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IBM Says New Software Will Help Predict Natural Disasters

samzenpus posted more than 3 years ago | from the whole-lotta-shaking-going-on dept.

IBM 72

coondoggie writes "IBM says it has patented a natural disaster warning system, which uses analytic techniques that accurately and precisely conducts post-event analysis of seismic events, such as earthquakes, as well as provide early warnings for tsunamis, which can follow earthquakes. The invention also provides the ability to rapidly measure and analyze the damage zone of an earthquake to help prioritize emergency response needed following an earthquake."

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Oh Really? (1, Insightful)

DarkKnightRadick (268025) | more than 3 years ago | (#34003514)

So they are claiming to be able to predict the unpredictable? I want absolute proof of their claims.

Re:Oh Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34003546)

I know a couple of devices that can help. Nuclear warheads: you destroy earth, therefore reducing the probability of natural disasters to zero. That's what we call the brute force approach.

time scale and prior information density (1)

G3ckoG33k (647276) | more than 3 years ago | (#34003562)

If they can predict a volcano eruption let us say 40 minutes in advance, why not?! Like weather it is probably a matter of time scale and prior information density.

____ ____ ____ ____
"dyslectic people seem to be stupid and now it is a proven fact that they realy are. haha. learn to read losers."
From http://www.knowledgerush.com/kr/encyclopedia/Dyslectic/ [knowledgerush.com]

Re:time scale and prior information density (4, Insightful)

DarkKnightRadick (268025) | more than 3 years ago | (#34003654)

The thing is, they can't. As others have pointed out from actually reading TFA, the software is to help prioritize disaster relief efforts, not predict the unpredictable.

Let me know how your fortune telling pans out (even so-called weather prediction is actually just a forecast based on statistical models that generally do not hold up, hence why such "predictions" can only be made with a degree of certainty leading up to a probability of 0 (for a non-event) or 1 (for an event) at the time predicted.

Re:time scale and prior information density (1)

budgenator (254554) | more than 3 years ago | (#34004914)

The thing is, they can't. As others have pointed out from actually reading TFA, the software is to help prioritize disaster relief efforts, not predict the unpredictable.

Let me know how your fortune telling pans out (even so-called weather prediction is actually just a forecast based on statistical models that generally do not hold up, hence why such "predictions" can only be made with a degree of certainty leading up to a probability of 0 (for a non-event) or 1 (for an event) at the time predicted.

Actually they are not predicting the event but are predicting the damage radius from the event. There is a damage zone where buildings look OK but really are dangerous to occupy, being able to predict how big this zone is would be very useful, you don't want to use a building that will fall down in the next after-shock as a shelter. The existing network has some serious latency, the last Earthquake I felt here in Michigan took an hour to get posted to IRIS [iris.edu] .

Re:time scale and prior information density (1)

DarkKnightRadick (268025) | more than 3 years ago | (#34005684)

Now stuff like that IS predictable. Forecasting volcanic eruptions with any certainty? Or the weather? Have fun with that. I'll focus on what's important (damage control) and not worry about the rest.

Re:time scale and prior information density (1)

nospam007 (722110) | more than 3 years ago | (#34006660)

Usually the idea is to get the (kitchen sink) patent then wait for somebody to come up with a clever idea and sue their ass off.

Re:time scale and prior information density (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34006860)

Usually? Do you have a single example of IBM ever doing that?

Re:time scale and prior information density (1)

BitZtream (692029) | more than 3 years ago | (#34008996)

There is no such thing as 'unpredictable'. There is just 'too hard for us to predict with our current level of technology and available resources'

Re:time scale and prior information density (1)

DarkKnightRadick (268025) | more than 3 years ago | (#34010582)

You can never account for every last variable. You can never 100% say that the "weather is going to do such and such on such and such date" because something might come along and change those conditions. The same with volcanoes and earthquakes.

Predict it? I can! (1)

janerules (940212) | more than 3 years ago | (#34012816)

Natural disasters happen where construction standards are poor and people have built on poor foundations and in low lying areas. Earthquakes don't really destroy everything, unless we're talking about living in shantyville. Raise construction standards for the poor and cease disasters. Hell, raise standards for poor areas and remove hundreds of different disasters that come with being poor, like crime and violence.

