Can Science Save The Holy Wisdom? (And Does It Need Saving?)

So why has it been ages since Ginny has updated her blog? Well, a certain feature story (and its associated interviews and background research) about earthquakes, architecture, and the Byzantine Empire has taken most of my writing energies. Here’s the first paragraph…..perhaps more of the 4,000-word treatise will come later. Lots of love to all my bloggers! Mwa

Every year, thousands flock to Istanbul to see the church that scholars through the ages have called the most magnificent structure on earth: the Hagia Sophia. Greek for “Church of the Holy Wisdom,” in 537 AD the 180-feet-tall domed basilica became the most visible symbol of Justinian’s new Byzantine Empire. For 1,500 years, in a land notorious for political instability, the Hagia Sophia has stood tall and resilient, transforming even, when the Muslim Ottomans invaded in 1299, from a basilica to a mosque. And sitting on top of a major fault line—one that has caused no fewer than three dozen major earthquakes to shake Sophia—the monument has also survived serious geophysical instability. International teams of civil engineers and earthquake scientists are using computer models of today’s church to figure out how it has already withstood such seismic stress. But after the most recent devastating quake in 1999, head researcher Ahmet Çakmak told the New York Times: "The fault that runs closer to Istanbul is still very dangerous…The newspapers are saying we survived the big earthquake, but that's silly. It's a big mistake. What we should do is learn from this one, expect a bigger one and be prepared." If Istanbul is to be hit with a quake of unprecedented size, the big question is whether the Holy Wisdom needs some 21st century technology to—literally—back it up.  

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