Why you don't need TV news to tell you you're in an earthquake

Houses shook across much of Britain as the country experienced its biggest earthquake for thirty years early this morning.

Impressively, within ten minutes of the tremors, CSEM (EMSC), the European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre, revealed the cause: a 5.4 magnitude quake with an epicentre 10 miles north east of Lincoln, in the East Midlands. (Within an hour, this was revised to a 4.9 scale quake).

CSEM even saves you the from converting latitude/longtiude co-ordinates – it’s integrated with Tele Atlas data, via Google Maps.

Despite the availability of real-time information, the instant news media fell back on, er… “calls from viewers”. The BBC and Sky’s radio and rolling news hurried to bring us what we already knew – that a great big earthquake had happened, somewhere in Britain.

A resourceful night operator at BBC News took a break from cutting and pasting these reports (“there was a really loud bang” – Jemma Harrison, 22, in Greater Manchester) to find the US Geological Survey’s website – which (naturally) carried rather less accurate information than the real-time sensors in Europe.

CSEM had quake information within 10 minutes:

real-time quake info

(At time of writing (90 minutes later), BBC News had raised somebody from the British Geological Survey out of their beds, who had in turn gone to the web, and confirmed the CSEM information. This confirmation replaced the reference to the US Geological website. That’s one way of getting the news out…)

It’s tempting to conclude that the moral of the story is one of new technology baffling hacks: “why can’t the media use the internet better?”

But it’s worse than that.

One Laptop Per Newsreader

Publicly funded science, which is supposed to operate on our behalf, did its job – by making available real-time information available within ten minutes of the quake. Not all of it worked – alas, our own British Geological Survey, a member of the EMSC network, doesn’t publish real-time monitoring information. But it shows what we get for our money, when scientists aren’t concocting disaster fictions of their own. Which with gullible politicians and quangocrats in charge, is how they get research grants today.

The science network did rather better than the publically-funded media, which demonstrated how badly it has lost the plot. The 24 hour news hacks long since forgot how to do even the most basic research, and now fall back on telling us what we already know.

What’s the point?

[some interesting feedback at The Registersee end]

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