Effect Measure

Chilean earthquake and science

There is so much tragedy and sadness in the wake of the earthquakes in Haiti and Chile that to bemoan the fate of research projects there seems kind of trivial. But if you are scientist your heart really goes out to your Chilean colleagues. Jocelyn Kaiser and Antonio Regalado have some details at ScienceInsider, Science Magazine’s science blog:

Scientists at research universities in several Chilean cities are reeling from last week’s earthquake, which overturned microscopes, set fire to laboratories, washed years of research out to sea, and took the life of a young marine biologist. Aftershocks are still rattling the country.

The worst damage reported was to the University of Concepción, near the epicenter of the 8.8 magnitude quake. There a fire ravaged the building housing one of Chile’s leading chemistry centers, including a lab studying advanced polymers. “It’s still standing, but it burned completely,” said Jaime Baeza, the university’s vice-rector for research, reached by cell phone in Concepción. No injuries were reported because the quake took place early Saturday and most of the 100 or so students and faculty were on vacation. But valuable equipment was lost, Baeza says, and “the quake may have set us back 3 or 4 years, even 10 years.” (ScienceInsider)

The earthquake will change many lives. Parents and children killed, businesses wiped out. Homes destroyed. And in science, there will be many scientists who will no longer pursue science, years of work or work in progress gone in an instant. It’s not just equipment and buildings that were destroyed. Theses, datasets, breeding experiments, cell cultures, reagents like enzymes and antibodies and probes. Meanwhile labs outside of Chile are offering to take students. But realistically, careers will inevitably be lost and Chilean science, which had been growing, has suffered a grievous blow.

Here’s how the young research assistant was killed:

A tsunami that followed the quake also wreaked havoc, killed a researcher involved in an ecology expedition to Robinson Crusoe Island off Chile’s coast. Ecologist Álvaro Palma of Pontifical Catholic University of Chile in Santiago, who had dispatched the team of five to the island, says the group scrambled uphill from their house near shore to avoid the wall of water. But Paula Ayerdi, a 28-year-old research assistant in marine biology who had tagged along on the trip with her fiance, became separated. Her body was found along the shore the next day, says Palma.

The Haitian earthquake was a huge human catastrophe, on an almost unimaginable scale. The effect of the Chilean earthquake on scientists is all too imaginable for me. Not horrifying, but deeply saddening if you are a scientist.

Comments

  1. #1 Ralph Malph
    March 8, 2010

    “Not horrifying, but deeply saddening if you are a scientist.”
    Revere is a “scientist”? No, just a failed physician who made
    a career doing basic summary statistics on public health data.
    What a pretentious bore!

  2. #2 Alex
    March 8, 2010

    @Ralph Malph: Another day, another asshole. Besides, it’s clear you never understood what Revere is doing. Epidemiology is not “basic summary statistics”. It uses some advanced math like ANOVA which is nowhere near elementary. From previous posts, I would doubt that he is a “failed physician”. Obviously, failed physicians don’t get funding for projects the size of many RO1s put together.

  3. #3 cg
    March 8, 2010

    RM: Bite your tongue! You have no soul. Revere…permission to delete this scurrilous post!

  4. #4 C. Corax
    March 8, 2010

    Hey, “Ralph,”

    Project much?

  5. #5 Marc
    March 8, 2010

    @Ralph Malph: This is like JB Handley appearing on Respectful Insolence and accusing Orac of being an imbecile without justifying anything. Very similarly, Ralph wants us to believe that Revere is a “failed physician” and that his work is “basic summary statistics”, without providing any references for these claims. Ah, the art of referencing! It makes the difference between real scientists like Revere and pretentious bores like Ralph. And here’s a reference of why Revere is neither a failed physician nor a basic statistician:

    “The grant I am writing is complex and has 15 reviewable parts, each corresponding to a single RO1, but highly integrated around a theme.”
    – Revere, Mock Study Section (more than you ever wanted to know), March 7th 2010.

