Sunday, March 20, 2011

The More We Change, The More We Stay The Same

Have you noticed how much more focused we are just lately?

Things impact us more. Like the quake in Japan. Those poor people took the brunt of a major earthquake with hundreds of aftershocks that are still happening even now, and a terrible tsunami that took the lives of thousands. Not to mention the damage to their nuclear power plants and the ensuing trouble that has caused.

Actually it is the nuclear accident that I want to talk about. I was listening on the radio today and I heard a thyroid cancer specialist telling people not to stockpile potassium iodide because it wouldn't do any good for radiation that might make it here over five and a half thousand miles away. Are you kidding me? What were those people thinking about? It would be a different story if they were thinking of packaging it up and sending it off to help those poor people in Japan. But I doubt if that was the reason for their trip to the pharmacy.

Well, the other thing is the drama that unfolds before our eyes. All of this has become much more available because of high speed Internet networks and connections that hook the world up practically in real-time! I think the most dramatic thing has been the capability of a news story, replete with scary pictures and video, to go viral on the Internet in fractions of a second.

Along with this, has emerged the new critical society, where everyone has an opinion, and this collective opinion has replaced whatever went before. Wait a minute! What actually did go before? Well, we had "Opinion" columns and editorial content. We still do have these. But nowadays, if someone makes a comment, the whole world gets to find out and really quickly too.

We are just getting to explore the localization part, since before people were really reluctant to give out their location. Now, the location helps in the overall data mix, to provide more detailed information about trends and other things. If you allow a social network access to your location, that network can add this information to the general information about where people are and this adds to the usefulness of the data.

I see the future as being very interesting indeed. Without wanting to labor the topic of natural disasters, just recently, some scientists in California have managed to hone their prediction skills for the likelihood of a major quake here, and they are using some pretty advanced techniques. They are using satellites to measure the movement of the ground with GPS (Global Positioning System), tracking how far the ground has moved after a quake. This then allows the data to reveal how much stress is now bearing on the known fault lines.

This new technology came into its own during the 2010 April Mexicali quake that was felt between Mexico and Fresno, CA. The data that came from that quake was plentiful and opened up a whole new range of possibilities for earthquake forecasts, something that everyone would be grateful for. Even Japan's automated warning system only gives them 30 seconds. It could be more for Los Angeles, because of the logistics inherent in our unique fault system and where the populated areas are located.

Another thing that was revived after the Mexicali quake was the theory of a prominent Japanese seismology professor, Dr Kiyoo Mogi, whose ideas about this emerged some twenty years ago. His theory was that small quakes begin appearing in a circular formation around a central point and at a certain critical time, the doughnut hole (in the center of the doughnut) could be the scene of a major quake. His "Mogi Doughnut Theory" is talked about even today and Cal Tech scientists have based some of their work on his theory.