In what could prove to be a huge step forward in predicting how rogue waves are formed, and thus a tool for saving lives at sea, researchers at MIT have found a way to give 2 to 3 minutes warning of an incoming rogue wave.
I know it probably sounds stupid, but it’s hard for me to explain how excited I am about this research. So much so that I am tempted to go speak with the researchers sometime (living in Cambridge does have its advantages). But to understand why I am geeking out about this, it might help for me to go into some detail about what we know about rogue waves, and how they have affected ships at sea, as well as oil rigs, lighthouses, and coastlines. This is one of those times that my love of history (especially maritime history) and my love of science come together.
I don’t like to talk about politics too much on our blog, because frankly I need more positivity in my life, and these days it is really difficult to find anything whatsoever in politics that gives me cause for optimism. Still, I am a historian, and I can’t help but think that we are currently experiencing one of those watershed Presidential elections, like the election of 1860 or the election of 1932 or the election of 1968, in which those of us who experience it will talk about in terms of what things were like before, and what they were like after.
Geoff and I were watching an episode of Criminal Minds the other night and a super familiar thing happened. It’s something that happens a lot on TV and it always makes me roll my eyes, but this time it irritated me enough to make me want to come here and get all science-ranty about it.
I should probably say before I get started that I genuinely like Criminal Minds and that I’ve been watching it off and on since Season 1. This problem is not specific to any particular show but to all TV and Movies that need a Big Scary Bug and science be damned.
Btw, there are photos of bugs after the jump. Lots of them. You have been warned.
The first is the kind that I read and/or watch. Stuff like The Walking Dead comics, or Mira Grant’s awesome Newsflesh trilogy of novels, or movies like Deep Impact, and even video games like Left4Dead 2 and Fallout 3. I guess the thing I find most interesting is seeing how people adapt. It’s compelling drama. And while I find it entertaining, it does have a certain amount of practical value if it makes emergency preparedness a little less dull, as even the CDC has discovered.
Then there’s the other kind. The kind that makes seemingly ordinary people lose their minds, because they think it’s real.
Science is important. It is something that both Kelly and I take quite seriously. It’s one if the reasons Kelly has worked as a science educator for a decade, and one of the reasons why even some of our hobbies involve a lot of science. We feel quite passionately about it.
And it’s also why we both get so frustrated about the problems with scientific literacy in America – demonstrated by things like this survey that shows the gaps between scientists and the public when it comes to views of science. And if you want to see scientific ignorance displayed in all its factually-challenged glory, and I mean some truly godawful stuff, just turn on a television.
Sometimes, there is some wisdom in doing something yourself so you can actually understand it. Regarding the winter weather debacle in Georgia, this is NOT one of those times. This is not the sort of thing you want to figure out for yourself, any more than you want your architect to forget about silly things like plans so you can just “play it by ear”. Learn from the wisdom and experience of others. Hell, learn from your own experience, Atlanta. It’s been only 3 years since your last winter storm nightmare. Besides, your traffic is gridlocked in perfect weather on a normal day. I have been there, I know. Whenever I was driving to Macon for the weekend, I avoided Atlanta completely. What made you think having everyone go home at the same time during a snowstorm was a good idea?