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Next Nostradamus

December 1, 2008

What are you watching?

I’m tuned to the History Channel’s “Next Nostradamus“:

Two men sharing startling visions of the future possess distinctly different backgrounds: Michel de Nostradamus was a French apothecary and healer in the 16th century; he would become the most famous seer in history. His 21st century counterpart is Dr. Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, a renowned political scientist who teaches game theory at New York University and Stanford. While Nostradamus looked to the stars and mysticism to divine his apocalyptic revelations, Dr. Bueno de Mesquita relies on the most omnipotent tool ever designed by man to predict future events: the computer. This special explores not only the commonalities of these men’s visions about World War III, famine and the coming of the Anti-Christ, but it also traces the evolution from mysticism to hard math, and determines whether science has always existed in prophecy, manifesting itself in different forms through the ages.

I was on the phone and watched most of the first hour with the sound off.

However, in addition to Bueno de Mesquita, I know the program also features John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and at least one on-screen appearance each by Ethan Bueno de Mesquita and Alastair Smith. Historian Pamela Smith and a few other scholars are also interviewed.

If you missed the program, it is on again at 1 am ET and Saturday December 6 at 5 pm ET. Check it out. You can also buy it.

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Rodger A. Payne is a Professor of Political Science at the University of Louisville. He serves on the University’s Sustainability Council and was a co-founder of the Peace, Conflict, and Social Justice program. He is the author of dozens of journal articles and book chapters and coauthor, with Nayef Samhat, of Democratizing Global Politics: Discourse Norms, International Regimes, and Political Community (SUNY, 2004). He is currently working on two major projects, one exploring the role of narratives in international politics and the other examining the implications of America First foreign policy.