Wescott’s Weekly Roundup: Science Bloggers Fight Fear With Facts

David Wescott here again.  It’s been a horrifying week for friends and families in Japan.  For those of us here in America, we turn on the television and we’re shocked and stunned and left wondering things like what we’re supposed to tell our children.  We wonder how something like this could have happened.

What I’ve tried to do is point to scientists and science writers who are trying to explain the background of things like earthquakes and tsunamis and nuclear power, and then help put all the breaking news in an appropriate context.  I’ve written a couple of larger posts for Global Voices Online (here and here) that track what science bloggers have written, and I’m including some of those links here as well.

An Introduction to Tsunamis by GeoMika.  This is as good an explanation as I’ve seen.

Magnitude 8.9 by  Chris Rowan of Highly Allochthonous.   This post uses video and graphics to help explain what happened.   One interesting fact: this earthquake actually affected the earth’s rotation and shortened our day by nearly 2 microseconds.

What happened at Fukushima and what the reports mean by the scientists and students at MIT’s NSE Nuclear Information Hub.  This is the revised and corrected version of a blog post that moved quickly through the internet.  It’s a bit more technical in tone than the posts I typically share here, but it’s very informative.

Fukushima updates by Geoff Brumfiel at nature.com’s The Great Beyond.  Geoff has followed what’s been happening there very closely.  This is a link to Update 8, you should check the blog’s main page for more updates.

Normally I like to link to posts that provide humor, tell good stories, or inspire us.  But we shouldn’t forget that scientists and science writers serve another important role, especially in a crisis – they have the ability to fight fear with facts.  They can help us understand information in the right context.

I remember a time when people saw an anthrax attack on television and they started taking antibiotics for no good reason.  Now there are stories of people getting so scared about nuclear meltdowns they’re buying iodine pills.  The scientists are telling us these kinds of fearful reactions may do more harm than good.   This is the time to listen to them.

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