Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Science Center shares the experience of natural phenomenons

DETROIT -- Forces of Nature Opens in the IMAX(R) Dome Theatre April 30, 2005
The ground moves, mountains explode, the sky turns black and violent -- paradoxically, natural forces that helped create life on our green planet also can imperil it. Now you can 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, funded in part by the National Science Foundation with support from the Detroit Free Press, premieres at The New Detroit Science Center's IMAX(R) Dome Theatre on April 30, 2005.

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. 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, employing 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. 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. 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. 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.

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