  6. #6 ginger
    March 8, 2010

    Please don’t feed the trolls, guys.

    This adds yet another dimension of horror to these epic-scale tragedies – the loss to science generally and the dreadful loss to Chile’s present and future scientific endeavours. In the US, it was hard enough when Katrina smashed Tulane University. Losing several major research centers is an appalling prospect.

  7. #7 Jody Lanard M.D.
    March 8, 2010

    I have known and greatly admired one of the Reveres by reputation for over twenty years — in both times of agreement and disagreement. His heart is as huge as his brain, as any reader of this remarkable blog quickly learns over time.

    A good scientist who is also a good human being observes (and reacts to) the big picture: the movement of tectonic plates — as well as the small picture: the fate of individuals — “people like us,” such as scientists at work and play, as well as people quite different from us, like poor fisherman and squatters and homeless people.

    I felt so sad reading about the scientific and human losses in Chile, and the death of U.S. CDC worker Diane Caves in the Haiti earthquake, as well as the hard to imagine deaths of uncountable numbers of others less individually identifiable to me.

    And after the sadness always comes a rededication of desire to try to help at least a little, and to push back against the pain and the poverty and the corruption at least as much as one small person can do. Revere’s post saddens me and fortifies me at the same time. I thank him for it.

  8. #8 Alex
    March 8, 2010

    @Jody Lanard M.D.: I hate to be the bearer of bad news but you should know some things. Most of the damage caused by the quake in Haiti was fully preventable. Haiti suffered from poor infrastructure caused by years of volatile politics. In large part, the US and France are responsible for Haiti’s extreme poverty, lack of access to healthcare and substandard education. The IMF, World Bank and WTO have been implementing something called a “shock doctrine” on Haiti for decades, keeping the population buried under taxation and unable to rise from poverty. Haiti has been attempting to free itself from it’s oppressors for centuries. In 1991, JB Aristide, Haiti’s first democratically elected president, came to power. The IMF told Bush Sr. to overthrow him because he was a threat to US-European interests. He was overthrown in the same year. In 1994, Aristide was allowed to return to Haiti and became president again. However, he had to obey Clinton’s orders or be overthrown again. Clinton forced him to pass legislation that would allow US and European corporations to plunder Haiti. In 1996, he created his own political party in an attempt to retake what belonged to his people from US corporations. He was re-elected in 2000 and implemented major reforms in education, healthcare, etc. Many foreign corporations were kicked out of the country during his term. In 2004, he was overthrown under orders from Bush Jr. and replaced by leaders more “open-minded” towards US interests, Boniface Alexandre and Rene Preval. Then, came the earthquake in 2010. After the disaster, the IMF, WTO and World Bank were pressed to cancel Haiti’s debt by humanitarian organizations like MSF — they refused and Haiti’s debt is still where it was. These organizations also took advantage of the current lack of political leadership to further allow penetration by US-European interests into Haiti’s economy. Nowhere near enough aid was sent to Haiti over the last few weeks. At the meeting in Montreal (where I live), Western powers have renewed their commitment to disregard their already meager economic obligations towards Haiti. Because of this, the aftershocks of the quake will still be felt in Haiti years from now.

  9. #9 Marc
    March 8, 2010

    @Jody Lanard M.D.: Oh and Alex didn’t even get into the “research” part yet, when it comes to Haiti. That’s just what Haitians have gone through as a nation. Here’s the thing about Chile that Alex didn’t mention: it had much better infrastructure. Chile was not plundered (as much) by US corporations as Haiti. The IMF and other criminal organizations didn’t impose a “shock doctrine” on it. Consequently, even if the earthquake in Chile was much stronger than the one in Haiti, there were only 269 deaths in Chile as opposed to over 200,000 in Haiti.

  10. #10 M. Randolph Kruger
    March 9, 2010

    Now just a minute here Alex and Ralph. Revere has gotten funding even during the Republican years so someone has decided that he aint the failure that you say he is and that his work is necessary. In fact if you knew who he was as I do, he has been putting his name on single, joint and co-university papers for just about as long as I have been alive.

