Preparing for Catastrophe

Download Audio
photoWell-known legal scholar and federal judge Richard Posner begins his new book "Catastrophe: Risk and Response" by recounting a succession of worst-case scenarios: a deadly pandemic; an asteroid colliding into the earth; a lab experiment gone awry, producing a lethal new germ; and even an omnivorous nanomachine.

Posner warns that science fiction, where catastrophic risks often don't materialize, lull us into not appreciating the true magnitude of the threats we face. So first we must assess the risks using cold, hard math, and then respond to them.

Posner is open to many prevention approaches: creating an international EPA, restricting what foreign students can study and to using torture to root out terrorists.

Hear a conversation with Richard Posner on prevention planning for major catastrophes.


John Bussey, deputy managing editor of The Wall Street Journal in Hong Kong.;
Richard Posner, judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. He is a senior lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School. He is author of numerous books including "Overcoming Law" and "An Affair of State: The Investigation, Impeachment and Trial of President Clinton." His new book is "Catastrophe: Risk and Response.";
Jack Beatty, On Point news analyst and senior editor for The Atlantic Monthly.

This program aired on January 18, 2005.


More from On Point

Listen Live