from The Water's Edge

The World Next Week: The One-Year Anniversary of the Tsunami Disaster in Japan

March 08, 2012

A girl walks through rows of candles at a September 2011 event in Kesennuma, Japan, to commemorate those who died in the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan on March 11, 2011. (Kim Kyung Hoon/courtesy Reuters)
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The World Next Week podcast is up. Bob McMahon and I discussed the one-year anniversaries of the tsunami in Japan and the start of the Syrian uprising; British Prime Minister David Cameron’s two-day visit to Washington; and Pi Day.


The highlights:

  • The 9.0-magnitude earthquake that struck off the Japanese coast last March triggered the worst calamity that Japan has experienced since World War II. The Japanese people have displayed great courage and fortitude in the face of adversity, and the Japanese economy weathered what was a stiff blow. The severe damage to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility, however, looks to have derailed what had been a global renaissance in the nuclear power industry.
  • Kofi Annan, former UN secretary general and the new UN and Arab League envoy to Syria, is off to make the rounds of the Middle East. It’s not clear that his diplomatic effort will make much headway. The Syrian government has crushed the resistance in Homs. Meanwhile, leading Arab and Western governments continue to issue denunciations but show no signs of translating their words into deeds. Unless something dramatically new happens, the chance that the Syrian resistance might unseat the Assad government may have passed.
  • President Obama and Prime Minister Cameron will have a lot to talk about when they meet next week: Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, the eurozone crisis, and the upcoming NATO and G8 summits are just a few of the topics likely to be on the agenda. While Obama and Cameron focus on specific issues, expect pundits and commentators to spend a lot of time speculating whether the “special relationship” remains special.
  • March 14th is known as Pi Day because it abbreviates as 3/14, the first three numbers of the mathematical constant pi. Pi Day also happens to be Albert Einstein’s birthday—he was born in 1879—which gives the day extra cachet. Some 12,000 or so high school students are eagerly awaiting Pi Day this year because it’s rumored that MIT will post the results of its regular admissions process on March 14 at 1:59 PM. Why release such important information at such an odd time? Because that date and time gets written out as 3.14159, or the first six digits of Pi. That’s mathematical humor. [Alas, the rumor turns out to be only partly true. MIT just announced that it will post its admissions decisions on March 14 but at 6:28 PM.]
  • Bob’s Figure of the Week is Mitt Romney. My Figure of the Week is five. As always, you have to listen to the podcast to find out why.

Tom Chivers of the Telegraph hopes that scientists get better at predicting disasters in order to save lives, and David Lochbaum and Edwin Lyman write on CNN that nuclear reactors are still vulnerable. CBS reports that Bashar al-Assad is defying pressure to end fighting in Syria, and RIA Novosti says that newly-elected Russian president Vladimir Putin will not change his stance on Syria. The Guardian details Prime Minster David Cameron’s view that Iran is seeking to build a nuclear weapon, and the White House outlines the agenda for President Obama and Prime Minister Cameron’s meetings. Jon Borwein discusses on ABC Science why you should care about Pi Day, and tells you everything you need to know about pi.