While going through the avalanche of Sandy news today — the flooding, the power outages, the destroyed homes, the fires — I only came across three references to a fact that for me had stood out above all others: that this storm’s unusual path, unusual strength, and record-setting flood levels at various locations had all been predicted days in advance.
Every American in the path of this storm had the modern luxury of advance notice of the dangers. There was plenty of time to evacuate, or to board up windows, lay in a bottled water supply, and stay off the streets. In New York City, with a population of 8.2 million people, there are only 10 dead (as of Mayor Bloomberg’s most recent press conference). Imagine what that toll would look like if the city or any of the low-lying areas of New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania had been caught by surprise. Or any of the eastern seaboard.
Nate Silver, possibly the best known statistician in the US, tweeted:
CAN’T BELIEVE METEOROLOGISTS USED MATH AND SCIENCE TO PREDICT THIS STORM. THEY MUST BE MAGIC WIZARDS.
Exactly. Wouldn’t it be fabulous if the politicians in the US recognized this fact? Hey, how about a letter?
Dear US Politicians:
Well-educated people who know a lot of math and science saved truckloads of American lives last night. Could we maybe stop demonizing them as “elites” now? And quit using them as a political dog whistle?
And could we maybe begin reinvesting in our science agencies and grants, and our scientific infrastructure, rather than railing against them as “government waste” and cutting their budgets to the bone?
Also — and I realize I’m really dreaming here — could we actually give credit to our geeky scientists when their work either saves lives or makes a substantial contribution to our society? You see, if we did that, we’d have more young people wanting to be scientists, because it would be seen as a cool and valuable job. And that would benefit all of us.
Misrepresenting and demonizing them in order to gain votes? That doesn’t benefit all of us. Maybe you ought to lay off that tactic before enough Americans realize who it does benefit.
A Concerned Citizen