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Distance doesn’t equal rate and time, no more. (Earthquake!!!)

A 5.8 magnitude earthquake struck Virginia this afternoon at 1:52 pm edt. The quake waves arrived here in State College, PA, less than 3 minutes later. Locally, no damage has been reported and the quake culminated in a gentle swaying of the buildings, apparent in flexing of glass windows. After a mere 6 seconds or so, the trembling was over and the Facebook and Twitter feeds lit up with post about the Earthquake. (I admit, my requisite Facebook post was up at 1:54).

The first wave of posts were 1st hand accounts of the rumbling, which quickly helped developed a geographic context of the event. The second wave of posts, however, we re-posts and re-tweets from around the world.  Even webpages we’re updated within the 10 minute window. It’s fascinating that this flash of geographic data gets diluted within 600 seconds of an actual event. Social networks are certainly proving themselves as a the go-to source for real-time information, but as this event demonstrates, the form of that information quickly evolves from spatial, to temporal: from where, to when. The “Virginia Quake”, as it’s sure to be known, made us think about space for 5 minutes. In an age where we are more apt to describe “distances” by how long it takes to drive somewhere, it’s fascinating to see space based physical events thrust back onto the news feed. But just as the second round of Tweets and Posts we’re already beyond the geography of the event, so will the news stories be on to something else. Our rapidly fed attention spans are being conditioned to handle things in a very linear order. And as a result we’ve effectively condensed distance into a single dimension, Time. And this “time-space compression” obscures our perceptions of the physical world.

Illuminated by Energy

The experience of an earthquake is explicitly dependent upon both space and time, and for a brief moment, the physical world is illuminated by energy. But in a matter of 10 minutes, that the 4th dimension once again  managed to trump the other 3.

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Categories: Earth, Tech Tags: , , , ,

Earth: The Operators’ Manual

In this hour long program, Glaciologist and Noble Laureate Richard Alley presents the current state of climate science and options for alternative paths forward.  In traditional Richard Alley style, he presents a clear, level-headed, stimulating summary of the scientific facts.  He explores the deeply interconnected issues of energy dependence, economics, and climate change in highly accessible terms.  His source by source explanation of the current energy alternatives and their viability for meeting global energy demands is comprehensive and inspiring.  In the current state of climate debate it’s easy to become disheartened, but here is a laundry list of many reasons to be optimistic about humans ability to moderate their actions and move forward as mature patrons of the planet.

Richard Alley is one of the world’s premier scientific communicators, reminiscent of Sagan in his desire to show people the workings of worlds.