I ran across an intriguing article yesterday in the RSS accumulator. It was entitled “Science can’t design away tornadoes’ deadly threat”.[Link] The question raised by the article was why hadn’t science done anything to ameliorate tornadoes? And it was a real pile of stercus tauri!
Yes, they gave credit to the Yankee government’s National Weather Service and the local television weather beavers but faulted them for inadequate precision. Merde! It is not the NWS and the local weather beavers who lack precision, it is the warning system. Here in Nawth Alibam, the resolution of the weather sirens is not a hundred meters but a fraction, if not all, of a county. Usually, if a tornado is anywhere in a county all of the sirens in the county are sounded. And a culture of apathy has been put in place because there is virtual certainty that if a siren sounds there is no tornado nearby.
So if we want to blame someone for not providing adequate warning, blame the bureaucracies of local and county government, not the scientists. Blame the local conscript fathers (and mothers) who would rather spend money on something other than a useful warning system, who make a political show of having a system that is in many ways as dangerous as none at all.
The article goes on to ignore the obvious things that science can do to ameliorate tornadoes. First, tornadoes can be dissipated, at least temporarily, by dumping a thermal explosion into the rotating storm. Yes, this requires precision but no more than we commonly use now in war, and war often produces fewer casualties than do these storms. Yes, there may be some collateral damage but it may be less than leaving the storms to wreck their way. And we shall not know until there is sponsorship of the science. No academic is going to stand up and say let us attack tornadoes with army missiles!
But there is lower hanging fruit. Buildings along the Pacific Rim have to be built to withstand a certain strength of earthquakes. Are buildings in tornado country? The answer is a resounding no! The simple fact is that science has near term answers that can ameliorate tornadoes merely by altering how we build our houses and how we string power and telephone cables. Instead of raising poles it is easy to dig cable conduits similar to those being put into commercial buildings. And houses can be designed that will withstand tornadoes of one or two sigma force. These may cost a bit more initially, and require substantial education of the building and cable trades, but if this is not worth our investment, do not blame the scientists. Blame the monied autocrats!
If we cannot mend out ways to make safer homes and safer power and telephone structures, then we need to admit that loss of property and life, especially life, is not that important to us. Cease the maudlinity and blatant emotionalism, one way of the other. But cease the misplaced sentimentality and the pillorying of science.