The Trouble with Earthquake Prediction and Haiti

Florin Diacu's timely new book


As the ongoing tragedy in Haiti makes clear, earthquakes remain a great blight on humanity. One question worth asking is what is the best way to deal with earthquakes, through prediction or by trying to build more securely in earthquake zones. Writing in the New York Times, geophysicist Susan Hough noted that “scientists have been chasing earthquake prediction — the holy grail of earthquake science — for decades … Yet we have little to no real progress to show for our efforts.” Some scientists have gone so far to argue that earthquake prediction is like alchemy: not a real science but an impossible dream.

I discuss these issue with the mathimatician  Florin Diacu, whose recent book Megadisasters has a good discussion of the subject. My conversation with Diacu can be found here. I’ve pasted the relevant section of Diacu’s book below.

For some interesting observations on Haitian history, I recommend the following pieces by Scott McLemee and Slavoj Zizek.

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Zizek on the Financial Crisis

You wouldn’t think that a Marxist Lacanian psychoanalyst best known for his interpretations of Alfred Hitchcock movies would have anything of interest to say about the current financial crisis. Well, you’d be wrong. Zizek actually makes some good points here.


I particularly like the ending:


“This is why Obama was right to reject McCain’s call to postpone the first presidential debate and to point out that the meltdown makes a political debate about how the two candidates would handle the crisis all the more urgent. In the 2000 election, Clinton won with the motto ‘It’s the economy, stupid!’ The Democrats need to get a new message across: ‘It’s the POLITICAL economy, stupid!’ The US doesn’t need less politics, it needs more.”


It’s the political economy, stupid – that’s a slogan I can live with.

Zizek on Nitebeat

I recently came across this TV interview with cultural studies superstar Slavoj Zizek. From the looks of it, Nitebeat is or was a late night talk show. They must have been hard up for guests that night, because the host clearly has no idea what to make of Zizek. Yet the world’s greatest Slovenian philosopher rises to the challenge, and gives a funny, entertaining and insightful interview. What he says about tolerance, in particular, I found thought-provoking.

Bonus trivia for acquaintances of the Sans Everything blogging team: Zizek has the same hand gestures as one us. Can you guess who it is?

For those who can’t get enough, there is also a hilarious Q & A with Zizek at The Guardian.

Hat tip: Prologus.