Posted by – January 28, 2013
This Saturday’s New York Times included a feature on Preppers: people that assemble emergency supplies in case a major disaster disaster leaves them without food, water and shelter. In it, the author admitted with some embarrassment that he, too, was a Prepper, and set out to learn if preparing for a disaster was crazy or rational. This quest led him to Dr. Irwin Redlener, the director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University, and the answers he got seemed to surprise him. For example, Dr. Redlener repeated many of the things he had heard from Preppers: it was rational to be situationally aware, to have a bag of disaster supplies and a plan to reunite with loved ones. Redlener noted:
“There’s a spectrum. On one end is mindless complacency. On the other is paranoia. The challenge is to find that place in the middle where you understand that bad things can happen, but it doesn’t consume your life.”
I have to confess a being more than a little dismayed when the author noted being surprised to hear Redlener say the authorities might not respond promptly in the event of a disaster – that everyone should be prepared to take care of themselves for several days. That is, in fact, part of the National Plan – that the entire community needs to take part in disaster preparedness and response. I guess the advertising campaign hasn’t paid off…
Prepare. Plan. Stay Informed
Posted by – January 21, 2013
Inauguration Day preparations have included adding temporary cell towers along the National Mall in an attempt to avoid the wireless traffic congestion witnessed during the 2009 inauguration. Event organizers have also mounted a public information campaign to encourage people to send text messages rather than call and to avoid watching streaming video of the event. As the infographic at left shows, an SMS text message requires much less data to send than, say, a picture or cellphone conversation. Emergency managers often see wireless traffic overwhelm cellular networks during large events, and this year’s inauguration will likely attract 2 million people.
Event organizers also created the 57th Presidential Inauguration App that helps spectators stay informed and find their way to events and facilities.
Posted by – January 13, 2013
Citing its cost, vulnerability to attack by single-seat fighters, and the Administration’s aversion to blowing up planets, the White House has rejected building a Death Star. Responding to a petition on the White House Web site, OMB science and technology adviser Paul Shawcross explained that the estimated cost was too high in a time of tight budgets. I dunno…call it nostalgia for the Reagan era if you like, but $850,000,000,000,000,000 for the “ultimate power in the universe” seems like a good deal to me.
P.S. 201301221.1330 Maybe we don’t need to build it anyway, since it appears to be orbiting Saturn already (Mimas has a crater that makes it a dead ringer for the Death Star).
Posted by – December 30, 2012
German archeologists have unearthed 7,000-year-old water wells in eastern Germany, revealing a treasure trove of information regarding early farming societies. The wells would have been hand-dug down to the watertable, then cased (lined) with interlocked timbers to keep the shafts from collapsing. The archeologists’ article in the journal PLuS ONE concludes that the craftsmanship used to construct the wells indicates “…the first farmers were also the first carpenters, contradicting the common belief that the invention of metal woodworking tools more than a thousand years later was imperative for complex timber constructions.” Not as deep as Woodingdean or as big as The Big Well, but pretty impressive for 7,000 years ago.
Thanks to the National Groundwater Association and Sci-News.com for the tip!
Posted by – December 15, 2012
A nationwide poll of US voters by Xylem revealed that more than three-quarters of Americans are concerned about the poor state of the nation’s water infrastructure system and believe US water infrastructure needs reform. Most say they would be willing to pay more each month to ensure that today’s problems are fixed so that clean water keeps flowing. However, Americans are largely unaware of their daily water use or how much water infrastructure influences their lives. These poll results indicate a growing public awareness and concern but also a need to educate Americans about the economics of water and the role that water and water infrastructure play in our lives and national economy.
The 2009 American Society of Civil Engineers’ (ASCE) Report Card for America’s Infrastructure indicates that the poor state of our water infrastructure is part of a larger pattern of neglecting our national infrastructure that endangers the public and harms the national economy. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers agrees, pointing out that, for much of past 20 years, funding has been inadequate to maintain the national portfolio of water resources infrastructure. While I am glad to see attention being paid to this issue, I have to ask if this momentum translates into sufficient political will to take on the estimated $2.2 trillion repair bill in the midst of a recession?
Thanks to Scott for the tip!
Posted by – December 12, 2012
The Economist has put a twist on a holiday tradition: an Advent calendar of data graphics, where each day reveals a new data graphic – from the Map of Sloth (Dec 4; Americans aren’t as lazy as we are reputed to be) to How Facebook Connections Mirror old Empires (Dec 13, showing that old empires never die, they just ..friend their colonies). These graphics show that the Economist excels at assembling graphical analyses that enlighten, rather than just decorate the page. Kudos to the Economist, and Happy Holidays to all!
P.S. Last year’s Christmas post showed that Baby Boomers are just trying to recapture their childhood.
Posted by – December 9, 2012
Parade Magazine recently touted Scott Christiansen’s 100 Diagrams that Changed the World, ranging from the Chauvet Cave drawings and Ptolemy’s World map to Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man, Darwin’s Evolutionary Tree and more.
I have to say that, glancing at the table of contents and index of 100 Diagrams, I was disappointed not to see Smith’s Geologic Map of England, Scotland, and Wales – this single chart revolutionized the way geologists map rock layers of similar age and origin. And, although it’s contribution to our understanding of the ancient Egyptians is incalculable, I don’t think the Rosetta Stone meets the definition of a diagram, per se.
Parade’s online review includes a quiz to test how many of these you recognize.
Posted by – December 3, 2012
Although I have no idea what my favorite beer, Belgian White, has to do with Lithium, I thought my beer-loving friends might appreciate Mantis Design’s Periodic Table of Beer Styles. Modeled after Mendeleyev‘s Periodic Table familiar to chemistry students, the Beeriodic Table organizes beer styles by density (alcohol content) and color. Sadly, the Beeriodic Table is now out of print, but you can download the black-and-white version from Katy Decorah’s Beer!, a website constructed for a semester project (I hope she got an A+).
If you stumbled onto this site accidentally while looking for a useful periodic table, you might find Michael Dayah’s Dynamic Periodic Table or WebElements more useful.
Cheers to Dwayne for the tip,
Posted by – November 19, 2012
Hint.fm has created a novel animation of wind data for the United States from the NWS’s National Digital Forecast Database. The image at left is a snapshot from October 30, 2012, 4:59 pm EDT, clearly showing the eye of Hurricane Sandy shortly after she made landfall. The live animation of Hurricane Sandy’s windfield is far more interesting, with the white trails tracing the flow of the wind around the eye of the hurricane. In addition to this particular windfield, hint.fm provides the current wind map and an archive of selected wind maps.
The Hint.fm site is also worth browsing, showcasing the work of Fernanda Viégas and Martin Wattenberg, who lead Google’s “Big Picture” visualization research group in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Their work – including the wind map – is easily some of the most creative visualization of data you will find.
Thanks to Brighton for the tip!
Posted by – October 30, 2012
The Google Crisis Response Team at Google.org has created a Superstorm Sandy crisismap for New York City that not only summarizes disaster information it also provides a great example of a volunteer technical community assisting first responders, disaster relief workers, and the public in times of crisis. Google.org – the philanthropic arm of Google – created this multilayer map using the GoogleMaps API to aggregate ATOM data feeds of public alert messages from various agencies, links to public utilities, and shelter databases. More than a static display, the map allows users to select layers, includes links to additional data and metadata, and download kml files to add to their own maps. For example, I borrowed data from their larger scale Superstorm Sandy map to create a map supporting Red Cross operations in Baltimore.