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Press release

Global Catastrophes: A Punter’s Guide

The Annual Science Lecture, Monday 14 November, 19.30-21.00

When can we expect the next cataclysmic global geophysical event? What is it likely to be? Where will it strike? Most importantly, can we prevent it, or at the very least manage its worst effects? Discover the facts at the Natural History Museum's Annual Science Lecture. Join guest speaker Professor Bill McGuire, volcanologist and Director of the Benfield Hazard Research Centre at University College London, for a chilling exploration of the threats we face and the odds on when they will happen. Find out the truth behind the Hollywood disaster movies and how recent research has improved our understanding of the dangers we face.

'The chance of any person winning the jackpot on the National Lottery is one in 14 million,' said Professor Bill McGuire. 'But in your lifetime you are far more likely to experience the end of the world as we know it through a volcanic super-eruption, an asteroid impact, global reach earthquake or giant tsunami. It's not a question of if they will happen, but when.'

Recent human history has been a time of relative geological peace, but events such as last December's tsunami show how this calm can be shattered in a moment. About 100,000 years ago a giant tsunami on a far larger scale pounded the entire coastline of the Pacific Ocean and the last volcanic super-eruption, 73,000 years ago, resulted in a bitter volcanic winter thought to have reduced the human population to just a few thousand. But, as we become more aware of the risks, are we any more prepared?

Professor Bill McGuire has studied volcanoes all over the world, and published more than 300 papers, books and articles on volcanoes and other natural hazards. He is a Fellow of the Royal Institution, a member of its Science Media Panel and sits on the editorial boards of three journals. He was also a member of the Natural Hazard Working Group established by the UK Government in January 2005, in the wake of the Indian Ocean tsunami. Bill's popular science books include A Guide to the End of the World: Everything You Never Wanted to Know and Surviving Armageddon: Solutions for a Threatened Planet. He has worked with BBC2 Horizon on the programmes Supervolcanoes and Megatsunami, and was the focus of the Carlton First Edition programme Disasterman.

Now in its eleventh year, the Natural History Museum's Annual Science Lecture has established itself as one of the most important forums for stimulating scientific debate. Bill McGuire follows such eminent speakers as Lord Winston, Professor John Maynard Smith, Professor Richard Dawkins, Sir David Attenborough and the Museum's senior scientists Dr Monica Grady, Professor Chris Stringer and
Andy Currant.


Notes for editors
Winner of the 2004 Large Visitor Attraction of the Year award, the Natural History Museum is also a world-leading science research centre. Through its collections and scientific expertise, the Museum is helping to conserve the extraordinary richness and diversity of the natural world with groundbreaking projects in 68 countries. The Museum is committed to encouraging public engagement with science. This has been greatly enhanced by the Darwin Centre, a major new initiative, which offers visitors unique access behind the scenes of the Museum. Phase One of the project opened to the public in 2002 and Phase Two is scheduled to open in 2008.

Event information
Date and time: Monday 14 November 2005, 19.30
Location: Central Hall
Admission: £11, concessions and Members, £9, students £5
Booking: 020 7942 5555 or
Nearest tube: South Kensington