Thursday, May 15, 2008

Quake Magnitudes

The Numbers Guy examines matters of quake magnitude and population in relation to the earthquake in China, saying this:
A U.S. seismologist tasked with estimating the magnitude of Monday’s earthquake in southwestern China says that number is not nearly as important as population figures. In this case, the quake’s location in the heavily populated Sichuan province, not far from the capital Chengdu, is likely to have a great influence on the death toll.

One of the cable stations was trying to emphasize the wide spread of the earthquake and tried to merge a map of the U.S. with names of Chinese cities superimposed on the map, ending up showing Shanghai as roughly in Kentucky. (I don't think that's right, actually--I'd put Shanghai on a US map at about Maryland, but I'll have to look it up. This caught my attention primarily because Teenager is from Anhui province, a bit west of Shanghai.) The problem is that the geographical spread of the earthquake is far less important, except as a conversation piece, than the violence on the cities most affected by the quake.

Fans of the Numbers Guy added comments about the value of the Richter scale vs. other kinds of measurements.

I see many of today's stories have shifted to fears about damage to dams. I ran across a story Tuesday, though don't recall where, that noted that the humongous Three Gorges dam, holding back water that could flood 15 million people, is built to withstand a quake of 7.0 magnitude, while this week's quake hit 7.9. That's pretty scary.

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