Friday Headlines: 11-14-14

Friday Headlines, November 14, 2014



Today’s round-up:

Holy crap! We landed on a comet!

Geoscientists acquitted of not properly predicting an earthquake

Speaking of earthquake swarms


Rosetta mission: Philae tight landing spot on comet prompts tough decisions for Esa

What can I say. We landed a probe on a comet.

Comet 67P on 4 November - NAVCAM
Photograph by ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO  Also, DUDE! THIS IS A PHOTOGRAPH!

Ten years ago we launched this mission. Ten years ago, we did all the math, designed all the experiments, and build the rocket and probe. And yesterday, it landed.

It didn’t work out perfect. The probe seems to have landed on its side. Nevertheless:


XKCD (and the wiki explain XKCD) did a series of comics as the tiny craft made its landing.

The webcomic XKCD live-comicked about the landing. These comics were merged into a GIF at the explain XKCD wiki.


Verdict Overturned for Italian Geoscientists Convicted of Manslaughter


A year ago, a group of seven geoscientists were imprisoned for not properly warning the community of L’Aquila, Italy, about the potential for a massive earthquake in light of a swarm of smaller quakes. A 6.3 magnitude earthquake struck and 309 people died.

What the scientists had done, of course, was state what we all parrot: you can’t predict quakes and a swarm does not always mean that a bigger quake is coming. I ranted about this while discussing the 1974 film, Earthquake.

On Monday, the convictions were overturned, because, as it turns out, you can’t actually predict earthquakes. More importantly, it was found that the findings of the scientists who visited the town before the earthquake were misrepresented, making it sound as though they had down-played the whole situation.

The good news news is that it seems (well, sort of) that scientists can discuss their findings without fear of being arrested. At least for now…


Nevada Earthquake Swarm Increases Chance Of Larger Quake

And speaking of earthquake swarms…

There’s a big one going on in northwestern Nevada right now. It started on July 12 of this year, and has resulted in over 500 small quakes. Three of these have been of a magnitude greater than 4.0. Such quakes can cause some damage.

Earthquakes that are part of the northeast Nevada swarm in 2014. Credit: USGS

In swarms similar to this one, there is a small chance of a much larger event to come. The only way to know for sure, however, is to wait and see.

Because we can’t predict earthquakes.

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