Happenings – 2011 May 28

Yes, this post went out much later than usual on a Saturday – much later.

I was moving right along, assembling notes – actually, I was getting more Internet resources – when I got a call from a friend reminding me that we were to have lunch together.

Okay, get cleaned up and get dressed… spend a couple of hours eating, walking, and talking… then I took a nap when I got home… now it’s late afternoon and I have a post to write….

First, the world didn’t end last weekend. Why am I not surprised?

I’ve continued looking at Fairchild’s “Color Appearance Models” – that’s good, because there’s a comment out here about CIELab that I think I know how to answer now. But my picking up color again came first; it’s just serendipity that it happened just before I needed it.

I’ve also gotten a little further along in the tensorial treatment of stress and strain; I still can’t reconcile Landau and Lifshitz with elementary engineering… but, hey, one way or another I’ll sort it out. But I don’t know how long it will take.

The only thing out of the ordinary this week was a headline that greeted me on Yahoo:

Seismologists Tried for Manslaughter for Not Predicting Earthquake

I have to say that I’m a bit cynical when it comes to news stories. One of my bosses liked to tell a joke…

A man, call him Ishmael, sees his neighbor and says, “Hi, Tom. The newspaper says you won $100,000 in the lottery yesterday. Congratulations.”

Tom smiles and nods his head. “Close. It was two days ago.”

Ishmael says, “No big deal.”

Tom smiles again. “It wasn’t the lottery. It was bingo.”

Ishmael gasps. “$100,000 at bingo?”

“Well, no, it was just $100.”

Ishmael shakes his head. “Well, $100 is better than nothing.”

Tom smiles. “Yes. I wish I had won it. But it was Bill, next door, not me.”

Yes, the newspaper was close: someone in the neighborhood had won some money recently. But the details….

The Yahoo link about the manslaughter trial is gone, but the article to which it pointed is here. It expresses outrage that the seismologists were expected to predict an earthquake.

I spent some time looking for good links about earthquake prediction and how far from it we are. Having attended a lecture about it recently, I knew that scientists are doing no more than to say, for example, “There’s about a 50% chance of a major earthquake on this fault in the next 50 years.” But I had no references. Result: nothing new; go with old reliable, the U.S. Geological Survey.

I, on the other hand, am willing to predict that there will be an earthquake of magnitude 5 at least, somewhere on earth every day in June. That’s not a very useful prediction as it stands – but I’m not willing to be any more specific. (As we go to press, there have already been seven today.)

When I got some more time on my hands, I looked for more information about those poor seismologists. I found an article with a quite different presentation. Of course, I have no way of knowing which article is correct. I can’t even assume that the more plausible one is correct simply because it is more plausible.

What follows is my own summary of the more plausible article.

Six seismologists and a bureaucrat met to discuss increased seismic activity in a location. After the meeting was over, the bureaucrat said in a news conference that the scientists had assured him that there was no danger of an earthquake. (No such assurance is to be found in the minutes of the meeting.) I suspect the case will hinge on whether or not the scientists attempted to repudiate the bureaucrat’s assurance that there would not be an earthquake.

Yes, the seven men are going to trial for manslaughter… but not for failing to predict an earthquake which caused 300 fatalities… but rather on account of their roles – to be determined – in telling the public that there would not be an earthquake.

And with that, I’m off to other things.


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