Re:Predict it? I can! (1)

DarkKnightRadick (268025) | more than 3 years ago | (#34013002)

No, disasters don't go away because of better building standards. They are only mitigated. What you are talking about is the human toll of natural disasters. Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, hurricanes, tornadoes, and the like won't go away simply because we have built better buildings. They'll still eventually destroy anything and everything we can construct.

Re:Oh Really? (4, Informative)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 3 years ago | (#34003620)

"So they are claiming to be able to predict the unpredictable?"

No, that's just the all to familiar sensationalist headline.

Re:Oh Really? (2, Insightful)

DarkKnightRadick (268025) | more than 3 years ago | (#34003680)

I should have realized this. /., once site that really had news for nerds on stuff that mattered. Now it's yellow-dog journalism at its best/worst.

Re:Oh Really? (1)

vbraga (228124) | more than 3 years ago | (#34003662)

The former company I used to work for had a project like this (not for IBM but for my local government). Very roughly it did not really prediction, like the article says, but it would map cells, and given information (like millimeters of rain, wind data, seismic data, and so on ) on these cells and it's neighborhood, it would draw a map with given risk, in an arbitrary scale, for each area.

It's open source software, so, if it interests you, it's available here [dpi.inpe.br] .

Re:Oh Really? (1)

DarkKnightRadick (268025) | more than 3 years ago | (#34003696)

Statistical analysis software at its best. (:

URL is 404 Not Found

Re:Oh Really? (2, Informative)

vbraga (228124) | more than 3 years ago | (#34003708)

Thank you for pointing it out. The correct URL is : http://www.dpi.inpe.br/sismaden/english/index.php [dpi.inpe.br] .

Re:Oh Really? (1)

DarkKnightRadick (268025) | more than 3 years ago | (#34005698)

Thanks, I think I'll some fun with this. (:

Re:Oh Really? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34003668)

Earthquakes, tsunamis everything is perfectly predictable if you have enough data and processing power. Look at how weather is being predicted all over the world for years.

Re:Oh Really? (1)

DarkKnightRadick (268025) | more than 3 years ago | (#34003692)

Not predicted, statistically modeled with a great degree of accuracy (that is a hair worth splitting).

Re:Oh Really? (1)

brian_tanner (1022773) | more than 3 years ago | (#34003790)

Not predicted, statistically modeled with a great degree of accuracy (that is a hair worth splitting).

As someone who is comfortable with statistics and machine learning, I have to wonder what you're driving at here? You started by making a sort of "Guffaw!" statement about predicting the unpredictable. And now you're trying to be pretty precise about separating prediction from accurate modelling. What bone are you picking? This is an honest question: what is the egregious misuse of terminology that you are arguing against?

And before you answer (if you will), I'm asking independently of the actual summary or TFA. I don't care much about that. Let say this started out with someone saying they had invented a machine that can predict earthquakes (with some important provisos). It's my belief that the rest of your comments still naturally follow. So lets say the claim is that someone can use a bunch of sensor readings integrated with a computer model to model the relevant forces with sufficient fidelity that the model allows actions to be taken (like evacuations or "get in the basement with some bottled water" warnings, or whatever). Is this fundamentally impossible for some reason, or does it just not match a definition of prediction that I'm missing?

Re:Oh Really? (1)

brian_tanner (1022773) | more than 3 years ago | (#34003798)

Note: I misread the thread structure and thought the parent of my post was a different post, so feel free to ignore me.

Re:Oh Really? (1)

slick7 (1703596) | more than 3 years ago | (#34004314)

Not predicted, statistically modeled with a great degree of accuracy (that is a hair worth splitting).

As someone who is comfortable with statistics and machine learning, I have to wonder what you're driving at here? You started by making a sort of "Guffaw!" statement about predicting the unpredictable. And now you're trying to be pretty precise about separating prediction from accurate modelling. What bone are you picking? This is an honest question: what is the egregious misuse of terminology that you are arguing against? And before you answer (if you will), I'm asking independently of the actual summary or TFA. I don't care much about that. Let say this started out with someone saying they had invented a machine that can predict earthquakes (with some important provisos). It's my belief that the rest of your comments still naturally follow. So lets say the claim is that someone can use a bunch of sensor readings integrated with a computer model to model the relevant forces with sufficient fidelity that the model allows actions to be taken (like evacuations or "get in the basement with some bottled water" warnings, or whatever). Is this fundamentally impossible for some reason, or does it just not match a definition of prediction that I'm missing?

