Lamont Weekly Report, August 26 2011

On Tuesday, around 13:56, while I was sitting in Hogan Hall going over our upcoming NSF meeting about the Langseth, my daughter tweeted that she had just felt an earthquake. The Virginia earthquake occurred at around 13:51. It takes about a minute for the P-wave to reach the NYC metro area, and about another minute for a large waveset (a kind of surface wave) to hit, which is presumably what she felt. So now I know that my daughter's telecom latency is about 3 minutes. This is a very useful number.

I got my USGS SMS notification of the quake at about 14:04. The Lamont Cooperative Seismic Network (the name was originally coined by Doug Johnson when he was running the network; it's now operated by Won-Young Kim, Mitch Gold and John Contino) sends data in real time to the USGS as part of the US Advanced National Seismic System, the
nation's earthquake-monitoring network. Lamont has been running networks in one form or another since its inception, and has been officially responsible for quake monitoring in the northeast since the seventies.

The quake was widely felt in NYC and at Lamont. I didn't feel it in Hogan, further reinforcing the sense of isolation I often get on Morningside (I'm just kidding). It was widely felt along almost the entire East Coast and inland, which is expected for an earthquake of this size with an epicenter at the edge of the North American Craton. Of course it was felt in Washington DC, where Senate staff are working on their versions of the science agency appropriation bills. With the
Washington Monument closed indefinitely because of quake damage, now we can implement our own version of the 'Washington Monument Strategy' (I'm not kidding).

As expected, our seismology group with an assist from MG&G -  responded professionally, providing dozens of press interviews and supplying technical information to emergency services throughout the region. I'd like to call out the special efforts of David Funkhouser and Kim Martineau who triaged the press requests, and Bonnie Bonkowski and Dana Miller who managed the logistics. Won-Young and his crew traveled down to the epicentral region to meet up with other USGS and university seismologists to blanket the area with instruments for an aftershock survey. This was the largest earthquake to hit the East in decades, and certainly the largest eastern intraplate quake to be recorded with state-of-the-art instrumentation. Intraplate quakes remain a scientific puzzle because they don't fit easily into the plate
tectonic paradigm. Equally important, the acceleration readings from modern instrumentation will feed directly into improvements in building codes and risk assessment and will undoubtedly play a role in the ongoing relicensing discussions for nuclear power plants.

Not to be outdone, here comes Irene. We should expect power interruptions. Secure your offices and labs! You should have already received an email from Columbia's Emergency Management Team with useful information. Howie Matza sent around a link for Lamont's own Emergency Notification System. It's useful and efficient. Here's the link:

We are beginning to get serious pushback from funding agencies regarding the purchase of commodity computing, even if it is identified as necessary for the project. Please pay particular attention to the wording you use when requesting laptops and peripherals in your budgets: your DAs can assist. Let my office know if you are experiencing pushback during award negotiations. Meanwhile, during its next few meetings, OMG will be looking at ways to ease the situation.

Repeating an earlier announcement, Lamont Research Professors do not need waivers to request IRB approval. Please make sure that your RASCAL and IRB request info notes that you are a 'Lamont Research Professor' of appropriate rank, not an Associate (or higher) Research Scientist. This has been the problem in a few cases.

We're about ready to submit a draft of our Diversity Plan:2011-2014 to the Provost. Kuheli Dutt and her task force have managed
in a relatively short time to put together a comprehensive document describing issues, findings and strategies going forward. Many thanks to the task force for taking this on and producing a great report. We'll post it in a few weeks.

DEES Orientation will happen on Wednesday, August 31, when we welcome 16 PhD students and 49 Climate & Society masters students. They will be touring Lamont (leaving Comer Seminar Room at 2:45PM: Secure your offices and labs!) and there will be a Lamont-wide party from 5pm-7pm out behind Lamont Hall. People new to Lamont are welcome to join the tour, and everyone is encouraged to come to the party.

I can't resist. This is from one of my go-to blog sites: A jury found that a professor, who had closed a laptop on the fingers of a student who was web surfing in his lecture class, was not guilty of assault. The headline: 'Professor cleared of battery charges in laptop case'.