    He also has been a fount of knowledge in epidemiology and that crosses over from industrial to bugs and back again. Some of what he says I disagree with but rarely medically speaking. A guy I absolutely disagree with on healthcare but everything else it to me would make him just one fine American in my book. Well left of center and unfortunately his group wasnt pulling hard enough on the rudder when the Republicans had their sway and way in Congress and the rebound from that rubberband is Obama and his Chicagoland crew. But all things sooner or later stabilize… Maybe in the next election?

    If you want to get into the specifics of things, there were few deaths in Chile and 200,000 and still counting in Haiti. It wasnt entirely preventable because the ground liquefied under the location of U of Concepcion and then the tsunami. Scuse me but the Northridge quake was what? How about the San Francisco quake where they have the highest building standards in the world outside of Japan and what happened. Ever heard of Kobe or Osaka…? Pure uneducated bullshit is what I am hearing here. All of those towns got the snot kicked out of them by lesser quakes. Or are you ten years old and cant remember the big ju-ju shaking ground thing? Give me a break…

    Preventable?

    The buildings killed the people in Haiti, not Bush, US-European powers or anything of the such. We have been there so many times in the last century that its almost too hard to count. If we werent there then the French were. Haiti was already a dead society because it was a socialist economy. When you are screwed in socialist operations, you are screwed equally and in this case great numbers.

    What have the Chileans done? Started rebuilding the minute after the ground quit moving. They are burying their dead and they are moving on. Haiti a year from now will still be poor Haiti for the handout..They were Haiti for the handout in the last century too. I bet they will be Haiti for the handout in the next century as well.

    While I understand that people are dying in droves and there just may not be much we can do now. 1 million people and change were in residence within 50 miles of the epicenter. The food supplies to feed one million people non productive people per day do not exist on this planet. Therefore it must reach a state of equilibrium and that will mean roving gangs, murders, starvation and death. Just as it did and has in Ethiopia, and Sudan.

    We could empty the coffers of the surrounding states from Tennessee and we wouldnt be able to feed them for more than a year max. Maybe not even that long. Then what?

    Does the US want another 1 million on the welfare payrolls…? In effect thats what we are saying here… More money outflowing from the US when we have to pull it back just to take care of our own. We cant finance another thing with the damned Chinese else the tipover will occur and even the Dems are starting to see that picture. So who helps them out? The following blanks between this and the next para will tell you who and what…

    In 91, Aristide started to loot the treasury and the IMF told Bush that he was cozying up to Castro. We didnt over throw him, but we did make his position untenable. We cut off all the aid because they were stealing it. And yes, civil war in effect broke out. You know the other side of the island is bustling with activity, everyone eats and most are happy. So whats the difference on the other side of the hill? Grand theft auto is what. Graft, corruption…. Kind of like what we have now in the US. Seems we also have some very disgruntled people that the government isnt listening to. Are we seeing a revolution beginning here? Time will tell. Toss in a quake that will cost 850 billion dollars like I am sitting on and watch what happens.

    Chile? Those guys got on the phone said hold on, we are assessing what we are going to need but we are okay. The sent the army in when the looting started and they started playing hardball with the lawbreakers. Going to need some new lawbreakers as best I can tell because they were executing them from what I heard. In Haiti it was a free for all. No law and no government. What did you expect to happen.

    Preventable? Only if God himself had passed his hand across the Earth and said, “Be still.”

    Sorry for the analogy Revere old friend-I know your feelings on God, but what am I going to say….A photon ray burst caused a magnetic flux counter to the effects of the quake….

    Not me bud, I will go with God every time.

