Friday, September 30, 2011

Did You Feel It?

I thought it was a truck going by, but that's what I always think when the little earthquakes strike. It took me a moment to realize what it might be. It was near the end of the work day for me, but my laptop was still on, so I logged on to the U.S. Geological Survey site to find out that it was a magnitude 3.3 earthquake near Oakland, CA yesterday. I was far enough away that I barely felt it.

I reported it on the USGS "Did You Feel It?" page, adding my data to everyone else's, not just because I've been studying statistics lately but because it's exciting to make even a small contribution to science. I showed a printout of responses to my children later and they were interested, too; one of them had felt the earthquake, the other had not.

The USGS site shows math and science in action, data gathered and maps produced for the public good. It's much more interesting to see concepts applied than to, say, memorize the times table. Science that you can feel, hear, and touch is fun to learn, and Americans definitely need to learn more science (perhaps starting with Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann and her misguided comments on HPV vaccination).

I wanted to thank the USGS for making science fun and relevant yesterday. Did I feel it? Yes - surprise and excitement and a twinge of worry as the earthquake passed through and I looked up its magnitude online. Did my kids feel it? Yes - surprise and excitement as they realized that science had just rattled their world a little.

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