Archive for February 5th, 2009

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Wenchuan Earthquake (Update)

The bulk of the scientific community outside of China has not seen the seismic data from the Wenchuan area, and until that happens, questions will remain.

Betsy Mason, wired.com.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Debate: Wenchuan Earthquake and Zipingpu Reservoir

A somewhat technical news article at the BBC. This recap-translation may contain errors, and corrections are welcome.

— JR

A reservoir 5.5 kilometers away from the epicenter of the Wenchuan Earthquake of last year may have caused the disaster, some geologists say. In a telephone interview with the BBC’s Chinese website, Sichuan Geological Bureau’s regional geological survey team chief engineer Fan Xiao (范晓) said that the pressure of more than 300 mn tons of water stored up by the Zipingpu Dam (紫坪铺大坝) potentially influenced the time and magnitude of the earthquake. But he also said that it would take more analysis of the collected data before a conclusion could be made. Science (科学) last month’s edition published the remarks of several earthquake experts who expressed concern about the possible link, writes the BBC. [The 科学 online edition apparently doesn’t contain the article.]

The BBC also quotes a researcher of geophysical disasters at Colombia University saying that the hundreds of millions tons of waters created an unnatural pressure on the neighboring Beichuan fault. Although he didn’t draw a direct link with any dam, he said that the storage multiplied the natural pressure on crustal movements by 25 times.

There are other experts who do not agree with this theory, although some of them do think of the reservoir as one factor. National Seismological Bureau geophysicist Lei Xinglin (雷兴林) says that osmosis from the reservoir to the fault and the water level from December 2007 to May 2008 were a factor in shaping the earthquake, but that it was too early for final conclusions. Also, the idea that dam itself created the earthquake was somewhat ridiculous. His view is supported by an earthquake researcher (Chinese name transcription: 马森 or Masen) of the British Geological Survey who says that the earthquake was a result of tectonic activity. If at all, one could say that the dam made the earthquake happen earlier.

Fan Xiao, during the telephone interview with the BBC, agreed that the earthquake would have happened anyway. But he also said that the idea of reservoirs inducing earthquakes was that when they were built in potential earthquake zones, they did interfere with earthquake activities, and the result of that was that they made earthquakes happen some time after the storage of water. Also, with an epicenter close to the reservoir, the magnitude of the quake could by far exceed that of a merely natural earthquake.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

JR’s Global Obamameter

Global Obama Meter

Global Obama Meter: 8

All India Radio‘s daily commentary which can count as semi-official was all praise on Saturday. Even though it “may or may not be so” that the government in New Delhi had neglected relations with the US Democrats before Obama’s election, the auspices for India-US relations – an Obama statement on India’s Republic Day – were looking good, noted All India Radio. There are great expectations, as everywhere:

[…..] Given the new wave of optimism set off by president Obama, a turnaround of the economy is what the world yearns for. India is fortunately not so badly hit by the economic downturn, yet fears about taking away jobs outsourced to it, after Obama’s remarks in this regard during his election campaign, haunt Indian outsourcing industry. Hauling back these jobs will indeed escalate their costs once they are given back to Americans. And thus, this has to be accounted for by the U.S., though Mr Obama is committed to create more jobs for young Americans. It was George Bush who, at the time of giving his notch to the civilian nuclear deal with India, hoped to invest the proceeds brought by it from India, through fuel supply and building reactors, for creating jobs in America. And at the time of signing this deal it was hoped in India that technology will flow from the U.S. to India in other fields too. […..]

All India’s Radio’s commentary draws to its close with a not-too-subtle sales argument:

Obviously technology-rich U.S. can bank more onto its transfer into right hands in India. […..]

The Voice of Russia had Eric S. Rubin, the US embassy’s deputy chief of mission, as a guest on its Timelines program on Sunday. “Guest status” describes it better than “interview”, as it was mostly a well-behaved chitchat about change, about when Obama might be expected for a state visit in Moscow or Medvedev in Washington D.C. respectively.

Maybe the most notable exchange of lines between the host (Estelle Winters) and Rubin was this:

Rubin: The number of Americans studying Russian has declined over the past ten years, and that’s unfortunate…

Winters: Oh, have they?

Rubin: … and partly that’s a reflection of interest in other languages like Chinese, partly its a reflection of the fact that American students don’t study foreign languages enough because English is a global language, and they are, frankly, sometimes lazy.

Radio Damascus had a commentary on America’s new president on Tuesday which was barely audible, but probably less enthusiastic than All India Radio or the Voice of Russia.

FOARP draws our attention to an also less favorable voice from China – Wang Xiaodong (王小东), the author of China can say No.

Another less Obama-friendly voice comes from Australia.

However, none of the latter two should be considered indicative.

On a scale from 10 (excellent) to 3 (Dubya’s Pub), JR’s Global Obamameter stands at 8. If it should reach 2 or 1, that would mean that Mr Obama is not popular with the global media or public.

He’s already not popular with Senator McCain. But that’s a domestic issue.

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