Posts Tagged tsunami


Posted by on Monday, 14 March, 2011



Yesterday an earthquake and a tsunami hit Japan.  The earthquake (magnitude 9.0) was a THOUSAND times more powerful than the one that killed 2 percent of the population of Haiti.

And  Haiti didn’t have tsunamis. Or exploding  nuclear power stations which are thought to be melting down.

As I’m writing , they’re still searching for victims so the number of injuries and deaths is still growing. The excellent planning that the Japanese do for such disasters should help. If the sympathetic hearts of others makes any difference, that’ll help too.


Probably yer thinking “What’s WRONG with those guys? If they can make something as good as a Toyota, why can’t their power plants stand being bounced around ?”

Not fair.

I especially didn’t like that little Toyota dig, but I’ll let it pass.

Here’s the thing. Engineers  don’t know fer sure the worst disaster that’ll hit their projects, do they?  So how does an engineer know how strong to make a bridge. Or a house? Or a nuclear power plant? How does he.she know what size earthquakes, winds,  waves, and so on, a power plant will have to deal with in its lifetime? This, after all, is the “loading” to which it must be designed.

You’re not gonna like this, but it’s  a game of chance.

A building, a bridge, an airplane, is designed to handle everything that gets thrown at it.


Course, no matter how tough you make the design, there’s always something worse. A 10 ton meteor will NOT bounce off of yer roof and leave it undented. Sorry to say. Honestly? Your roof wasn’t even designed for 14 feet of snow. If you and your house live long enough, you will GET 14 feet of snow. It seemed like we got that much in Boston this winter. Or, if you don’t live where it snows, your house, for sure,  isn’t designed for a category 7 hurricane.

Always something!

Engineers try to anticipate everything that’s likely to happen. Then they throw in a little extra. But what about spectacularly awful things that only happen every 100 years? Or every 1000 years? How unlikely and how huge an event should you build for?

Magnitude 9.0 earthquake don’t occur in/near Japan very often – certainly not accompanied by a massive tsunami.   Very rare. So if you DO beef up your power plant design  for these conditions which include a 30 foot tsunami, what about the possibility of a 35 footer?

See what I mean? You gotta stop SOMEWHERE or you’ll NEVER get a mortgage on that overbuilt monstrosity.

It’s called engineering. Balancing practicality against perfection.


I’ll get back to you on that. If the designers simply failed to take tsunamis into account, you bet it was. If they designed for big, bigger, and biggerer but this was biggereryet, it’s just one of those things.


Is there a way to make nuclear power plants that can’t melt down? Of course.


Now it so happens that I have a lot to say about earthquakes. Because I definitely have an app for THAT. Our product, resQvox ( US Patent 7,839,290) will save your butt next time YOU’RE in one. We’re just in the beginning stages of looking for a licensee (interested?).

Here’s how it works.

You find yourself trapped in the rubble of a collapsed structure, right?

Talk about sucky! The first 24 hours you’re down there are the critical “Golden Hours”. After that first day, your chances of getting out alive get so poor that if they DO happen to drag you out of there with a heartbeat they will describe it as a “miracle”.

Maybe it is.

Anyway, here’s the catch. In most places where there’s an earthquake, it takes LONGER than 24 hours for  the pros to show up. They have to get notified, grab their equipment, search dogs, supplies, and whatnot, and get transport to the disaster site. While this happens, you’re down there under a filing cabinet getting weaker and weaker and weaker.

What to do?

That’s where resQvox comes in. It’s aimed at attracting the attention of the “locals” – the “guys in the neighborhood” – who’re running around trying to dig people out with anything at hand – garden spades, rakes, even bare hands. They don’t have infrared detectors or search dogs. Just their eyes and ears.

Like smoke detectors, resQvox locators are small and inexpensive and are positioned in key spots around a building. Its  sensors tell it if a building collapses (so do yours, but that’s another story) and it uses its speech capabilities to chat up survivors, reassuring, describing survival techniques, and collecting info on their condition. Then, no matter what shape they’re in (maybe drifting  in and out of consciousness or sleep), resQvox uses its “sonic beacon” to draw rescuers to the location  and to help  “triage” based on the condition of the survivors and the number in each location.

Here’s how it works . (You can contact us at

SceinceAintSoBadRating = 10 (I’m a little prejudiced).

Credits: Top photo of the earth (modified by MISTER ScienceAintSoBad) is from NASA. Cartoons’n such are my own handiwork.