My Thoughts on Japan

by Darwin on March 17, 2011

This weekly is dedicated to the disaster unfolding in Japan.  Human tragedy of epic proportions and an unknown future cloud the recovery and rebuilding efforts.  Of primary import is the people lost, people affected and people trying to get back on their feet following this tragedy.  I fear it may be some time until things get back to normal, if ever following something this catastrophic.  On the topic of the Japan events from the prior week, a few observations:

Lots of misinformation and everyone’s an expert: People are questioning nuclear plants everywhere. US, China, etc. Thus, Nuclear Stocks Slammed.  Is this more political appeasement or taking true scientifically rigorous precautions?  Kinda like obama stopping drilling in the gulf following BP.  See, this was a combination of an earthquake and then a tsunami washing away the generators that were needed to power down the reactor.  For a nuclear facility in the US that’s not next to an ocean, this same scenario isn’t going to play out.  Additionally, halting new reactor builds is comparing apples to oranges.  This was a 40 year old reactor in Japan, which given the circumstances even, is holding up quite well.  Something designed today would have even more safeguards and be more resilient.

People hoarding iodine in the US. As usual, Americans react to an unlikely crisis by hoarding – kind of like when we have 3 inches of snow forecast near us and the grocery store shelves are cleared in hours.  Not only are they hoarding iodine, but they’re even buying Geiger Counters. Seriously. The thing is, there will be no real danger 5000 miles away in California and the benefits of iodine are misunderstood anyway.  Yes, it can help prevent thyroid cancers from immediate exposure – for the likes of someone living next to the plant.  But what killed so many people near Chernobyl wasn’t just immediate exposure, but from years of living off the land – drinking cow’s milk especially in children, that caused so many cancers.  Taking iodine immediately following the meltdown wouldn’t have prevented the exposure from years of drinking contaminated milk.  Regardless, it demonstrated the lack of supply in the US for Iodine and also begs the question, is price gouging good?  Perhaps by prices skyrocketing, it would preserve what little supply is left for those that really need it.

People say dumb things for attention. I’m not going to drop a link or mention a name to lend further publicity to idiots, but resorting to either racist rants or claiming that “God” is punishing Japan is so juvenile and misguided that these people should be shamed for life.  Tweeting it, Facebooking it, whatever.  You’re subhuman.

Everyone’s an expert – Part 2. I had a few classes in particle physics and studied subatomic particles in my undergrad but by no means do I consider myself knowledgeable in these matters.  Even some of the “experts” the cable news networks bring on have completely differing points of view these matters.  So, when following the Twitter stream or reading blogs, it’s tough to not notice how many sudden experts there are in radiation exposure.  Kind of like the experts opining on various factions in the Middle East during the Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya rebellions.  I’m not an expert and I admit it.  I wish everyone else would as well.

Japan’s handling of the situation – There’s been a fair amount of criticism of late about Japan perhaps understating the severity of the situation to their own people.  Perhaps this is intentional in order to maintain calm and prevent panic.  But once a government loses credibility, it’s tough to get it back.  Look at the US following, well, every time they lie to us.  But the people of Japan?  A stoic, proud and collective group.  I saw no looting and a lot of helping.  People were taking care of each other instead of stealing electronics.  It just struck me as different than what was portrayed in the news following Katrina, right?  Real or perceived, Japan seems different.

With that, here are some top articles from around the blogosphere as long as some of my stuff since the last weekly (which ironically, I don’t get around to publishing weekly):

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

david M March 18, 2011 at 5:01 am

I agree with everything you have written – we are both so “Un American” – that is what my wife says to me all the time.

My wife is from Japan and fortunately her family has not been directly affected by the earthquake and tsunami!


Invest It Wisely March 19, 2011 at 10:54 am

Thanks for the inclusion, Darwin. The workers of those plants are heroes for working hard to get the situation under control. I don’t know if it will end up being a Chernobyl type event or not, but it doesn’t look like things will go that far, and the plants are holding up pretty well considering what happened.

I think it’s a “disaster” bias mentality — people react much more strongly to plane crashes although far more people die from car crashes. It’s the same idea with nuclear vs. coal power.


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