I remember someone saying; "There are lies, damned lies and statistics"

Re:Oh Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34005114)

"There are ugly, damn ugly and your mom"

Re:Oh Really? (1)

DarkKnightRadick (268025) | more than 3 years ago | (#34005730)

Prediction is the 100% accurate forecasting of future events with out any error. Modeling, like is done with the weather, is done with a margin of error (I'm not sure how much so I won't even bother trying to guess). They are fairly accurate but never 100% over time.

So, to summarize what I just said:

Prediction: Accurate 100% of the time over any length of time
Forecast/Modeling: Accurate to within a certain period of time (sometimes its really short, sometimes it isn't), at which point inaccuracies start happening

Re:Oh Really? (1)

brian_tanner (1022773) | more than 3 years ago | (#34005860)

Ok. That's not a definition of prediction that I think anyone in statistics or machine learning would find particularly interesting.

I would say that a prediction is simply a statement about a future event. Systems that make predictions (predictors) can have varying degrees of accuracy. Few predictors are 100% accurate, considering the large number of low probability (and usually unmodeled) events. Even a perfect weather predictor may be in error if the power goes out or an asteroid hits the earth.

Any outcome with even the smallest uncertainty is unpredictable, but your definition (if I understand). That doesn't seem useful. I'd argue that if something is predictable *enough* that the predictions can reliably be used to improve utility, then the predictor has value.

Re:Oh Really? (1)

DarkKnightRadick (268025) | more than 3 years ago | (#34010602)

Most of what is unpredictable is forecastable.

Re:Oh Really? (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 3 years ago | (#34006758)

Only the Sith and mathematicians deal in absolutes.

Re:Oh Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34003794)

Now, if they could only get IBM Systems Director to work like it's supposed to.

Re:Oh Really? (2, Informative)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 3 years ago | (#34003846)

Erm.. they're claiming to be able to predict tsunamis in the aftermath of earthquakes, not the earthquakes themselves.

Although earthquakes, too, should be predictable if you can get the right measuring equipment in the right places: "just" measure the strain, and when it gets close to the slip point, earthquake is likely.

Anyway, the software IBM is talking about doesn't do that. It takes the earthquake as data input, and spits out the likely damage resulting as information output. Something that is both useful, and not impossible.

Re:Oh Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34004316)

Although earthquakes, too, should be predictable if you can get the right measuring equipment in the right places: "just" measure the strain, and when it gets close to the slip point, earthquake is likely.

As is typical around here, the problem is vastly oversimplified. Or maybe you can tell us what the "slip point" is in different places and under different conditions. As someone with a background in geophysics, I can tell you that there isn't a correct answer. Also it's funny that you put the emphasis on the measuring the strain part, implying that that's the difficult part. In fact, that's the easier of the two.

Re:Oh Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34004032)

Well actually it says they are able to predict post event seismic activity, which can give early warning of an impending tsunami and where the tsunami may affect. It also says it will be able to predict what areas will need the most help.

Re:Oh Really? (1)

DarkKnightRadick (268025) | more than 3 years ago | (#34005754)

See, I thought we already had software that could do that.

Re:Oh Really? (1)

slick7 (1703596) | more than 3 years ago | (#34004290)

So they are claiming to be able to predict the unpredictable? I want absolute proof of their claims.

I will believe it when they predict an intelligent decision from the government, how's that for unpredictability?

Re:Oh Really? (1)

DarkKnightRadick (268025) | more than 3 years ago | (#34005770)

No kidding.

Re:Oh Really? (1)

vtcodger (957785) | more than 3 years ago | (#34004556)

Predicting is easy. It's being right that is hard

As Shakespeare would have it:
    GLENDOWER. I can call spirits from the vasty deep.
    HOTSPUR. Why, so can I, or so can any man; But will they come when you do call for them?
            The Tempest

Re:Oh Really? (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 3 years ago | (#34004820)

So they are claiming to be able to predict the unpredictable? I want absolute proof of their claims.

No, they're claiming that they can do post-event (that means after the fact, if it's not obvious) analysis of an earthquake or other unpredictable event, and then predict the entirely predictable tsunami caused by same.

Re:Oh Really? (1)

DarkKnightRadick (268025) | more than 3 years ago | (#34005786)

The submission stinks in accuracy. Granted this is /. and is almost a 100% given.

