Tuesday, September 23, 2008

SCEC Day Three

Apparently, if I set deadlines for myself (as opposed to following other people's deadlines set for me), I completely fail to meet them. Oops. That said...


My adviser showed up on Monday morning, which was a definitely relief for me in terms of the social aspect of the conference. I'd already been getting a lot out of the science by just listening, but I'd been feeling really shy about approaching people and talking. It's like I got this mental block where they were all Big Prominent Important Scientists and I was newbie-with-a-music-degree. Fortunately, my adviser is very outgoing, and he started introducing me to all kinds of people and initiating all sorts of conversations. I'm sure I'll get better at starting conversations myself the longer I'm in the field, but this time would have made for a very quiet Julian if not for my adviser.

There were three talks in the morning, all related to The Great Southern-California ShakeOut, a huge earthquake drill slated for this November, which many others in the geoblogosphere have addressed. The first of these talks focused on the scenario itself - a magnitude 7.8 quake on the San Andreas, rupturing from Bombay Beach to just south of Tejon Pass. (I actually still wonder about the choice of stopping point, since it's not quite to the bend yet. My research thus far has to do with how bends and stepovers of particular lengths and angles stop rupture, and so far, none of my models - very simplified though they may be - stop before hitting the first corner/bend. So I want to know more about that choice for ShakeOut!) This first talk also discussed of of the events associated with ShakeOut other than the earthquake drill itself, most prominently a Quake Awareness Fair in Los Angeles. The second of the talks took off from there, discussing further ways to raise public awareness and to further research. It was only in the course of this talk that I found out that UCR was not slated to participate in ShakeOut, which I find pretty inexcusable, since we're one of the core institutions of SCEC. Since then, we've managed to get the school administration's attention, so there's still hope and time for us to get involved. The third of the morning's talks was about planned emergency response to the ShakeOut scenario, and I have to admit that this particular talk got dull quickly. Very important stuff was outlined in it, but important does not mean it's necessarily interesting to listen to.

Day Three of the conference was also the day that the actual science planning part of the meeting got started. I went to the planning session for the Extreme Ground Motion focus group, and the discussion was less about the actual science of ground motion and more squabbling over how to word the focus group's objectives for the next year's Official Science Plan. The highlight of this discussion was that some figures based on models an undergraduate friend of mine ran were put up on the big screen and discussed for a while; they were mentioned as the work of her adviser, though, and I could tell that my adviser wanted to get up and say they were the work of an undergrad, but he refrained from doing so. My friend felt pretty awesome about that all for the rest of the day, though, at least as far as I could tell.

There was one more big group talk after lunch, and it was tangentially about ShakeOut, in that it used the simulation as a springboard for engineers to re-evaluate the building code. The discussion quickly got away from the actual earthquake and went into statistical methods employed by engineers to figure out best-case and worst-case scenarios. My eyes admittedly started crossing a little from it all, though I did pick up that this speaker, like so many other people at SCEC, was of the opinion that Riverside is going to be completely screwed when The Big One hits.

The same posters that were up on Sunday stayed up through Monday, so I took the afternoon poster session time to attempt to make some quicktime movies of my models, which I realized only during the conference that I'd forgotten to do in advance. This was tricky, because the server on which I'd run the models had been hacked several days before SCEC, so remote logins were super tightly guarded. My adviser fortunately was able to get in, but only with a very slow connection, and then the files turned out to be too huge anyway.

Monday's dinner was the only indoor meal of the whole conference; the air conditioned venue was to honor a few members of SCEC who were retiring/going to different jobs. There were enough people discussed that, if we'd honored each on a different night, there could have been several air-conditioned dinners. Why did nobody else think of this?! At dinner, I got into a conversation with the same USGS person who told me about Salton Sea explosives that somehow led to me pulling out some of the earthquake-related art I've done. She seemed to really enjoy it, and told me the names of several people she felt really needed to see this stuff. Finding those people became part of my mission for the rest of the conference.

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