‘Energy and Catastrophe’ topic for Jan. 27 Science Unwrapped at USU

LOGAN – What do the demise of the Roman Empire and 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster have in common? More than you might think.”Looking into the past and at the present, we can see that cheap energy and increasing complexity have contributed to a mutually reinforcing spiral,” says Utah State University historian and anthropologist Joseph Tainter. “Our society, like a number of ancient societies, has become dependent on an energy source that can’t sustain us indefinitely and we have to figure out what to do about it.”Tainter, professor in USU’s Department of Environment and Society, is featured speaker for USU’s Science Unwrapped program Friday, Jan. 27, on the USU campus. He presents “Energy and Catastrophe: What Links the Roman Empire to the Gulf Oil Spill?” at 7 p.m. in the Emert Auditorium, Room 130, of the Eccles Science Learning Center. Hosted by the College of Science, the event is free and open to all ages.Tainter is co-author of the recent book, “Drilling Down: The Gulf Oil Debacle and Our Energy Dilemma,” which details the specific causes of the Deepwater calamity and offers commentary on energy and society, energy and history, as well as energy in the future. As the world grows increasingly complex, he says, it needs more energy but finding oil and gas and bringing it out is becoming more difficult and expensive. “It takes energy to find and produce energy and the world’s remaining, untapped petroleum reserves are in deep, dark, cold, remote and dangerous locations,” he says. “We need highly complex technology and equipment to meet our energy demands.”A renowned scholar of societal collapse, Tainter was featured in the National Geographic Channel’s 2010 “Collapse” program, the 2009 ABC News primetime special “Earth 2100” and in the Leonardo DiCaprio’s 2007 eco-documentary “The 11th Hour.”Hands-on learning activities and refreshments follow Tainter’s talk.Science Unwrapped’s Jan. 27 presentation kicks off the program’s new series, “End of the World as We Know It: The Science Behind Apocalypses” for spring 2012.”Throughout history and today, humans have been fascinated by impending disasters and the threat of apocalyptic scenarios,” says Shane Larson, Science Unwrapped committee chair and assistant professor in USU’s Physics Department. “For our new series, we’ve assembled an exciting slate of speakers to help us explore this topic from diverse disciplines and points of view.”For more information, call 435-797-3517, visit www.usu.edu/science/unwrapped or view the ‘Science Unwrapped at USU’ page on Facebook.

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