ANGELES - The ground moves, mountains
explode, the sky turns black and violent — paradoxically,
natural forces that helped create life on
our green planet can also imperil it. National
Geographic, in partnership with Graphic Films,
delivers an experience 10 years in the making — the
awesome spectacle of earthquakes, volcanoes
and tornadoes brought to the giant screen.
Earth’s fiercest powers and the death-defying
science behind them when “Forces of Nature,” a
giant-screen film made possible by Amica Insurance
and funded in part by the National Science
Foundation, opens January 28, 2005 at the California
Science Center IMAX Theater.
of years after Earth’s genesis, this
planet retains a volatile atmosphere. While
we are at the mercy of these primal powers,
our hope lies with researchers willing to risk
their own lives on groundbreaking quests to
understand the origins and behavior of natural
disasters. From an active Caribbean volcano
to the earthquake-tested antiquities of Istanbul,
and finally on to America’s notorious “Tornado
Alley,” “Forces of Nature” showcases
three scientists aiming to improve our odds
of surviving these terrifying events.
the Montserrat Volcano Observatory, Dr. Marie
Edmonds keeps watch over Soufriere Hills, the
island’s active volcano. In 1995, Montserrat
citizens learned they were living on a time
bomb when a massive explosion sent pyroclastic
flows racing down the mountain.
now searches for signs of future eruptions.
She employs an arsenal of sophisticated instruments
that she has developed for data collection
on activity occurring miles below the surface.
But positioning such devices takes Edmonds and
her colleagues to the edge of danger along the
mouth of the volcano. Laser reflectors that register
even a few centimeters of ground deformation
deliver clues that the volcanic chamber is swelling
with magma and may be ready to burst. “Forces
of Nature” describes the scene as Soufriere
Hills wreaks havoc again.
around the world, different forces from Earth’s
depths threaten life above. Turkey sits atop
one of the most seismically active faults in
the world, where continental plates float on
extremely hot rock, grinding against each other
and building stress that demands geologic relief.
In the ancient city of Istanbul, geophysicist
Dr. Ross Stein has spent much of his career
studying the rumblings of the North Anatolian
Fault. When its locked walls release, tremendous
waves race through the crust, violently shaking
the surface above. Stein’s earthquake-progression
model anticipates stress sites along fault
lines. But his model’s success is little
cause for celebration when predictions ring
true for the city of Izmit. “Forces of
Nature” witnesses the aftermath of the
1999 quake that had an astonishing human toll
of more than 17,000 dead and thousands more
injured. Is Istanbul next?
are other places where the ground seemingly
holds steady, and disaster strikes from above.
In the United States alone, tornadoes kill
dozens of people each year, and Midwesterners
rightfully fear the power of a sudden storm.
Not all rotating storms spawn tornadoes, so
it is up to scientists like Dr. Joshua Wurman
to try to figure out which ones do, greatly
aiding warning efforts. Wurman and his team
log thousands of miles each spring criss-crossing
the highways and dirt roads of the nation’s
aptly named “Tornado Alley” in
Doppler radar trucks.
enduring mission is to get a radar’s-eye
view inside a tornado, solving the mystery
of how these funnel clouds are born. But success
on the project is an extreme version of “right
time, right place,” requiring trucks
positioned at 90-degree angles on either side
of a storm at the exact moment of a tornado’s
formation. “Forces of Nature” delivers
a wild ride as Wurman’s team manages
to corner a massive twister.
the very brink of erupting volcanoes, along
shuddering fault lines, and barreling toward
angry funnel clouds, larger-than-life images
and sound immerse the audience in the colossal
powers that shape our world. Partnering with
Graphic Films, National Geographic examines
these inspiring and terrifying natural events
with the trademark combination of scientific
excellence, storytelling skill and human emotion
that has defined the Society for more than
a century. The result is the perfect combination
of subject and medium: nature’s grandest
phenomenon captured on the world’s biggest
Geographic Television & Film (NGT&F)
is a wholly owned subsidiary of National Geographic
Ventures, which also manages National Geographic’s
interactive, online, and merchandising, travel
expedition and related businesses. NGT&F
augments its award-winning documentaries (122
Emmy Awards and over 800 other industry awards)
with feature films, long-form television dramas
and two giant screen films: “Mysteries
of Egypt” (1998) and “Lewis & Clark:
Great Journey West” (2002). The National
Geographic Channel is received by more than
200 million households in 148 countries, including
the United States. More information is available
Geographic is co-producing “Forces of
Nature” with Graphic Films Corporation,
producers of award-winning giant-screen films
for more than 20 years. Graphic Films has been
honored with more than 100 national and international
awards, including five Academy Award nominations.
Cinema, Inc., sole distributor of “Forces
of Nature,” owns and operates giant-screen
theaters in tourist locations throughout North
America, having pioneered the destination film
and theater concept in 1984. One of the most
prolific and successful producers of giant-screen
films, the company owns a film library specializing
in destination topics and distributes giant-screen
films to theaters throughout the world.
Insurance is the exclusive national corporate
sponsor of “Forces of Nature.” Amica,
the nation’s oldest mutual insurer of
automobiles, was founded in 1907. The company,
with corporate headquarters in Lincoln, R.I.,
is a national writer of automobile, homeowners,
marine and personal excess liability insurance.
Life coverage is available through Amica Life
Insurance Company, a wholly owned subsidiary.
Amica employs more than 3,500 people in 42
offices across the country.
an insurance company, we are acutely aware
of how devastating a natural disaster can be
to a person’s life,” said Thomas
A. Taylor, president and CEO of Amica Insurance. “The
scientists whose work is being featured in ‘Forces
of Nature’ are working to make early
prediction of impending natural disasters possible.
This in turn will save both lives and property,
which is one of the reasons Amica is sponsoring
this important film.”
Science Center, located at 700 State Drive
in Exposition Park, Los Angeles, is open
daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., except Thanksgiving,
Christmas and New Year’s Day. Admission
to the permanent exhibitions is free. IMAX
Theater tickets range from $4.50-$7.50. For
recorded information on IMAX show times,
phone (213) 744-7400. For advance ticket
purchases, group rates, or to make reservations
for any visiting group of 15 or more (required),
call (213) 744-2019. Parking is $6 per car;
enter the guest lot at Figueroa and 39th
Street. Both the Science Center and the IMAX
Theater are wheelchair accessible. For general
information, phone (323) SCIENCE or visit
our website at www.californiasciencecenter.org.