Cover image for The politics of earthquake prediction
The politics of earthquake prediction
Olson, Richard Stuart, 1946-
Publication Information:
Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, [1989]

Physical Description:
xi, 187 pages ; 23 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
QE538.8 .O36 1989 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



The Politics of Earthquake Prediction is a suspenseful account of what happens when scientists predict an enormous earthquake for a specific day--an earthquake that did not, in this instance, happen, but which, if it had, would have been one of the most destructive of our century. Working in a field where uncertainty abounds, Dr. Brian Brady of the U.S. Bureau of Mines and Dr. William Spence of the U.S. Geological Survey gradually came to the conclusion that a catastrophic quake would occur on June 28, 1981, off the coast of central Peru, near the great population center of Lima-Callao. Their research was based on a theory challenging scientific notions widely accepted in the seismological "establishment." This book is a fast-paced but thorough and sensitive description of how this scientific dispute became a political controversy.

The work portrays in detail the struggles of scientists and government officials in both the United States and Peru attempting to "do the right thing" as the target date approached. The authors emphasize the political, economic, and moral dilemmas of earthquake prediction, the impact of the media, and the potentially drastic consequences of ignoring a valid prediction.

Originally published in 1989.

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Reviews 1

Choice Review

In the mid-1970s, two American scientists predicted that a major earthquake would occur in Peru on June 28, 1981. The prediction proved to be invalid, an outcome that many other scientists familiar with the theory and observations behind the prediction had anticipated. But for five years the residents of Peru waited with increasing nervousness. This book recounts the activities of scientists, government bureaucrats, and the media in dealing with the scientific, political, economic, social, and moral aspects of disaster prediction, with the special international twist that the disaster was predicted for one country by scientists from another. This is not science fiction but a fascinating chronicle of the unfolding of a nonevent. The far-reaching economic consequences in Peru of the invalid prediction, although short of the effects an actual catastropic earthquake would have wrought, were certainly nontrivial. Important lessons emerged about evaluating and disseminating long-term predictions of natural disasters and about the bureaucracy of disaster preparedness. Recommended for all post-secondary academic libraries as well as for public libraries. -H. N. Pollack, University of Michigan