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Copywrite 2001-2004, California Science Center
Media Contact: 

Paula Wagner
Work: (213) 744-7446

January 10, 2005

Mother Nature's Dark Side Focus in New Film, Forces of Nature
Natural Disasters and the Science Behind Their Prediction Shown in Film Opening January 28, 2005
at the California Science Center IMAX Theater


LOS 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.

Encounter 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.

Billions 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.

At 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.

Edmonds 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.

Halfway 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?

There 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.

Wurman’s 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.

From 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 film format.

National 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 at www.nationalgeographic.com.

National 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.

Destination 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.

Amica 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.

“As 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.”

Editor's Note: California 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.

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