Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Media bias distorts details of past earthquakes

04.04.2007
The story of some violent historic earthquakes may need to be revisited, according to a study published in the April issue of the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America (BSSA).

Seismologists rely on written accounts, mostly local newspaper articles, to judge how strongly the ground shook during earthquakes that predate the use of current instrumentation. Those news accounts have proven to be misleading, say scientists, and reliance upon them must be tempered when evaluating the size of past earthquakes.

By focusing on the most dramatic damage and other effects of an earthquake, news stories can provide an unbalanced view of a disaster. For historical earthquakes it is difficult to estimate the effects of this bias. However, a recently deadly earthquake--the M7.6 Bhuj, India earthquake of 2001--provided an unprecedented opportunity to compare the media accounts with the results of an exhaustive, ground-based survey of damage.

"This study isn’t about the media," says Susan E. Hough, co-author of the paper and a seismologist at the U. S. Geological Survey in Pasadena, California. "It isn’t the job of the media to provide a detailed survey of the effects of an earthquake. It’s the seismologist’s job to evaluate media and other written accounts. We need to do careful, balanced assessments of accounts of past earthquakes to understand the hazard from future earthquakes. Media accounts have a built-in bias that is natural to telling any story – whether by a journalist or by an eyewitness."

The severity of an earthquake can be expressed in terms of intensity, which is based on observations by eyewitnesses to the ground motion and the shaking of buildings, trees, and anything in the surrounding area. The perceived intensity varies within the affected zone, depending upon the location of the witness to the epicenter.

In "Quantifying the ‘Media Bias" in Intensity Surveys: Lessons from the 2001 Bhuj, India, Earthquake," Hough and co-author Prabhas Pande, Ph.D, Director, Earthquake Geology Division Geological Survey of India, studied the effects of the 7.6 Bhuj earthquake that occurred on 26 January 2001. This quake was felt across much of the Indian subcontinent, and official government figures cited 13,800 fatalities and 166,000 injuries.

Two independent intensity surveys evaluated the earthquake: one based on extensive news articles written in the early aftermath of the earthquake and the other based on direct surveys and interviews conducted by the Geological Survey of India. The comparison yielded important information for seismologists who interpret past events for which only written accounts are available.

"The research confirmed the tendency of written accounts to focus on the most dramatic, rather than representative effects in their accounts," write the authors. Further, the authors conclude that the media bias "can be significant, and is most severe at the strongest shaking levels."

Nan Broadbent | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.seismosoc.org
http://www.eurekalert.org/images/release_graphics/pdf/MEDIABIAS.BSSA.pdf
http://www.eurekalert.org/images/release_graphics/pdf/97-2_TOC_InOrder.pdf

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht New insights into the ancestors of all complex life
29.05.2017 | University of Bristol

nachricht A 3-D look at the 2015 El Niño
29.05.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Strathclyde-led research develops world's highest gain high-power laser amplifier

The world's highest gain high power laser amplifier - by many orders of magnitude - has been developed in research led at the University of Strathclyde.

The researchers demonstrated the feasibility of using plasma to amplify short laser pulses of picojoule-level energy up to 100 millijoules, which is a 'gain'...

Im Focus: Can the immune system be boosted against Staphylococcus aureus by delivery of messenger RNA?

Staphylococcus aureus is a feared pathogen (MRSA, multi-resistant S. aureus) due to frequent resistances against many antibiotics, especially in hospital infections. Researchers at the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut have identified immunological processes that prevent a successful immune response directed against the pathogenic agent. The delivery of bacterial proteins with RNA adjuvant or messenger RNA (mRNA) into immune cells allows the re-direction of the immune response towards an active defense against S. aureus. This could be of significant importance for the development of an effective vaccine. PLOS Pathogens has published these research results online on 25 May 2017.

Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) is a bacterium that colonizes by far more than half of the skin and the mucosa of adults, usually without causing infections....

Im Focus: A quantum walk of photons

Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.

The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....

Im Focus: Turmoil in sluggish electrons’ existence

An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.

We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...

Im Focus: Wafer-thin Magnetic Materials Developed for Future Quantum Technologies

Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Marine Conservation: IASS Contributes to UN Ocean Conference in New York on 5-9 June

24.05.2017 | Event News

AWK Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium 2017: Internet of Production for Agile Enterprises

23.05.2017 | Event News

Dortmund MST Conference presents Individualized Healthcare Solutions with micro and nanotechnology

22.05.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New insights into the ancestors of all complex life

29.05.2017 | Earth Sciences

New photocatalyst speeds up the conversion of carbon dioxide into chemical resources

29.05.2017 | Life Sciences

NASA's SDO sees partial eclipse in space

29.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>