Gongol.com Archives: June 2010
Brian Gongol

June 7, 2010

Science and Technology Prosecutors consider pressing charges against Italian earthquake researchers
The scientists had apparently dismissed early signs of the pending earthquake as nothing to be alarmed about. Then a big quake occurred, and people died. Of course, the idea of prosecuting the researchers as though they had created the hazard themselves is bonkers. Weather forecasters, geologists, tsunami researchers, and others are obviously trying as hard as they can with the best tools they have available to give their fellow people the best possible warnings ahead of natural disasters. But they're working with limited information and even more limited knowledge. That's the point of science: We're in the process of learning all the time, and new information and new study begets better knowledge -- but we'll never be perfectly right. It would be absurd to press charges against your local television weather reporter because he couldn't forecast that a tornado would hit your home, and it would be absurd to sue a vulcanologist because she didn't foresee that a lava flow would ruin your Hawaiian vacation. Charging the Italian researchers with anything criminal is similarly ridiculous. They made an inaccurate forecast, but it was almost undoubtedly the best they were capable of making at the time, given their knowledge and the available data.

News Health-care reform bill included far too little money for early retirees
The Employee Benefit Research Institute says that a provision to help cover health-care costs for early retirees is so badly underfunded that it will go broke after two years -- even though it was supposed to last for four. If that's any kind of early-warning signal for how underfunded the rest of the reform package is, then we're in serious trouble.

Computers and the Internet The new iPhone really doesn't sound like anything to get excited about
As predicted here two years ago, the iPhone was a clever early entry into the consumer-level smartphone market, but strong competition didn't take long to emerge, and now Android-based and webOS-based alternatives do a lot of things the iPhone can't.

Agriculture Stunning statistics about world agriculture
For obvious reasons, John Deere needs to keep good metrics on world food production. Among the statistics they've measured is the quintupling of Brazilian soybean production since 1993, and roughly a quadrupling of their sugarcane production over the same time. They also note a pretty serious erosion in the global backup stock of corn over the same time.

News See the cleanup of a train derailment in time-lapse
It's really quite interesting to see how quickly the workers recover the train cars and the coal they spilled

Humor and Good News How to keep the "24" franchise alive
Charlie Brooker says they should hire a bunch of six-year-old boys to write the continuing storyline. He might just have an idea there. And in other bizarre entertainment news, someone thinks they've found a young Barack Obama in the video for "Whoomp, There it Is".

News Helen Thomas "retires" from the White House press corps
The 89-year-old made some pretty outlandish comments about kicking the Jews out of Israel, and they were caught on video and posted to the Internet. One would think that a journalist who's been covering the White House since Kennedy would (a) have seen enough of the world to be more enlightened than that, and (b) know better than to say something stupid right into a camera.

Broadcasting Podcast: Why the budget really is a matter of life and death

Broadcasting Podcast: A big Patch Tuesday is on the way

Water News Weekend storms dropped rain at a rate of 4" per hour on southern Iowa

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