Fierce Science: MAGNITUDE!!! Understanding Jessicas (aka Earthquake Scales)...

. A blogumn by Tabitha Esther When an earthquake happens, all you hear on the news is “Magnitude 6.7 on the Richter scale”, but what exactly is the Richter scale? Who is this Richter that we are trusting to tell us how big an earthquake was? Why not just call it the Jeff scale or the Diane scale? Truth is, there are several flavors of magnitude scales when it comes to earthquakes. Let’s learn about them, shall we? To make this easier to understand, I will compare each magnitude scale to an actress with the first name of Jessica. Richter Magnitude = Jessica Lange: The stalwart scale we all know and love.  A little outdated, but useful nonetheless. You see, Charles Richter and Beno Guttenberg were fancy-pants geophysicists at CalTech in the early part of the 20th century. They built something called a Wood-Anderson seismograph. Note: SEISMOGRAPH = THE INSTRUMENT SEISMOGRAM = THE PIECE OF PAPER WITH THE SQUIGGLES ON IT To report an earthquake’s magnitude on the Richter scale, you would have to record the earthquake on a Wood-Anderson seismograph at exactly 100km (about 60 miles) from the earthquake. A little inconvenient, but it worked for earthquakes in and around Southern California at the time of its invention. A Wood-Anderson seismograph can only record earthquakes up to about a 6.8. Bigger than that and the mechanisms inside go all screwy and you don’t get a good record of the event. Boo. Duration Magnitude = Jessica Alba: Fails to deliver consistent results. This scale deals with how long an earthquake lasts. The duration of an earthquake in any one location depends on what’s going on with the geology beneath you. An earthquake will last longer if you’re standing in a basin filled with sand...

Fierce Science: The Weary Scientist

. A blogumn by Tabitha Esther Let me tell you about the day I knew I didn’t want a life in academia. This is a sad story. If you are not a cold hearted scientist, you might want to sit down and grab a teddy bear. Earlier this year I had my first and last PhD committee meeting. One of the least pleasant parts about graduate work is the formation and presentation of your PhD project to a committee of 5 faculty members. This is a project you’ve toiled over and spun together with your own hard work and imagination. It has to be something innovative, but practical. And cheap – the cheaper the better. The song and dance of forming a committee is a treat in and of itself. Just think back to 7th grade: “Ummm…ahhhh…(nervous tick….) AAAwwwwhhhhuuummmmmmm…..so I really like you and I really liked your class and thought it was pretty cool and I read all your papers and saw your presentation at AGU and I want to be just like you…annnddd…..aaannnddd…” (Pause) “Will you be on my committee? “ The faculty member typically says yes. This means they now control your success for the next 4 to 8 years. I had my committee assembled. I was ready for my meeting.  I had Xeroxed handouts. I had diagrams and equations and was not afraid to use them. I was going to storm into my meeting and rip my committee’s faces off with my AWSOME PREPARATION and ACCOMPANYING POWER POINT PRESENTATIONS! I was cool. I was confident.  I actually was kinda sleepy. Delirious from a night spent romancing Power Point, I knew if I could just survive my 11am meeting I’d be golden for an early afternoon escape and a long, restorative...

Fierce Science: The Unemployed Scientist

. A blogumn by Tabitha Esther An unemployed scientist is like a Porsche engine revved at 5000 RPMs…set on cinder blocks.  An unemployed scientist is an environmental hazard. Did you ever hear the story of Jack Parsons? Jack Parsons was one of the founders of JPL – the Jet Propulsion Lab. JPL is a big deal science facility in Pasadena. JPL is in cahoots with NASA on all sorts of rocketry and space thing-a-ma-jiggys, and at one time stood for Jack Parson’s Lab. Which brings me back to my point. Jack Parson’s was a renowned Occultist. He was buddies with Aleister Crowley and L. Ron Hubbard in the 1940’s. L. Ron eventually ripped off Parson’s for a large sum of money. Hubbard put that money toward publishing his new book Dianetics. What a crew, right? Parson’s co-founded JPL with another rocket scientist named Tsien Hsue-shen in 1944. These guys were bona-fide rocket scientists. During WW2, Parsons and JPL as a whole worked on all kinds of projects for the American government. NASA got involved with JPL sometime in the 1950’s, but that was after Jack Parsons blew himself up in his home laboratory. He was working with some seriously dangerous volatile stuff in his home laboratory and accidentally set of an explosion which killed him. He was 38 years old. Interesting story, eh? My point is that when unoccupied, a scientist is a danger to themselves and others in the immediate vicinity. So, for safety’s sake, someone please give me a job already! If you or someone you know would be interested in a model 1981 Geochemist, good condition, minor body work, strong engine and communication skills, send them my...