The Internet has responded collaboratively to the lack of trust in official pronouncements about radiation levels in Japan. First, Shigeru Kobayashi aggregated geiger counter readings from around Japan. Then Haiyan Zhang, self-described interaction designer, technologist and maker of things, produced a Google maps mashup of Kobayashi’s data.
Click this image to view the actual interactive map.
Alexis Madrigal comments:
One of the key problems has been that people aren’t sure whether to trust the official measurements, no matter how many of them there are. Today, sociologist Zeynep Tufekci addressed the issue of lack of trust in institutions in her essay, “If We Built a Safer Nuclear Reactor, How Would We Know?”
I think I may have seen the beginnings of a way to build that trust in this crowdsourced map of Geiger counter readings from around Japan. It’s one thing to blindly trust the experts. It’s quite another to doublecheck them with a distributed network of 215 Geiger counters — forcing them to earn that trust.
This is DIY science with purpose.
Eamonn Fingleton, an ex-pat Irish financial journalist who lives in Tokyo, takes a decidedly contrarian view of the Japanese economy. Far from stagnating for 20 years, as received media wisdom would have it, Japan’s economy has been ticking along just fine, he contends.
Guest-blogging for James Fallows at TheAtlantic.com website (where Contrarian will take a guest-blogging turn the week of March 14), Fingleton cites a couple of inconvenient facts in support of his analysis:
- Japan’s current account surplus in 1990, regarded as the onset of its 20-year economic malaise, stood at $36 billion. By last year, it had risen to $194 billion.
- Over the same 20-year period, the yen rose 65 percent against the US dollar, the strongest performance of any major currency.
How can such facts be reconciled with the “two lost decades” story? I don’t think they can. There is clearly a contradiction here, and after studying the facts on the ground in Tokyo for decades I find it hard to avoid the implausible-sounding conclusion that the story of Japan’s stagnation is a media myth.
Certainly anyone who visits Japan these days is struck by the obvious affluence even among average citizens. The cars on the roads, for instance, are generally much larger and better equipped than in the 1980s (indeed state of the art navigation devices, for instance, are more or less standard on many models). Overseas vacation travel has more than doubled since the 1980s. The Japanese boast the world’s most advanced cell phones, and the biggest and best high-definition television screens. Japan’s already long life expectancy has increased by nearly two years. Its Internet connections are some of the world’s fastest — something like ten times faster on average than American speeds.
The rest of Fingleton’s argument is, to say the least, intriguing.
The scale is deceptive. This is not the ordinary crab we’re used to, but a giant Japanese spider crab (Macrocheira kaempferi), whose leg span (3.8 meters or 12.5 feet) and weight (up to 19 kg. or 41 lb.) make it the largest arthropod in the world. This time-lapse video was shot over a 6-hour period.
Received a note this morning from Colin Doyle in Osaka saying Contrarian was working just fine in Japan. Alas, within hours, an even more severe breakdown set in. Hostpapa‘s own systems were down throughout the day, so beleaguered help desk agents couldn’t even get in to see what might be wrong with the servers that run Contrarian and CBFilm.ca. This is one of North America’s biggest (and, I say again, normally most reliable) hosting companies, so the Oakville offices must have been going nuts. Service came back early this evening, and seems to be brisk once again. Let’s hope the problem is solved. Please let me know if trouble recurs. Apologies for the inconvenience, and ?? for your patience.