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Risk and resilience in Japan after the Fukushima disaster

Oli Usher22 November 2013

Fukushima Daiichi reactor 2. Credit: TEPCO

Fukushima Daiichi reactor 2. Credit: TEPCO

There is no amount of concrete that could have kept people safe from the 2011 Japanese tsunami – and in any case, the height of the wave could never have been predicted. But learning the right lessons from past disasters, along with a helping hand from technology, could help keep us safer in the future.

That was the message delivered by Prof Peter Sammonds (UCL Institute of Risk & Disaster Reduction) in Tuesday’s Lunch Hour Lecture.

Japan is, in many ways, an ideal place to learn from in the field of natural disasters. A prosperous, well-governed and highly educated nation, it also has a long history of dealing with natural hazards, particularly earthquakes and tsunamis. The successes and failures of disaster management in Japan over the past century offer a rich vein of data for researchers like him to mine.

The key lesson, he argued, is to understand the complexity of disasters and how one calamitous event can cascade in fundamentally unpredictable ways.

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Why do YOUNG MINDS think the way they do?

Andrea Pochylova13 June 2011

Recently, there has been a negative vibe in society about teenagers supported by David Cameron’s comment on the broken society and its youth. For the question why do young people think the way they do, answers Sarah-Jayne Blakemore from  the UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, who explained the changes in behaviour at Cheltenham Science Festival.

During the teenage years, the adolescent brain undergoes enormous development, particularly changes in white matter. White matter largely increases, while grey matter decreases. Sarah-Jane explains that during the adjustments (of proportion between the white and grey matter) the way an individual handles information changes, and with it perception of risk changes too.

She has done an experiment, where she measured how much risk people would take while playing videogames (car racing). The research has shown that teenagers chose to undertake risk much more than the other two studied groups (20–24 and 25–28 year olds). This phenomenon was especially visible in an environment where a couple of friends were watching; under peer pressure the youngest group (13–17) would choose to undertake the most risky situations.

Sarah-Jane and other speakers suggest that in our adult-oriented society, we should be less judgemental about the challenges of today’s Young Minds and rather support them and help them to achieve their true potentials.