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Catastrophes and Culture

Friday, October 12, 2018 at 12:15pm to 1:15pm

Mann Library, 160

Lucy Jones, Founder of the Dr. Lucy Jones Center for Science and Society and Research Associate at the Seismological Laboratory of Caltech, will lead a discussion on her recent publication, The Big Ones. The Big Ones, is a riveting history of natural disasters, their impact on our culture, and new ways of thinking about the ones to come.There will be a book signing following the roundtable discussion. The book, The Big Ones, will be available for sale at the venue.



Lucy Jones is the founder of the Dr. Lucy Jones Center for Science and Society, with a mission to foster the understanding and application of scientific information in the creation of more resilient communities. She is a Research Associate at the Seismological Laboratory of Caltech since 1984. Working with both the public and private sectors, Jones seeks to increase communities’ ability to adapt and be resilient to the dynamic changes of the world around them. The aim is to understand and communicate where the greatest vulnerabilities lie and what actions can be taken to reduce the risk that are the most cost-effective. With a Bachelor of Arts in Chinese Language and Literature from Brown University and a Ph.D. in Geophysics from MIT, Jones has been active in earthquake research for decades, furthering earthquake risk reduction through seismological research and integrated disaster scenarios.



“In The Big Ones, Jones presents the history of natural disasters as the history of ourselves; looking back as a way to look forward.”
Los Angeles Times

Earthquakes, floods, tsunamis, hurricanes, volcanoes–they stem from the same forces that give our planet life. Earthquakes give us natural springs; volcanoes produce fertile soil. It is only when these forces exceed our ability to withstand them that they become disasters. Together they have shaped our cities and their architecture; elevated leaders and toppled governments; influenced the way we think, feel, fight, unite, and pray. The history of natural disasters is a history of ourselves.

In The Big Ones, Lucy Jones offers a bracing look at some of the world’s greatest natural disasters, whose reverberations we continue to feel today. At Pompeii, Jones explores how a volcanic eruption in the first century AD challenged prevailing views of religion. She examines the California floods of 1862 and the limits of human memory. And she probes more recent events–such as the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004 and the American hurricanes of 2017–to illustrate the potential for globalization to humanize and heal.

With population in hazardous regions growing and temperatures around the world rising, the impacts of natural disasters are greater than ever before. The Big Ones is more than just a work of history or science; it is a call to action. Natural hazards are inevitable; human catastrophes are not. With this energizing and exhaustively researched book, Jones offers a look at our past, readying us to face down the Big Ones in our future.

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Mann Library, Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, Civil and Environmental Engineering

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Rhea Lopes

Contact Phone

+1 607 216 2390


Lucy Jones

Speaker Affiliation

Dr. Lucy Jones Center for Science and Society and Research, Seismological Laboratory of Caltech

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