  11. #11 Marc
    March 9, 2010

    @M. Randolph Kruger:

    “Now just a minute here Alex and Ralph. Revere has gotten funding even during the Republican years so someone has decided that he aint the failure that you say he is and that his work is necessary. In fact if you knew who he was as I do, he has been putting his name on single, joint and co-university papers for just about as long as I have been alive.”
    >> Clearly you didn’t understand the point me and Alex were making. We were defending Revere’s reputation from the imbecile who posted the first comment.

    “He also has been a fount of knowledge in epidemiology and that crosses over from industrial to bugs and back again. Some of what he says I disagree with but rarely medically speaking.”
    >> Yup. Except me and Alex haven’t found one point of disagreement with Revere yet.

    “A guy I absolutely disagree with on healthcare but everything else it to me would make him just one fine American in my book. Well left of center and unfortunately his group wasnt pulling hard enough on the rudder when the Republicans had their sway and way in Congress and the rebound from that rubberband is Obama and his Chicagoland crew. But all things sooner or later stabilize… Maybe in the next election?”
    >> I completely agree with him on healthcare but have few hopes about how much can be achieved through elections anymore. Civil disobedience is the way.

    “If you want to get into the specifics of things, there were few deaths in Chile and 200,000 and still counting in Haiti. It wasnt entirely preventable because the ground liquefied under the location of U of Concepcion and then the tsunami.”
    >> Well no, it was not fully preventable. Alex said that “most” of it was preventable. Nothing is fully preventable, but we can minimize the damage as much as possible. Again, the difference between Chile and Haiti was in the infrastructure.

    “Scuse me but the Northridge quake was what? How about the San Francisco quake where they have the highest building standards in the world outside of Japan and what happened. Ever heard of Kobe or Osaka…? Pure uneducated bullshit is what I am hearing here. All of those towns got the snot kicked out of them by lesser quakes. Or are you ten years old and cant remember the big ju-ju shaking ground thing? Give me a break…”
    >> Again, infrastructure. Don’t believe me? Let’s look at statistics:
    Haiti (poor infrastructure): ~230,000 killed
    Osaka (strong infrastructure): ~6,000 killed.
    Kobe (strong infrastructure): ~4,600 killed.
    San Fran (strong infrastructure): ~3,000 killed.
    Northridge (very strong infrastructure): 72 killed.
    Chile (very strong infrastructure): 723 killed.
    I believe the pattern is clear.

    “Preventable?

    The buildings killed the people in Haiti, not Bush, US-European powers or anything of the such. We have been there so many times in the last century that its almost too hard to count. If we werent there then the French were. Haiti was already a dead society because it was a socialist economy. When you are screwed in socialist operations, you are screwed equally and in this case great numbers.”
    >> No, Haiti was screwed over the last centuries because of a brutal French colonial regime eventually replaced by an even more brutal American imperial regime. It is, in this respect, very similar to Vietnam. Some of the worst atrocities in the history of the Hemisphere took place in Haiti under French and American occupation. The WTO/IMF/World Bank cartel prevented Haiti from developing a strong infrastructure over the decades by imposing a “shock doctrine” on the country (read Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine for more info). Haiti was never a socialist country. It had, at times, strong socialist tendencies, such as the Aristide years, but was never a country where the workers were in charge. And even then, Aristide came to power to fix the mess that France and the US had made, which disproves your point.

    “What have the Chileans done? Started rebuilding the minute after the ground quit moving. They are burying their dead and they are moving on. Haiti a year from now will still be poor Haiti for the handout..They were Haiti for the handout in the last century too. I bet they will be Haiti for the handout in the next century as well.”
    >> Again, this has a lot to do with the WTO/IMF/World Bank cartel. There was no “shock doctrine” imposed on Chile, but there is one imposed on Haiti (and it hasn’t been lifted even as we speak). Try to rebuild your country when strong foreign powers are trying to privatize all your resources and bury your population under taxation. Yes, Haiti will still be a mess a year from now unless these criminal organizations are checked and stopped.

