13th March 2011
On Saturday morning, I noticed a particularly dangerous meme (for want of a better word), making the rounds on Twitter.
Basically, this image was being retweeted over 25 times a minute.
After some digging around, I managed to trace the source of the image (that is, it's first known posting) to the /x/ board on 4chan.
Tweetmeme also reports over 400 retweets, but I'm certain that the actual figure is much much higher.
So, the main thing that I take issue with, is that the image was being interpreted as fact, rather than a simulation, or prediction of what might happen. There is mass panic in Japan already, the last thing we need (as humanity) is the panic and hysteria to spread to the west coast of the USA.
While I am not a nuclear physicist, and cannot directly comment on the state of the nuclear reactors. I can definitely say that there is something seriously wrong with taking this kind of "map" as fact.
One of the most interesting things about this, aside from @ryphons not stating the original source (Was he the original creator?), is that the company whose logo is on the image "Australian Radiation Services" have no record, on their website, or on google's index of their site, of the image being theirs.
That should be raising red flags for you already.
Combine that with the fact that the apparent source of the image was twitter, and prior to that, 4chan, that most reputable news agency (!), and it should be fairly clear why I made the decision to attempt to stem the spread of this image across twitter.
I came under quite a lot of flak from a number of tweeps, who were concerned that I was playing down the situation. Rightly so. I am / was trying to prevent undue panic and the spread of misinformation.
Twitter is an incredibly powerful tool, allowing fairly free transfer of information between large groups of individuals. Sadly it's also got lots of wankers, spreading Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt. It's this that we (as the clever people on Twitter) need to stop.
There are many sources of valid information about the situation in Japan, notably from @arclight and blogging scientists like (http://morgsatlarge.wordpress.com/2011/03/13/why-i-am-not-worried-about-japans-nuclear-reactors)
I am a scientist. I don't believe in "god", I don't believe in "karma", and I certainly don't approve of trash media. I believe in factual information, and interpretations thereof by qualified individuals.
I don't read the Daily Mail for exactly the same reason. What you've got to bear in mind is that the media outlets are in this for the money. They'll continue to print uncertain and scaremongering drivel, because that's what people buy, out of uncertainty, or purely morbid curiosity. Sad fact of the matter is, that tabloid quality news outsells fact and science by quite a large margin.
That alone, as a fact is quite sad.
Tom can set ants on fire with a magnifying glass. At night.