27 March: Greetings from Santiago – 2018 GSA Distinguished International Lecture Tour

by Ross S. Stein, GSA Distinguished International Lecturer


With Sergio Barrientos at the Chilean Seismic Network headquarters.

After my talks at Universidad de Chile and the National Seismic Network, Prof. Jorge Crempien and I presented to a small group at Goldman Sachs in Santiago. The manager, from Venezuela, had experienced the 2010 M=8.8 Maule shock from 12 stories up, watching in awe and trepidation all the skyscrapers around her swayed back and forth. She dropped and covered when everyone else around her ran in every direction. She was calm and rational about the risks and precautions.

Charla 5

Universidad de Chile.

Another young woman, from the Dominican Republic, was terrified. She felt the 2010 Haiti M=7 quake, and watched its human tragedy unfold on the other side of her island. She said she cannot help but panic and run when she feels any quake of any size. She found it jarring that I could smile while enthusiastically talking about quakes. I realized she considered she was face-to-face with a mad scientist. Not sure if that was what GSA was after!
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OK, this Santiago graffiti did not come from the Goldman Sachs building

When I told them that Earthquake Early Warning (several seconds of warning before the shaking arrives) will come to Chile in several years, both women found this comforting and important. The Goldman Office of Global Security people wanted me to emphasize that their building is sound and will not collapse. This is true, and so I did. But what about their homes and schools? I decided not to press this point.

I felt I was learning things from this intimate group that would never surface in the larger audiences of the trip, and so I was grateful.

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Chilean engineers managed to make a safe and ugly building.

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The tallest building in Latin America waits for the next M=9. Will be quite a ride.

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Guess how this architect peels oranges?

The last talk of this leg of the tour is this afternoon at La Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. The ‘Pontifical’ appellation means that it is an anointed institution whose president is chosen by the Vatican. Most seismic observatories of the U.S. during the first half of the Twentieth Century were founded and run by Jesuit Scholar-Scientists, so we should have a lot in common.


Seismic engineer Jorge Crempien and seismologist Roberto Beneventi at the Innovation Center of Pontificia Católica Universidad. This exciting on-campus incubator fuels startups with industry funding and participation. The Center’s rooftop restaurant also has the best view of the San Ramón Thrust Fault that rims the city.

Charla 5

Universidad de Chile.

Postscript reflections

Xyoli Pérez-Campos, the director of Servicio Sismológico Nacional de México, got her Ph.D. with Greg Beroza at Stanford; Allen Husker, Chair of Departamento de Sismología
at the Instituto de Geofísica at UNAM, got his Ph.D. at UCLA with Paul Davis; Germán Prieto, my host at Universidad Nacional de Colombia, got his Ph.D. with Peter Shearer at UCSD; Jorge Crempien, my host at Pontificia Católica Universidad, got his Ph.D. with Ralph Archuleta at UCSB; and Sergio Barrientos, director of the Centro Sismologico Sismológico de Chile, got his Ph.D. with Steven Ward at UCSC.

I asked these leaders about their experiences in California, and how they looked back on them. Each told me that it was an honor and a joy; each waxed poetic about the generosity and brilliance of their advisor, and spoke with pride about their Alma Mater. Far more important and more lasting than any lecture tour, these are the ties that bind, this is the gift that keeps giving. It is how the larger scientific network of collaboration and illumination is fostered. It made me feel good just to be a Californian.

R o s s

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