Physics