    “While I understand that people are dying in droves and
    there just may not be much we can do now.”
    >> Yes, there is. If the West would respect, as Alex says, it’s “meager economic obligations” towards the Global South, not just Haiti, but many other countries could rise from the dirt. This is not just my opinion. It is the opinion of Nobel Laureates in Economics Joseph Stiglitz and Amartya Sen.

    “1 million people and change were in residence within 50 miles of the epicenter. The food supplies to feed one million people non productive people per day do not exist on this planet.”
    >> Yes, they do. Again, Stiglitz and Sen. Also, Haitian labour is much more productive and cheap than American labour. This is why Western corporations are so eager to outsource jobs there. If we would go by your logic, Americans should be left to starve since they cannot compete with Third World workers in terms of productivity.

    “Therefore it must reach a state of equilibrium and that will mean roving gangs, murders, starvation and death. Just as it did and has in Ethiopia, and Sudan.”
    >> Killing the Haitians or leaving them to die is unnecessary. Again, Stiglitz and Sen. We have enough resources to help them, but our governments chose not to.

    “We could empty the coffers of the surrounding states from Tennessee and we wouldnt be able to feed them for more than a year max. Maybe not even that long. Then what?”
    >> Again, false. It’s much cheaper than you think. California alone has a high enough GDP to fully fund the reconstruction of Haiti, Chile and a others. Take all the money the government gives to oil companies as subsidies every year and throw it on Haiti. Then, watch them pass us in the HDI at lightspeed.

    “Does the US want another 1 million on the welfare payrolls…? In effect thats what we are saying here… More money outflowing from the US when we have to pull it back just to take care of our own. We cant finance another thing with the damned Chinese else the tipover will occur and even the Dems are starting to see that picture. So who helps them out? The following blanks between this and the next para will tell you who and what…”
    >> This is just a stereotypical rant against social security and other important measures. The reason why the US needs money to take care of it’s own is because it took care of corporations for the last 2 centuries.

    “In 91, Aristide started to loot the treasury and the IMF told Bush that he was cozying up to Castro. We didnt over throw him, but we did make his position untenable.”
    >> You will explain to me how a coup by rebel elements of the army backed by foreign powers (like the CIA) is not an overthrow. He was also not looting the treasury of Haiti since Haiti never really had a treasury. He tried kicking out US corporations and that didn’t sit well with the IMF so they made up some excuse for Bush to overthrow him.

    “We cut off all the aid because they were stealing it. And yes, civil war in effect broke out. You know the other side of the island is bustling with activity, everyone eats and most are happy.”
    >> Civil war broke out for different reasons, too long to explain here. Other side of the island? You mean the Dominican Republic? They also got robbed by the Spanish, then the French, then the US and the Vatican (Trujillo and Balaguer) but were able to start breaking free in 1978. The WTO/IMF/World Bank cartel also didn’t impose a “shock doctrine” on the DR.

    “So whats the difference on the other side of the hill? Grand theft auto is what. Graft, corruption…. Kind of like what we have now in the US.”
    >> Nope. DR politics have been moving away from US politics since 1978, a positive trend that continues today.

    “Seems we also have some very disgruntled people that the government isnt listening to. Are we seeing a revolution beginning here? Time will tell. Toss in a quake that will cost 850 billion dollars like I am sitting on and watch what happens.”
    >> If you consider tea baggers a revolution then yes. I think of a revolution as driven by the ideas of enlightened people, such as the French Revolution driven by the writings of Voltaire, Diderot and Montesquieu.

    “Chile? Those guys got on the phone said hold on, we are assessing what we are going to need but we are okay. The sent the army in when the looting started and they started playing hardball with the lawbreakers. Going to need some new lawbreakers as best I can tell because they were executing them from what I heard. In Haiti it was a free for all. No law and no government. What did you expect to happen.”
    >> You watch too much mainstream media. This is the kind of crap you see on Anderson Cooper 360, Zakaria GPS, Amanpour or Sanjay Gupta. What you have been shown are some isolated cases of looters and rioters because they make good news material. Get on DemocracyNow! and find out serious information.

