What is Big Think?  

We are Big Idea Hunters…

We live in a time of information abundance, which far too many of us see as information overload. With the sum total of human knowledge, past and present, at our fingertips, we’re faced with a crisis of attention: which ideas should we engage with, and why? Big Think is an evolving roadmap to the best thinking on the planet — the ideas that can help you think flexibly and act decisively in a multivariate world.

A word about Big Ideas and Themes — The architecture of Big Think

Big ideas are lenses for envisioning the future. Every article and video on bigthink.com and on our learning platforms is based on an emerging “big idea” that is significant, widely relevant, and actionable. We’re sifting the noise for the questions and insights that have the power to change all of our lives, for decades to come. For example, reverse-engineering is a big idea in that the concept is increasingly useful across multiple disciplines, from education to nanotechnology.

Themes are the seven broad umbrellas under which we organize the hundreds of big ideas that populate Big Think. They include New World Order, Earth and Beyond, 21st Century Living, Going Mental, Extreme Biology, Power and Influence, and Inventing the Future.

Big Think Features:

12,000+ Expert Videos

1

Browse videos featuring experts across a wide range of disciplines, from personal health to business leadership to neuroscience.

Watch videos

World Renowned Bloggers

2

Big Think’s contributors offer expert analysis of the big ideas behind the news.

Go to blogs

Big Think Edge

3

Big Think’s Edge learning platform for career mentorship and professional development provides engaging and actionable courses delivered by the people who are shaping our future.

Find out more
Close

Earthquakes subsiding in Saudi Arabia

May 25, 2009, 6:02 PM


Al-Qider volcano in western Saudi Arabia. Image courtesy of Ahmed Al-Hussaini.

After a week's worth of worry, it appears that the seismicity in western Saudi Arabia is subsiding. The latest statement from Zuhair Nawab, the head of the SGS, is that over the past four days with fewer and less severe aftershocks. If this continues, people who have evacuated the area around Al Ais might be able to return to their homes in a few days. However, it is important to note that even though officials suggest the seismicity is waning (and there may be indications this is not entirely accurate), the swarm is definitely not "over".

Rumors/reports of increased radon gas and changes in the chemistry of the well waters near the earthquakes epicenters appear to be unfounded. Saad al Mohlafi, the deputy director of the National Observation Centre, said that "no gases indicating an imminent eruption of a volcano have been found in Alees [Al-Ais]." This contradicts a lot of what was being said earlier last week and would support the idea that these earthquakes might not be directly related to any imminent eruption from Harrat Lunayyir. However, this does not preclude the idea that these earthquake could have been the product of a subvolcanic intrusion of magma underneath the volcano field that did not lead to an eruption. These contradictory reports and rumors have lead to more confusion for the residents of the region.

I am still flabbergasted by comments like this from Zuhair Nawab: "The magma level is still at eight kilometres ... I don't know where the media got this worrying level from." I have yet to find any information about how the SGS (a) knows what depth there might be melt - i.e., magma and (b) what "magma level" even means. The article linked here (and above) from The National in Abu Dhabi does suffer from a lot of mish-mashed science, such as bring up that, according to the EPA, radon "is reportedly the second-most frequent cause of lung cancer, after cigarette smoking." How does this help our understanding of any potential precursors to eruption? It really doesn't, but it does give an false pretense of scientific authority to the article.

I'll keep an eye on how events might change in western Saudi Arabia - remember, just because seismicity seems to be waning now doesn't mean this won't change in the near future. In any case, these earthquakes were a fascinating study in how rumor can effect people's perceptions of the perceived volcanic danger. If another earthquake swarm were to begin in the next months or years, the reaction might be very different.

 

Earthquakes subsiding in Sa...

Newsletter: Share: