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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].