Six seismologists (scientists who track earthquakes) and a government official are standing trial in Italy on charges of manslaughter for not warning the residents of the city of L’Aquina that an earthquake might take place there on April 6. In the event, which did hit on April 6, 2009, 300 people died and much of the downtown was reduced to rubble. Somebody has got to pay.
This comes under the heading of when-anything-goes-wrong-sue, or worse, get somebody off to jail.
L’Aquila is in an earthquake-prone area, much like the coast of California. And it’s had its share. In the months leading up to this big earthquake, an activity known as an earthquake storm occurred underground in the area. These are a series of tiny shocks, not noticeable to the general public, that sometimes occur before an earthquake. The usual possibility for an earthquake on any given day in this area is 1 in 100,000. When a storm occurs, the risk reduces to 1 in 1,000. Such a storm, by the way, was taking place in central California at that time, but in that case no earthquake resulted.
Seismologists did notice the storm in L’Aquila however. They were thus aware a possible earthquake was thus 1 in 1,000. In other words, one might or might not come during the next two and a half years.
Trouble came when a local man predicted in March that an earthquake would take place. He based his prediction on the amount of radon gas he measured in the area. He named the date when the earthquake would come. The date passed without an earthquake. But the general public was frightened.
As a result of this, on March 30, a meeting in a government office in L’Aquila took place at which seismologists were asked if an earthquake was coming, and they gave the statistics I wrote about above. Based on that, the government spokesman said there was no earthquake imminent. But then it struck a week later.
CHOCOLATE GOOD FOR YOU
There is now further proof that chocolate is good for your health. The proof came as results in a Swedish study released last week. More than 33,000 Swedish women between the ages of 49 and 83 took part. None of them had any history of stroke. The study began in 1997. Half the women were chocolate lovers. Half were not. When the study ended six months ago, it was found that the women who ate chocolate had 20% fewer strokes than those who did not. The scientists believe that the presence of flavonoids, which have antioxidant properties are suppressing oxidation of low density lipoproteins (bad cholesterol). Other studies have shown that eating chocolate reduces blood pressure, lowers insulin resistance and helps reduce blood from forming into clots—which lead to strokes.
The dark chocolate is the best for this. And remember, everything in moderation.
FISH, FISH, EVERYWHERE
One of the most important activities the government is involved with here on eastern Long Island is counting the fish in the ocean. Government boats go out and, using sonar technology and laying nets to bring up fish, try to see which species of fish are in danger of extinction or are getting in short supply. The government then bans the catching of these sorts of fish for a time. This affects what our local fishermen can put on the table.
Now Senator John b of Massachusetts is asking NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, to set aside $1 million to get a new sonar system that allows the fish stocks to be seen sharp and clear for miles and miles underwater rather than just as blurry blips that have to be looked into at a later time. If put into place, this would stop fishermen from accusing the government of not knowing what they are doing or screwing up the count. No fisherman wants the fish stocks to die out. But they don’t want to be cheated either.
NOAA officials say the system has “potential” and could be “another tool in the toolbox.” We shall see what we shall see.
A LITTLE CRUISE
As I am sure you know, the 1,000-foot long Costa Concordia capsized and sank in shallow waters of the Mediterranean Sea off the island of Giglio. The Captain, Francesco Schettino, had gone off his usual course to “buzz” the town up close and personal with his giant ship. He had many friends there. He was going to wave hello from the bridge. Unfortunately, in the shallow water, he hit a reef.
The most interesting part of this, to me anyway, was the fact that authorities fear the half million gallons of diesel fuel the ship took on just before the cruise began could leak out and make a huge oil spill in the area.
One half million gallons? And this is dirty diesel fuel, the kind that gives the greatest amount of pollution. One half million gallons? I saw some videos on YouTube taken of this ship the month before with people partying on board. Looked like a floating resort. Lots of water sports, shopping malls, discos, movie theatres, gambling halls, stage shows, restaurants etc. etc. How long would they have been at sea? Three weeks? A half million gallons? Why don’t they just tie up and have it be a floating resort right in the dock?
LOST IN SPACE
An unmanned spacecraft, launched in November by the Russians and headed for a moon of Mars, failed to ignite one of its later stages, veered off course and, instead of heading for Mars, got stuck up in the outer atmosphere circling the earth. The Russians thus had to report that soon coming back to somewhere near you, surviving the journey back through the atmosphere, would be something about the size of an 18-wheeler tractor trailer truck carrying, among other things, a small Chinese orbital satellite that was supposed to be able to circle Mars and absorb data from the atmosphere.
The 18-wheeler came down last Sunday in the Pacific Ocean off the western coast of Ecuador in the Pacific Ocean.
These are the guys who now ferry us up to the space station when we feel the need to get up there.