Facing the tragedy in Japan I am not posting any my_favorites type of posting this week. Instead I want to elaborate just a bit about the topic of information mining, “truth” and “trust”.
I believe information mining is what we all do a lot in these days. We watch the news, read the papers, may be seek further sources of information to grasp what is really going on in Japan, what the impact will be in Japan, in neighbor countries and around the globe. I am actually not writing about the massive earthquake and tsunami killing thousands of people, I am more focusing on the serious trouble with those nuclear reactor in Fukushima.
I don’t know about you, but I have consumed a lot of information about this. Did it make me smarter ? To some extent. Did I find the truth about what has been happening and is going to happen ? No. Can I trust anyone, the smart looking, or sometimes very anxious looking speaker in TV, the “experts” they call in ( some of them are experts, everyone is an expert in something, how do I know, how do I verify ? ), the politicians in Japan, our politicians in Germany, the management of TEPCO ? I don’t know. Which basically is a no.
Where is the truth ? Everyone has his or her own agenda, and is “speaking the truth” part of it ? Would the truth may be hurt more people then help ? Is the truth simply unknown, but experts can’t show this to not cause more panic ? And finally, doesn’t everyone have his own version of the truth ? And depending on what you tend to believe you pick the people you believe as trusted sources of information. In other words: you hear what you want to hear.
The best article I found so far was “Fukushima Nuclear Accident – a simple and accurate explanation” on the bravenewclimate site, their latest update is here. As valuable as the article are the hundreds of comments I saw there. What I liked about these articles is that they try to come up with as much facts as possible and with a more scientific and fact-based attitude, more than any of the news reports I saw in TV or the internet. Are these facts true ? I don’t know. Who is sponsoring this site ? I don’t know. Can I trust this site ? No. Only to some extent.
Where is the truth ? Somewhere in between all these pieces of information I receive. To some extend.
I need to do my own information mining again. I admit I went out to Wikipedia to learn about Sievert: what is it, what is a natural dose, where is the limit to call it harmless, where is the limit when it starts to harm your health ?
There are so many ways to measure radiation ( and Sievert was invented to more normalize and focus on the impact on the human body no matter what type of radiation we encounter ) and this unit of measure is not something we use every day and are very familiar with. Even the speaker of TEPCO confused micro-Sievert with milli-Sievert some days ago.
Let me conclude: even in the era of knowledge management and the power of the internet with all its search and hyper-linking capabilities and all the media we have at the end we are left alone when it comes to find the “truth”, the ultimate knowledge. May be actually “truth” is a myth, there is only “knowledge”, and everyone has its own. Which basically is “belief”.