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Submission + - NASA's new Orbital Carbon Observatory will track carbon dioxide distribution

SpaceMika writes: The Orbital Carbon Observatory will track spacial and temporal changes in carbon dioxide concentrations, highlighting the locations and processes most important to carbon sequestration. The original satellite launched in 2009, but failed to separate from its rocket and slammed into the ocean. The replacement observatory, OCO2, ended its first launch attempt with a cliffhanger when a problem with the launch pad water flow system scrubbed the attempt with less than a minute left in the countdown timer. Engineers scrambled to fix the problem, successfully launching the satellite into orbit at 2:56 am on July 2nd.

The satellite passed its initial milestones, extending solar panels and establishing communication with ground stations. In the next few weeks, it will move up to its final position at the head of a constellation of Earth-observing satellites and undergo verification and calibration testing.

Submission + - NASA's New Satellite Will Track Changes in Carbon Sequestration

SpaceMika writes: NASA's Orbiting Carbon Observatory will soon be joining the A-train of Earth-observing satellites. Tasked with monitoring atmospheric carbon, it will track global carbon sequestration changes with the seasons. This data will not only provide key observations to constrain climate models, but it will also identifying the locations and processes most important to carbon sequestration.

That is, if it can just get into orbit. Originally scheduled for 2:56am on July 1st, the launch was scrubbed with less than a minute in the countdown.

Submission + - The Andromeda Galaxy Just Had a Bright Gamma Ray Event (

SpaceMika writes: We just saw something bright in the Andromeda Galaxy, and we don't know what it was. A Gamma Ray Burst or an Ultraluminous X-Ray Object, either way it will be the closest of its type we've ever observed at just over 2 million light years away. It's the perfect distance: close enough to observe in unprecedented detail, and far enough to not kill us all.

Submission + - Psychology, Psychics, and Statistics

SpaceMika writes: Bem 2010 used the standard statistical methods of social psychology to prove that people are psychic, but only women predicting erotic imagery. The researcher is highly respected with decades of experience; the statistical techniques follow all the accepted practices of the field. This means either psychics exist (but only in specific situations not hinted at in psi mythology), or psychology uses flawed statistical techniques. Wagenmakers et al. 2010 responded with a paper stepping through the logical fallacies, statistical missteps, and the value of following the scientific method common to their psychology, using psi studies, and Bem's paper in particular, to illustrate the point. The fallout from this pair of papers will at least impact decades of psychology research dependent on these statistical techniques, but potentially has all-sciences consequences as a compact case study on the value of the scientific method, and the hazards associated with inappropriate use of statistical techniques.

Comment Re:Preparation (Score 1) 457

Since the frequency of earthquakes there is relatively low they use lower requirements for building strength.

I am absolutely certain you are mis-remembering, or the popsci distorted the engineering in their efforts to make it interesting for public consumption. I attend a lot of disaster conferences. I sat in on a policy session at the rock mechanics conference in Vancouver in the fall of 2007? 2008? where at least 100 global experts gathered specifically to discuss earthquake building codes in subduction zones (including the PNW and Japan). Low-frequency, low-intensity earthquake zones have lax codes, yes, but low-frequency high-intensity zones currently have very, very strong codes that at this point are only revised upwards to be more strong. (The iconic image of the Japanese low-rises toppling over prompted a set of revisions for building on sediment.)

...topple almost every building within a hundred miles of the epicenter.

Again, not a chance that's an accurate geotechnical assessment of any urban center in Canada or the United States. In part this is because our assessments have more to do with the hypocenter (the actual location of rupture) than the epicenter (the surface projection of the hypocenter). In California, the two are often close-enough to being the same, but in subduction zones the depth of the hypocenter has a huge impact on the type of shaking that will be felt. As I've explained in other comments in this thread, the PNW can get shallower magnitude 7 earthquakes that will cause a devastating amount of surface shaking in a very small area, or deeper magnitude 9 earthquakes that will cause less severe surface shaking over a very wide area. It is geologically not possible to have severe surface shaking over a large region*.

