Daryl Ilbury

Posts Tagged ‘earthquake’

Footlong not a foot long? Remember this image.

In Eish!, Fools, Science on January 27, 2013 at 1:18 pm
Bam earthquakedecade_44

A man carries the bodies of his two sons who were killed when their home collapsed during an earthquake in Bam December 27, 2003, which killed more than 20,000 people. REUTERS/Caren Firouz

I was reminded of this image today when I read in the news that some pathetic imbeciles in the US had decided to sue Subway because they had bought a Subway Footlong roll that wasn’t exactly 12 inches (about 30cm) long…

I was on-air on the morning of 27th December 2003 when the reports started coming in about an earthquake in the ancient Silk Road city of Bam in Iran. As the host of a talk radio show I was acutely aware that traditionally that time of the year news is rather thin on the ground; and so in the days that followed the news was dominated by the unveiling horrors that would be expected whenever a severe earthquake strikes a populated area that is unprepared for such savage wrath of nature.

But it was this image, which appeared in one of the papers that found its way to my studio desk, that, in my mind, captured the true tragedy. It showed a man carrying the bodies of his two sons, killed in the earthquake, to the cemetery in Bora on the outskirts of Bam.

As a parent of two young children myself, I was deeply upset by the image; and so, over the following days, ensured my team provided regular coverage of the amazing work done by Dr Imtiaz Sooliman and his organisation The Gift of the Givers Foundation in providing food and relief work for those affected by the earthquake. We had regular crossings to Dr Sooliman in Bam and provided a conduit for donations and other offers of help for his organisation.

But I couldn’t shake the above image from my mind, and to this day it remains embedded in my conscience as a constant reality check whenever things seem to be going wrong; because nothing in the world could be worse than having to bury one’s own children.

And so it was that I was reminded of this image again today, and how pathetic some people are. Suing Subway because their Footlong rolls weren’t exactly 12 inches?! Now I admit I’m no whiz with dough, but I’d hazard a guess that baking rolls is not a science that enjoys lazer-guided precision.

It’s that other American favourite past-time (after eating fast food) – shooting guns – that does. Placing an 8mm round in the clip of a 9mm pistol is not going to get you sufficient pressure build up in the chamber to project the round far beyond the end of the barrel; and that’s no good when you’re shooting innocent children.

I think those who feel they have been wronged by life because a bread roll they’ve bought is a little short should have a serious look at the image above, then allow their thoughts to collect a little perspective. Those who have felt that the impact of buying such a roll are so calamitous that they need to institute legal action should rather spend their money helping organisations such as the Gift of the Givers. Lawyers don’t need the money. Survivors of natural catastrophes do.

Science under siege…again

In Eish!, Fools, Politics, Science on October 23, 2012 at 12:45 pm

The authorities hoped the Italian scientist was getting the point

I certainly wasn’t going to let this one slide by, especially after the fight I had with my family.

Last night while my family was watching ‘The Good Wife’ on TV, I (sick and tired of the plethora of formulaic American cop/lawyer/doctor angst TV programming) consigned myself to scouring the news feeds from science sites for stories of what was happening in the reality of the modern world. Little did I expect to uncover a news story fresh from the Dark Ages.

You’ll possibly know of the story by now. If not, here it is in brief:

Six Italian scientists and a government official have been sentenced to six years in jail on charges of multiple manslaughter in a watershed ruling that found them guilty of underestimating the risks of a killer earthquake that struck the town of L’Aquila in 2009.
I know what you’re thinking: “Huh?” Welcome to the team.
I had been following the story on and off since the trial began, all the time knowing that a conviction would be ludicrous; after all, even given all the data available, no seismologist would be able to give a wholly accurate prediction of the possibility of an earthquake. Mother Earth has her own agenda. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: science doesn’t know everything; if it did, it would stop. More importantly, it knows it doesn’t know everything, so it tends to err on the side of caution and tempers its language appropriately.
The real shock came not when I read the report of the sentencing, but in the reaction of my family when I told them: they supported the notion that the scientists were at fault and therefore should be held liable. These are no intellectual slouches: they have multiple degrees and are students of philosophy and politics, and yet I battled to get them to understand that even if the scientists had said there was only a small chance of an earthquake, the threat of an earthquake still existed; and therefore, even if a major earthquake occurred the very next day, it would still fall within the mathematical parameters presented by the scientists.
So where’s the problem? For a clue, we have to turn to radio. Now  if there’s one thing I’ve learnt in over 20 years in commercial radio, it is this: listeners…don’t. What this means is that listeners only hear what they want to hear.
In this particular case, the fault lies in human nature and its selective interpretation of science. If scientists (whom people feel can be trusted) say “there’s only a small chance of a major earthquake”, people instead hear, “…so you don’t have to go to any cost or bother to protect yourself against a major earthquake, because it’s not going to happen.”
My sketchy knowledge of Italian precludes me from understanding the specifics of the judge’s findings, but if what I read in the reports of the more reliable news services is correct, then the convictions against the Italian scientists invoke images of medieval paranoia and aggression towards science.
Combine this with the upswell of religious fundamentalism in the Middle East and the United States, and science is under siege…again.