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Niall Ferguson On The Politics Of Catastrophe

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The Challenger space shuttle exploded just over a minute after it launched in 1986.

The historian and author Niall Ferguson says that, on some level, every disaster is man-made—that so-called “natural” disasters are usually made worse by our bungling.

When the space shuttle Challenger blew up seconds after blast-off, it was called a disaster. An accident. Later, it was discovered that NASA engineers had known there was a 1-in-100 chance that the shuttle could explode. But, as Ferguson writes, a NASA bureaucrat — one Mr. Kingsbury — insisted that the chance was actually 1-in-100,000. Challenger launched and everyone on board was killed. Ferguson’s new book Doom: The Politics of Catastrophe is about the way that people make disasters worse, because there’s often a “Mr. Kingsbury” somewhere in the story. Niall Ferguson joins us this Friday at 11 a.m. and again at 7 p.m.

Niall Ferguson's book is Doom: The Politics of Catastrophe [Amazon|Bookshop].

Doug Fabrizio has been reporting for KUER News since 1987, and became News Director in 1993. In 2001, he became host and executive producer of KUER's RadioWest, a one hour conversation/call-in show on KUER 90.1 in Salt Lake City. He has gained a reputation for his thoughtful style. He has interviewed everyone from Isabel Allende to the Dalai Lama, and from Madeleine Albright to Desmond Tutu. His interview skills landed him a spot as a guest host of the national NPR program, "Talk of the Nation." He has won numerous awards for his reporting and for his work with RadioWest and KUED's Utah NOW from such organizations as the Society of Professional Journalists, the Utah Broadcasters Association, the Public Radio News Directors Association and the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.