Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A thought on Earthquakes, and Faults, and Jobs

From the USGS:
Earthquakes everywhere occur on faults within bedrock, usually miles deep, although some New England earthquakes occur at shallower depths. Most of New England's and Long Island's bedrock was assembled as continents collided to form a supercontinent 500-300 million years ago, raising the northern Appalachian Mountains. The rest of the bedrock formed when the supercontinent rifted apart 200 million years ago to form what are now the northeastern U.S., the Atlantic Ocean, and Europe. 
At well-studied plate boundaries like the San Andreas fault system in California, often scientists can determine the name of the specific fault that is responsible for an earthquake. In contrast, east of the Rocky Mountains this is rarely the case. New England and Long Island are far from the nearest plate boundaries, which are in the center of the Atlantic Ocean and in the Caribbean Sea. New England is laced with known faults but numerous smaller or deeply buried faults remain undetected. Even the known faults are poorly located at the depths of most earthquakes. Accordingly, few, if any, earthquakes in New England can be linked to named faults. It is difficult to determine if a known fault is still active and could slip and cause an earthquake. As in most other areas east of the Rockies, the best guide to earthquake hazards in New England and Long Island is the earthquakes themselves.
Fuck that.

Our stuff is hundreds of millions of years old, theirs is still being made.  Why only study the new stuff?  That's like only drinking the fresh wine.  You've got to let it age for a bit.  We're vintage for fuck's sake.

I'm not saying we need fewer people studying things west of the Rocky Mountains, far from it.  Clearly we need them there because those earthquakes can take lives and destroy cities and whatnot.

I'm saying we need more of them here.  We need an army of geologists and seismologists and whatever the hell you call the various professions involved in fault studying to come into New England and map these things.  Study these things.  Learn from them.  Determine what makes earthquakes at fresh faults different from earthquakes at old faults (I bet that category includes things we haven't even considered, in addition to several things we already knew.)

What's that you say?  We don't have enough highly trained scientists to do all that?

Well don't worry, I've got a solution.  We just go around to the unemployed, the underemployed, and the unhappily employed and say, "How would you like to be a [fault scientist]?" bet a lot of them would jump at the chance for any job.

But don't they lack the proper training?  No problem, we'll send them to university, it took hundreds of millions of years for the faults to get this way, who cares if it takes a few more to train our army of scientists? While they're at univeristy they can take a variety of classes that will prepare them for all kinds of different jobs so if studying hundreds of millions of year old faults turns out to be not their thing they'll be ready to join different parts of the workforce.

And some of them will stick with it beginning to end, and when we have our army of scientists entering New England to study aged faults we'll have more jobs, and more science being done, and it will improve commerce, and everything else, and more than that it will be awesome.

But, you say, these are only temporary jobs.  Once they're done with New England they'll have nothing to do.  First off, what makes you think they'll ever be done with New England?  Science takes time damn it.  Second, of course they'll have something to do.  We'll send them to New York or Pennsylvania or Florida or Texas or... did you miss the part about everywhere east of the Rockies being fair game?  Did you miss the fact that most of the country is east of the Rockies?  Our army of scientists will never run out of work to do.

And while they're doing that, and making discoveries we can't even imagine at the moment but will fit nicely into episodes of the History Channel's "How the Earth Was Made" you know what they won't be doing?  Competing in the private sector job market.  Which means more jobs for everyone else.  Which means more job security, more job mobility, less chance of extended unemployment, more chance of being offered raises and perks and whatnot to stay with the current company, and good things all around.

So, I've made the plan, I've thrown down the gauntlet, I've thingyed the thingy, now somebody get me my army of scientists.


  1. As an unemployed rock scientist, I approve this message.

  2. Also, I think I can actually send your stamps today. I was going to Monday, but then I was too busy PAYING MY ENTIRE PAYCHECK TO GET MY CAR BACK when they towed it for streetsweeping. Aaaaargh.

  3. Damn that sucks, at least you have it back now. You do have it back now, right?

  4. Can I be a seismologist?* That would rock. /ba-dum-tsss

    I'm glad you are OK after the earthquake.

    Got in a discussion with a pretty right-wing group yesterday, and wonderfully enough, the suggestion of "let the people who need work do the work that needs doing" didn't get shot down immediately. Doin' what I can.

    *I am mostly joking, but this sort of stuff fascinates me. I wanted to be a vulcanologist as a kid, for srs. Took a bunch of Earth Sciences and everything. I think the main reason I'm not one is that it required more math than I could, at that time, handle. (Not sure I could handle it now, really.) But... but... volcanoes! And fault lines and rocks and... all the things I like. *sigh*

    And now my footnote is four times the length of my comment.

  5. Yes, I have it back now.

    And I'm glad you and yours are ok, earthquake-wise.

    I had the same thing with math, which is one reason I didn't go engineering. That was stupid. Engineering would have been fucking perfect for me. And the math is not that hard. I was unnecessarily intimidated and I regret it.

  6. Bad time to be a seismologist: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-20025626

    (Also, yay back from trip. Fall over now.)