Concentric circles? (3, Funny)

mfnickster (182520) | more than 3 years ago | (#34003532)

Can they predict series of concentric circles emanating from a red dot?

Once the red dot appears, it's too late for the little rows of human figures.

News (1)

mrops (927562) | more than 3 years ago | (#34007160)

In related news, IBM today filed a patent that uses random number generators to predict real world events. Study claims the accuracy of this new approach is already twice as accurate as weather forecasting.

PowerBall (1)

inthealpine (1337881) | more than 3 years ago | (#34003540)

Don't they know you always use that power to win the lottery first.

Re:PowerBall (2, Interesting)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 3 years ago | (#34003854)

If you're talking about psychics, the reason more of them don't win the lottery is that they can also take a peek at what happens after they win the lottery. Which they might not like.

no use that power for finding roulette wheel bias (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 3 years ago | (#34004640)

no use that power for finding roulette wheel bias.

Re:no use that power for finding roulette wheel bi (1)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 3 years ago | (#34007646)

roulette wheel bias? Before or after they push the button under the table?

Too late... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34003544)

Hurricane Palin has already done too much damage.

Actual article (3, Informative)

Eevee (535658) | more than 3 years ago | (#34003552)

The actual article is from CNN [cnn.com] .

"Patented", eh? (2, Interesting)

ibsteve2u (1184603) | more than 3 years ago | (#34003564)

So if you've paid the entry fee - and you're all paid up on the monthlies - they'll save your/city's/county's/state's/country's lives?

Re:"Patented", eh? (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 3 years ago | (#34003736)

Why not? Large part of medicine is patented, too...

Bad summary (2, Informative)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 3 years ago | (#34003584)

Two keywords:

POST EVENT

ie there is no "prediction" of the event - only of its impact on nearby humans. Sensationalism at its best.

Re:Bad summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34003870)

It depends whether you consider a earthquake-triggered tsunami to be the effect of a disaster, or the disaster itself.

Just a thought. (1)

inthealpine (1337881) | more than 3 years ago | (#34003610)

Okay, I actually read TFA (don't worry only enough to make a snide comment).

If properly employed -- and connected to a large network of similar computers -- it could be used to map out the aftermath of an earthquake quickly, speeding up the work of emergency responders and potentially saving lives.

Maybe I haven't thought this though, but if there was an earthquake might it not bring the local ISP down? Power, infrastructure damage, etc. would really make this unreliable. It's like when the power goes out in your town and everyone waits for the first person to say something stupid like "The air conditioning isn't working and it's going to be hot, well I guess we should put some box fans in the windows. Hey, can someone check on the computer and see whats going on?"

Terrible title (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34003626)

I realize the title came straight from the Network World article, but nowhere is any mention of the ability to "predict" made in the article. They say that information gathered can be used to help prioritize early response to a disaster, but that's a far cry from being able to have knowledge of the disaster in advance of it happening.

And what now? (1)

Voulnet (1630793) | more than 3 years ago | (#34003720)

So they're gonna sue the canaries and birds?

A better patent would be ... (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 3 years ago | (#34003746)

IBM says it has patented a natural disaster. (I just truncated the summary text).

Any countries experiencing natural disasters would have to pay patent fees.

"Yo! You want emergency relief help? You pay your patent fees first!"

Re:A better patent would be ... (2, Funny)

Nerdfest (867930) | more than 3 years ago | (#34003844)

To be fair, they already covered the "Unnatural disaster" with "Lotus Notes".

How hard? (1)

michaelmalak (91262) | more than 3 years ago | (#34003768)

How hard is it to provide a data feed from HAARP?

RTFA (2, Informative)

RevWaldo (1186281) | more than 3 years ago | (#34003820)

The headline sucks but the idea is in the "OK, that pretty clever" category:

According to Big Blue, the invention would require a piece of software running on each machine in a data center that would gather data generated by vibration sensors, known as MEMS accelerometers, within computer hard disk drives to analyze information generated by seismic events. This technique is enabled by collecting hard drive sensor data and transmitting it via high speed networking to a data processing center, which can analyze the data, classify the events, and enrich the data -- in real time, IBM says.

From there, it can be determined exactly when a seismic event started, how long a seismic event lasted, the intensity of a seismic event, the frequency of motion of a seismic event, direction of motion of a seismic event, IBM says. This invention is able to crowd-source important earthquake IBM stated.