* This is true globally, unless you have local superficial geology that intensifies shaking. Mexico City is located in a sediment-filled basin that amplifies ANY surface waves that go anywhere nearby.

Comment Re:Well, as long as we're talking catastrophe (Score 2, Informative) 457

The Yellowstone Caldera is not related to the subduction melt. Mount Saint Helens, Mount Rainier, and the rest of that volcanic chain are related, but plates shifting about in an earthquake doesn't increase or decrease rates of melting.

A bit off topic, but a fun bit of trivia: oceanic plates produce non-violent volcanoes (like Hawaii), continental plates produce highly violent volcanoes (like Yellowstone, although most are very very very small), and ocean melt passing through continental plate produce intermediate volcanoes (like Mount Saint Helens) which are technically less violent than purely andesitic volcanoes, but have larger volumes of magma so are the most destructive. (For the chemistry nerds, it has to do with percent-silica & trapped gas).

Comment Re:And... (Score 2, Informative) 457

A few factual corrections, although I agree with the tone.

The earthquake building code for the United States is the same throughout the country, but it zones the country by expected earthquake risk. California is in a high-risk zone, but so are several other locations in the country. BC, California, and Japan all have fairly comparable building codes. So yes, California's code is very, very good. But it's not, technically speaking, "the best."

Next, California has relatively small translational earthquakes caused by the plates rubbing past each other. This leads to intensely focused, fairly shallow earthquakes, similar to that experienced by Haiti. It's common for one city to be hit hard (LA during the Northridge Quake, SF in '89...) and the surrounding region to be pretty much unaffected.

The Pacific North West and Chile have subduction earthquakes, also called megaquakes because of their incredible magnitudes. These earthquakes are caused by one plate subducting under another, and lead to deep earthquakes with less-intense shaking felt over a larger area. They are also commonly associated with tsunami-generation because of underwater vertical displacement (Sumatra was another subduction quake).

Geologically, the regions you're comparing have very different causes for earthquakes, very different types of shaking felt at the surface, and different impacts on the rest of the rest of the world.

Comment Re:And... (Score 1) 457

Lots of big differences, from geology to building code to economic resilience. If you're curious, I bet it'll be a hot topic in all the big geo/policy conferences this year (AGU December 2011 in SF will probably have a whole session on it)

1. Geology: Haiti was a shallow, translation earthquake. This means that the surface shaking was intense & prolonged over a focused area (just the city). Chile was a deep, subduction earthquake. This means the shaking was spread over a larger surface area (half the country).
2. Awareness: Haiti's fault was only identified in the past few years. Chile's known it's in earthquake country forever.
3. Building code: Haiti did not have an earthquake building code. Chile's earliest earthquake-safe building practices pre-date the foundation of the country. ...and then continue on into the development, economic resiliency, and so on.

Pretty much the only thing the two events had in common was, "the ground shook," and "it happened in the same year." Nothing else is comparable.

Comment Re:Preparation (Score 1) 457

One of the awesome things about earthquakes is that although we aren't so good at predicting exactly when they'll happen, we are very, very good at predicting where (where stress has built up, usually at the ends of the most recent rupture zone) and what type of shaking will occur.

Earthquake codes are designed to match the intensity and style of shaking not just for earthquakes with local epicenters, but what sorts of shaking they'll experience from elsewhere. The United States and Canadian codes were both revised repeatedly long after the threat of PNW mega-quakes were established. The building codes are very, very good (Japan's are also amazing), and quite well-enforced. Sure, we might have a few undetected defectors, like the high rise in Chile, but pretty much every public building in the entirety of BC that needed to be retrofit has been already.

The parent article is not new news. Not even slightly new news. Not even remotely new news. This news is so old, my parents met, got married, had a few kids, then I was born, grew up, went to a bunch of schools, and became a certified disaster expert since it first became well-known to the disaster-community (& it became well-known to the non-expert residents still before I was born). The only reason it's making the popmedia rounds now is because Haiti and Chile raised awareness of the potential devastation of earthquakes.

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