Californians, I Implore You!

In an article on Discovery News, by Marc Lallanilla, Assistant Editor of LiveScience, he writes:

“In February 1975, a 7.3-magnitude earthquake struck Haicheng, a city of 1 million people located in China’s Liaoning province. But one day earlier, city officials ordered an evacuation based in part on reports of strange animal behavior: Hibernating snakes in the area, for example, abandoned their winter hideouts months before normal. The early evacuation of Haicheng is credited with saving thousands of human lives.”

Can Oarfish Predict Earthquakes? : Discovery News.

And now, according to this article, an 14-foot long oarfish was found on an island beach off Southern California a little over a week ago, the second one in five days.  The first one was 18-feet.

Can Oarfish Predict Earthquakes? : Discovery News

I grew up learning that an earthquake could result in the Sunshine State slipping along its fault line and sliding into the ocean.  Of course, teachers said that was an old theory and that most scientists had more recently repented of their claims, admitting that such a cataclysmic event could be hundreds of years in the future.  I remember thinking, “Why take the risk?”  I couldn’t understand how people living there could go about their day-to-day lives without fearing this event.  An even older me wondered if scientists downplayed the possibility, much like they did when politicians ignored or discredited the global warming research, because high-dollar condo owners, realtors, (etc.etc.) with vested interests in keeping the region marketable put the screws to them.

Does that make me a conspiracy theorist?  An alarmist?  There are other articles out there about this that do not ring the bell in the tower.  This one, for instance, focuses on the science and … I appreciate that.

What I know is, if I had been living there and come across this ancient looking fish on the beach that day, the second in five days, I wouldn’t have been among the smiling group showing it off in this photo.  I’d have been the one racing home to pack my house and get the heck out of there.  Why isn’t anyone making a bigger deal out of this?  I know whales beach all the time, but does this kind of thing happen all the time – the deep sea creatures beaching?  Is this article just exploiting something that is a common occurrence?

The Smasher Siblings

A diagram summarizing the tree-level interacti...

“Adam Smasher … is that your real name?”

I controlled my desire to breath a long, exasperated sigh.  “Yeah.  In case you didn’t catch that, it’s spelled A-T-O-M like the particle.”

“Are you, like, a professional wrestler, or a cage fighter or something?”

“It’s more like the particles that make up mass… um …” I shrugged.  “You bet.  Now can I please get my service turned on?”

The truth is, I’m not a violent person.  I’ve never been in a fight where I actually got a punch in before being beaten to a pulp or having my privates suddenly strangled by the morphing of my Hanes into a hammock by some punk at school … or wherever.  My parents were inspired by the advances in physics and the fact that they could make some kind of sense of the latest happenings.  Having such a perfect last name to assemble their homage, they named me after the common phrase for the particle accelerator that was to be called the Tevetron.  It was being built to crash atomic particles into each other.  This would test quantum theory, string theories, and the bounds of our abilities in the universe, the multiverse, and perhaps (once the Higgs boson particle is discovered in 2012) even an eleventh dimension.

At first I loved my name, taking it upon my little self to tell all my elementary friends that I was actually a superhero in the making.  Then the actual superhero of comic book fame was created in the 80’s and I was an even bigger hit.  As a teen and older, I hated it.  Bigger and dumber kids were attracted to all the seemingly clever ways they could brag about mashing or bashing “the smasher.”  Then I embraced the fact that I was actually smarter than my tormentors and dove into all that was physics.  Einstein and those that followed became my superheroes, and I completed our family by fulfilling my role as geeky, intelligent, hermit, role-playing gamer.

My sister called me once and freaked me out.  “Atom, I don’t get it and I had to call you and ask.  Schrodinger’s Cat.  So, I get that there’s a box, and a cat, a gun, some uranium, and a geiger counter.  I get the part about the cat either being alive or dead if the gun fires or it doesn’t because the uranium particles deplete or not.  But  even if the gun doesn’t go off, doesn’t the radiation kill the cat anyway?”

You have to understand – my sister is a Sociology major.  So physics, especially of this variety, is not typically her thing.  Then I understood that it was her clever way of sisterly love, showing an interest in something I was into, and trying (unsuccessfully) to make a joke for me.  So, I replied.

“Sis, the fact is, the cat would be more than just alive in one universe, and dead in another.  It would actually be alive in two separate universes and dead in two entirely different ones.  Furthermore, beyond those four universes, there would be tons more.  A pregnant cat, a dead pregnant cat, a rabid cat, a three legged cat … all of these and more are probabilities that factor into the Everett interpretation of the boxed cat in the realm of quantum superposition.”

The line went silent until she finally snorted out a laugh. And regardless of our lack of amusement in our loving health-nut geek parents’ naming principles, we’re doing fine.  My sister, Apple, and I are in this thing together.


You know how, on those National Geographic nature specials, the speedy stalking animal takes down one of the herd? And the narrator explains how the prey is one of the slower, sicker, or younger members of the group?  They claim that the hunter or pack pursues the prey in a way that eventually separates out one or more for their dinner.  But it doesn’t always line up, this explanation.  Sometimes the victim seems perfectly fine, not noticeably sluggish or weak – just unlucky.  That’s how I feel about cancer.

I recently heard somewhere that more and more women who have lived healthy, tobacco free lives, are getting lung cancer. Continue reading