Combine this data with the WTF was that?" posts on Twitter [xkcd.com] and you're all set. (Also, don't many new laptops also have accelerometers? Quake@Home!)

.

Re:RTFA (1)

Nerdfest (867930) | more than 3 years ago | (#34003852)

I seem to remember seeing the trick of using hard drive sensors for picking up and analysing seismic data a few years ago. If it wasn't them (from the article I remember reading) there's prior art out there for at least part of the patent.

Re:RTFA (1)

budgenator (254554) | more than 3 years ago | (#34005182)

I'm not sure that the MEMS sensors used in hardrives would tell you anything useful, in seismology 60 Hz is high frequency and 0.01 Hz is low frequency and it seems that this would be well out of the MEMS band of sensitivity, the amplitudes aren't always that high either. Additionally a data center seems like it would have massive amounts of audio frequency vibrations from cooling fans, lots of 60Hz noise from AC power and lower frequency rumbles from the HVAC systems operation. This just seems like a computational nightmare. I've thought that a seismograph could be constructed using laser mice as the detectors, instead of magnetic coils. easier to work with using retired computers.

Re:RTFA (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 3 years ago | (#34008232)

If you have a whole array of disks and precise understanding of when they fired (a clock with more resolution than the sensor) then you might be able to compare a whole bunch of sensors' data to get useful information.

Waiting for the lottery prediction software (1)

drHirudo (1830056) | more than 3 years ago | (#34003824)

They will be able to predict the nature? The nature is much more complex than the lottery. Why nobody released a working lottery prediction software? I am sure it will sell millions.

Re:Waiting for the lottery prediction software (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34003960)

We can predict sunrise/sunset times and eclipses down to one second a century ahead. It is lottery that is much harder.

RRoD? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34004094)

Microsoft might save billions, then.

fivrst (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34004848)

that FreeBSD is = 36440 FreeBSD I type this. stagnant. As Linux , a proud member formed his own reasons why anyone

There's no real "Launch" (1)

Dreth (1885712) | more than 3 years ago | (#34005296)

It will always be in Beta-Testing grounds until a natural disaster happens and it either fails or gives some indication that they're on the right track.

Seismologist unshaken (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34005418)

First, to correct the usual /. misrepresentation, this doesn't predict natural disasters. Only their effects, such as tsunamis. And I doubt the prediction part is much more than vaporware at this stage. Anyway, the bigger news is that it crowdsources accelerometer data from hard disk drives.

Here's what a traditional seismologist says. He seems a bit clueless about data processing.

Laptops and computer hard drives, on their own, are not capable of sensing and relaying useful information about an earthquake, said David Oppenheimer, a seismologist with the U.S. Geological Survey in California.

"I don't think there's any value in casually enlisting the public to install this software and expect to get any really useful seismological or structural data out of it," he said [...]

The IBM researchers [...] say more data is always a good thing.

But Oppenheimer said the data from the computers would just clutter people's thinking in the aftermath of an earthquake.

"You don't need thousands of stations because the waves are traveling so fast," he said. "Thousands of stations actually complicate the matter because you have so much processing to do. It's overkill and unnecessary."
(from an earlier CNN article [cnn.com] )

Too much data! It clutters my thinking! And then you have to process it! My head hurts!

Who needs software? (3, Funny)

futureguy5 (830039) | more than 3 years ago | (#34006856)

The Pat Robertson method just looks at the population density of homosexuals to predict the likelihood of catastrophe, no algorithm needed.

Sensationalist BS. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34008174)

Here's something more useful, it's called CiviGuard. It actually helps vs. the sensational article cited...

http://www.civiguard.com

Richter scale...? (1)

ProgramErgoSum (1342017) | more than 3 years ago | (#34008622)

"IBM says it has patented a natural disaster warning system, which uses analytic techniques that accurately and precisely conducts post-event analysis of seismic events, such as earthquakes, as well as provide early warnings for tsunamis, which can follow earthquakes. " Without this invention, couldn't we have just read the Richter scale readings to do the prediction that this patent purports to do ?

Just ask Sir Bedevir (1)

th77 (515478) | more than 3 years ago | (#34011602)

"Explain again how sheep's bladders may be employed to prevent earthquakes."

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