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Friday, November 23, 2007

Monster waves less of a threat, really?

This NewScientist article entitled "Monster waves less of a threat with smart radar" by Paul Marks has been widely reported by many news outlets with the same headline. The news even impressed my fellow blog friend Robin Stormer, who also blogged about it.

I must confess that I don't think much about it. I feel compeled to say something because of the subject matter, even it's ho hum to me. Here are my rather contrarian view points:

First of all, if it is a monster wave, its threat can never be lessened. May be you might have some time to prepare for it, but that by no means lessens the threat. This is a down right fallacious title to begin with.

Next, the main advertising point is this picture:

which implies that if a ship is armed with this kind of information it will "give crews a fighting chance to either evade the waves, or at least batten down the hatches." The essence of the whoopla is a newly developed algorithm that produce the green picture on the right which identifies the size of the waves ahead. But the dark blue picture on the left is the radar result the ships now have. If the ship captains saw that there's a messy storm ahead in their shipping route, wouldn't they be prepared to cope with it anyway?

From the article's alluding to "Mariners' tales" I think there could be some intentional or unintentional attempt here to confuse monster with freaque waves. We know that a messy storm always associates with predictable large waves that can be considered as monster ones, but whether or not there's a freaque wave is not yet known. Trying to intermingle the terms is unconscionable.

The other more salient point is that if there's really a freaque wave ahead, a freaque wave is usually come out of nowhere and disappear after it had happened. So if a ship noticed a real freaque wave ahead, that will be a good thing for the record, but it will no longer constitute any threat for the ship at any rate.

The real threat from a monstrous freaque wave for each ship in reality is its totally uncertain, unknown, and unpredictable. You only know it happened after you encountered it. This new software device will not be of any help when that happens.

So in a nutshell, that's why I am not at all excited about this new software device. Especially the fact that the developers formed a new company to market the device. They are certainly entitled to do that in our free enterprise system. But then I can not help wondering: Is it a commercial advertisment or is it a science report? Somehow I failed to recognize that this new software is by any means particularly useful . And I can't be totally objective when I feel what I see is more of a hype than truly useful science.

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