    “Preventable? Only if God himself had passed his hand across the Earth and said, “Be still.””
    >> Well unfortunately, even if that could happen, the simple act of passing his giant hand across the Earth would probably make the Earth break out of it’s orbit causing much more devastation.

    “Sorry for the analogy Revere old friend-I know your feelings on God, but what am I going to say….A photon ray burst caused a magnetic flux counter to the effects of the quake….”
    >> Read about plate tectonics and why earthquakes happen.

    “Not me bud, I will go with God every time.”
    >> Cool. The rest of us will go with safer and more useful alternatives.

  12. #12 Paula
    March 9, 2010

    In 8., Alex notes: “Haiti’s extreme poverty, lack of access to healthcare and substandard education. The IMF, World Bank and WTO have been implementing something called a “shock doctrine” on Haiti for decades, keeping the population buried under. . .” Yes, and interesting how “shock doctrine” (“crisis capitalism”) is ever more used worldwide–including in the US, where the combined “shocks” from 9/11, Katrina, and the 2008 “subprime”-become-financial-institutions meltdown have allowed the neocons and other economic rightwingers to crush any real healthcare reform under threats of “budget deficits”–with cries moving rightward next to set a budgetary commission to cut down Medicare and Social Security (and Medicaid)–goals long sought by shocktroopers.

  13. #13 rijkswaanvijand
    March 12, 2010

    @Randolph Kruger
    You stated:
    “Haiti was already a dead society because it was a socialist economy.”
    But
    “Does the US want another 1 million on the welfare payrolls…? In effect thats what we are saying here… More money outflowing from the US when we have to pull it back just to take care of our own. We cant finance another thing with the damned Chinese else the tipover will occur and even the Dems are starting to see that picture. So who helps them out? The following blanks between this and the next para will tell you who and what…”

    Sounds rather socialist to me; national socialist to be exact!

  14. #14 Thomas J. Nagy
    March 12, 2010

    What can be done to return the massive US Navy Hospital ship, “Comfort” to Haiti? I was horrified to learn that the the Obama administration has declared “Mission Accomplished” and is returning the “Comfort” to Baltimore, MD.

    Won’t this act of gross cruelty doom large numbers of Haitians to death given the scope of the need and the fact that the “Comfort” has treated fewer than 900 Haitians even as water borne epidemics loom.

    If President Obama fails to order the “Comfort” to return to Haiti at flank speed and and order “Comfort” to expend far greater efforts than it has to date, how can the world’s hatred of the US not intensify in proportion to the number of Haitians who die as the direct consequence of this monstrous abandonment? Such an act of abandonment will dwarf the even the consequence of the abandonment of Black US citizens at the New Orleans sports dome by the Bush II administration.

    In the extremely likely (inevitable?) event of water borne epidemics, won’t the diagnostic and planning and treatment capability of the “Comfort” be indispensable for enacting effective secondary and tertiary prevention? Have efforts at primary prevention of water borne epidemics in Haiti to date not ranged between feeble to virtually non-existent?

    Too bad the victims of Haiti are not among the “worthy”, e.g., Swedes or Israelis instead of mere Blacks whom our first Black President’s actions indicate are viewed by him and his handlers as “unworthy” and completely disposable Blacks.

    The irony is unbearable. Does it constitute hyperbole to assert that if President Obama fails to order the “Comfort” to return to Haiti at flank speed and to expend full effort, he will offer competition to Bush II as the most cynical and shortsighted of all presidents. Ditto, if he does not order the implementation of primary prevention measures, starting with the provision of sufficient, reliable, potable water to the victims of the earthquake.

    I am willing to accept that it is entirely coincidental that the Obama administration’s decision to order “Comfort” back to its home port is unrelated to the much hyped story of Obama’s altruistic distribution of his Noble Peace booty. The latter decision has dominated the headlines, helping to consign the latter to near invisibility. Surely a coincidence…