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10/16/2006 07:00:00

Watson Lecture: Natural Disasters

PASADENA, Calif.- The recent devastations caused by earthquakes in south and southwest Asia, by the Indian Ocean tsunami, and by hurricane Katrina offer dramatic proof that communities all over the world are both unaware of, and unprepared for, natural hazards. Unfortunately, while scientists understand much about these natural hazards, that knowledge commonly is not used to reduce the risks.

"Even though we scientists and engineers often can characterize what will happen, there is a big gap between what we know about nature and how people respond to what we know," says Kerry Sieh, the Robert P. Sharp Professor of Geology at the California Institute of Technology. "Thus, with the enormous growth of the human population over the past half-century, it seems inescapable that natural events will take an ever-increasing toll in lives, well-being and property."

On Wednesday, October 18, Sieh will take a look at a few particular natural disasters and what is being done to mitigate their effects. His talk, "Natural Disasters: What We Know vs. What We Do," is the first program of the 2006-2007 Earnest C. Watson Lecture Series.

The talk will take place at 8 p.m. in Beckman Auditorium, 332 S. Michigan Avenue south of Del Mar Boulevard, on the Caltech campus in Pasadena. Seating is available on a free, no-ticket-required, first-come, first-served basis. Caltech has offered the Watson Lecture Series since 1922, when it was conceived by the late Caltech physicist Earnest Watson as a way to explain science to the local community.

Upcoming lectures in the 2006-2007 series include

o Christopher E. Brennen, Richard L. and Dorothy M. Hayman Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Caltech, on "The Amazing World of Bubbles," November 8.

o Philip T. Hoffman, Richard and Barbara Rosenberg Professor of History and Social Science, Caltech, on "Why Did Europe Conquer the World? How Politics and Economics Created a Comparative Advantage in Violence," December 6.

o Melany L. Hunt, professor of mechanical engineering and executive officer for mechanical engineering, Caltech, on "Booming Sand Dunes," January 17, 2007.

For more information, call (626) 395-4652. Outside the greater Pasadena area, call toll-free, 1(888) 2CALTECH (1-888-222-5832).

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Contact: Kathy Svitil (626) 395-8022 ksvitil@caltech.edu

Visit the Caltech Media Relations Web site at: http://pr.caltech.edu/media.

Written by John Avery