Eighty nine years ago, on 3 February, my home district of Hawke’s Bay was laid waste by a massive earthquake that destroyed the two main centres, damaged a wide swath of central New Zealand, and killed at least 256. Hundreds more were seriously injured, and thousands hurt in ways that many did not bother to … More Remembering the Quake of ’31
I saw reports a few weeks back, suggesting that the pilot of the Lion Air Boeing 737 Max 8 that crashed off Indonesia last year spent the last minutes of his life frantically looking through the operating manual to find out how to prevent the aircraft from diving, against their control inputs. Just the day … More What happens when we’re caught by ‘automation surprise’?
It’s the eighty-seventh anniversary today of New Zealand’s most lethal historical disaster; the Hawke’s Bay earthquake. Around 10.47 am on the sunny morning of 3 February, a magnitude 7.8 quake struck the district and threw the towns of Napier and Hastings into ruin. Damage extended from Gisborne in the north to Whanganui in the south-west, … More Remembering the Hawke’s Bay quake of ’31 – and the ‘big ones’ of 1460
Something slightly scary occurred to me the other day. Analysis of the Mw 7.8 quake that ripped through central New Zealand last November suggests it was awesomely complex. We usually imagine quakes being caused when one fault line moves. Or maybe two or three faults, because faults tend to exist in connected systems. And often, … More The earthquake apocalypse – it’s coming. Probably.
It’s been a rough week so far in New Zealand. How rough? Well, most of us were woken in the first minutes of Monday by the biggest onshore quake since 2009, and – at a magnitude of 7.5 – the largest to occur near any main population centres since 1931. [Update: figure officially revised to … More Earthquake, tsunami and floods…
It seems this week that Russia’s ‘Investigating Committee’ wants an investigation into the US moon landings of 1969-72 – not so much to reveal them as fake, but to find out where missing moon rocks have gone. I know where one is – a scrap weighing less than 1 gm, which is in the Carter … More Is Russia stirring up the moon landing loon conspiracies?
This week’s news that a previously unsuspected magnitude 8+ mega-quake could hit central New Zealand and then douse the place with tsunami isn’t too surprising to me. I wrote the most recent pop-sci book on our earthquakes. It was published by Penguin Random House last year. While I was writing the book I had a chat … More And now Kiwis are facing a potential mega-quake and tsunami. But of course…
I started writing this post after the Orbital Sciences rocket explosion earlier this week. Unmanned, nothing hurt except pride and stock price. I was going to begin with a joke about how the sound of a rocket blowing up is spelt. Then news came of the Virgin Galactic tragedy during test flight on Friday, and … More Putting this week’s space tragedies into perspective. It’s ROCKET science, folks
New Zealand has been hit by three significant earthquakes in the last two days. Luckily not strong enough to do damage, and remote enough that even a larger shake would have been more nuisance than apocalypse. But they are a sharp reminder that we live on some very ‘shaky isles’. The next one might well bring tragedy. … More Why New Zealand doesn’t need to worry about a zombie apocalypse
A major earthquake rattled much of the southern North Island of New Zealand during the early hours of Tuesday morning – magnitude 5.5. It woke Kiwis from southern Hawke’s Bay to Wellington and was classed as ‘strong’ by our seismologists. Luckily nobody was hurt, and no damage was reported. Good news in a land where … More Living on shaky ground – out this week