Thursday, September 24, 2009

Playing Russian Roulette

So the big news at the end of last week was that the "It's Our Fault" project had shown that the Wellington Fault was about 50% less likely to cause a large (magnitude 7.5) quake in the next 100 years than previously thought. Hurrah!

Project leader Russ Van Dissen, from GNS, likened this to playing Russian Roulette with a 10-shot revolver, where previously we thought that the revolver was loaded with three rounds, but now we think it's only loaded with one, giving us a 10% chance of a large earthquake on the Wellington Fault in the next 100 years.

Much better odds, but the problem is that you're still playing Russian Roulette! And not only are you playing it with the Wellington Fault, but also the Ohariu Fault, the Wairarapa Fault, the Alpine Fault and any other number of less well-studied active faults in the area. That's a lot of triggers to pull, and we don't know how many bullets are in those guns.

And besides, you are more likely to experience a big quake on the Wellington Fault each year than you are to win Lotto, and yet people still buy Lotto tickets instead of emergency supplies or earthquake restraints. If only persuading people to spend $5 a week on preparing themselves was as easy as it is to get them to buy a Lotto ticket! Oh, to have Lotto's budget...