Archive for the 'Chile' Category

What I have been doing lately

Well… This is my first post written from my iPad. I have been a little dissapeared from the blog lately. The last three months have been crazy: I had to go to an european meeting in Sweden (which means, exactly, to fly from the other end of the world), then back to help in the development of an international course on regeneration, then going to another international meeting, in Chile this time, then back to the lab to planning new experiments and discuss ideas with my PI, adding the comments of other researchers gathered in the two meetings, and writing some stuff for an advocacy project and also writing some post for the outstanding The Node.

After all this work, I am tired. Obviously. It is hard when you don’t see a reward for your efforts. Only a few comments in my posts regarding the “Paper versus Mendeley” battle keep this blog alive; I am pretty sure that, if I send to the trash those posts, the visits will drop to zero. I am also thinking that the advocacy project will fail, mainly becausethe lack of energy of chilean scientists to fight to change the awful scenario for science funding amd science policy. I like to write, but writing without knowing if someone is reading your work is just dissapointing. I have to manage todo all these things in a pretty much demanding lab (my PI has great expectations in his graduate students, and he also likes having his students 24/7 in the lab), and also I have a family life, and doing this stuff implies less time with them. So, I decided to leave the blog unattended for some weeks.

For those of you following the “Papers versus Mendeley” issue, I have news indeed: I wrote about Mendeley for iPad. I could not keep using Mendeley: it crashes, it is slow, downloading one paper at the time from my online account and many other little details pushed me to test Papers for iPad. And it really rocks! I will not make a review of Papers for iPad. Just use it. I believe that the iPad is one of the best news for scientists. To date, I am saving paper because I read papers only on the iPad; I give presentations with the iPad, and many other things too. The only feature missing in iPad (that makes me to not saying that the iPad is perfect for scientists) is the ability to incorporate error bars in charts.

Anyway, I need to sleep now. Best regards.

About Meetings…

I am back in Chile. I went to the European WNT2010 Meeting, held at the Karolinska Institutet, Sweden. It was a very wonderful meeting, specially to me. I don’t have so often the opportunity to go to another far country, and share my results with the authors of the papers I usually read. It is a great time also to learn, the new techniques, theories and trends in the field.

Main entrance to the Karolinska Institutet at Solna, Stockholm, Sweden.

This meeting was full of prominent researchers in the Wnt field. I presented my results from my PhD research Thesis, and it was extremely fantastic to receive the comments and suggestions from experts. And it was really cool to give a talk with my iPad. Actually, I was initially afraid to go with my iPad in the travel. But soon I realized that it was a very good choice. In the airport, I got delayed in a 4-hour delay. Most people were wondering where to plug their computers because of the small battery time they had. But my iPad had 10 hours of battery so I just used it without worries. Also, in some places the WiFi connection was paid, so I used my 3G connection. Wonderful. Once in the meeting, it was very useful to take my iPad in the conferences, take notes, review the maps of Stockholm, and other things. In this travel, I take out most of my iPad. I had an App to review the climate changes, details of my flight, how to get to some places, reviewing some papers…

And giving a presentation with the iPad is very nice. You will have a black screen showing the slide number (as far as I can remember… I was a little nervous), and the keynote presentations displays very well in the big screen. Also, if you forget your laser pointer, you have an option in the iPad: you keep pressed your finger in the screen, and a point very similar to a laser point will show up in the screen. You have to keep pressed your finger, and you can move across the screen to move the pointer.

Now we have another interesting meeting here in Chile: the meeting from the Latin American Society of Developmental Biology (, if you can review the program). I will be out some time until the “meeting season” ends. Best regards.

Science predicted the Chile’s Earthquake

I am finally back, repairing some of the damages in our labs. The situation in Chile is not good. The deaths are raising slowly, but continoulsy, over 800 people now. Also, some data regarding thousands of missing people is also of great concern.

Regarding to science, several laboratories have reported serious damages, including lost of data, expensive equipment (you must consider that, due to the location of Chile, far from the manufacturers, equipments and reagents cost three or four times more expensive than in USA or Europe).

The observations and predictions (at a glance)

It is surprising that researchers had predicted the earthquake almost two years ago [1]. Teachers always say to students “nature is unpredictable; you can’t know where an earthquake will occur”. But technology advances, and together with mathematical modeling and observation, just like Darwin did in his travel to Chile almost 170 years ago, describing the earthquake of 1835 [2], researchers can formulate hypotheses about when, and how strong an earthquake will occur.

Ruegg and coworkers published a paper in “Physics of the Earth and Planetary Interiors” (Ruegg JC, 175:78–85, 2009). The team made observations in a range from 1996 to 2002, focusing in the area from Constitución to Concepción, since no major earthquakes occurred in that space since 1835 (described by Darwin). They measured the displacement of the plate (more exactly, the velocity of the movement). The results (at a big glance, since I am not a geologist) showed that coastal regions had a higher velocity compared with regions in the Andes area. Assuming that no major earthquakes released the accumulated force since 1835, a deficit of horizontal displacement of 10 m will have accumulated.

To Ruegg and coworkers, this could mean, in a worst case scenario, “that the southern part of the Concepción–Constitución
gap has accumulated a slip deficit that is large enough to produce a very large earthquake of about Mw = 8.0–8.5”.

What happened in Chile?

This February 27, at 3:34 am (Chile’s time), an earthquake with a magnitude of 8.8 in Ritcher scale occurred in a site very close to Cobquecura, located between Concepción and Constitución (see map below). The plates moved 8 m, and since Ruegg and coworkers calculated a 10 m of slip deficit, either the calculations are overestimated or the earthquake should have been even worse.

Figure 1. Earthquake and areas affected. Notice the location of the epicenter, just as predicted by Ruegg and coworkers.

Nonetheless, the prediction of Ruegg and his team is shocking. They were right about the epicenter and magnitude. The final phrase of the abstract is: “… in a worst case scenario, the area already has a potential for an earthquake of magnitude
as large as 8–8.5, should it happen in the near future”.

Interesting Data

Earthquakes in Chile show a striking regularity: every almost 17 years, a major earthquake (above 8 in Richter scale) occurr. Even more, the majority of the most destructive earthquakes ocurred in the chilean summer:

Figure 2: Major earthquakes in Chile since 1906. The box around 1939 and 1943 shows that the average (1941) was considered to calculate the years between the events (between 1922 and 1941, and between 1941 and 1960). 50% of the events occurred in summer or beginning autumn.


An obvious conclusion for our country, Chile, is the following: scientific observations can assist to make predictions about the most probable sites of a future earthquake, including information about the magnitude. Ideally, a global network across the identified seismic gaps in Chile (one at the north, one near to Valparaiso, one located between Concepción-Constitución and one near to Valdivia, epicenter of the greatest earthquake in the last 200 years) and some other regions , could help to be better prepared for a new earthquake. I don’t know of such an approach is being used in other seismic regions on Earth.

1. Ruegg, J., Rudloff, A., Vigny, C., Madariaga, R., de Chabalier, J., Campos, J., Kausel, E., Barrientos, S., & Dimitrov, D. (2009). Interseismic strain accumulation measured by GPS in the seismic gap between Constitución and Concepción in Chile Physics of the Earth and Planetary Interiors, 175 (1-2), 78-85 DOI: 10.1016/j.pepi.2008.02.015

2. Richard A. Kerr (2010). Did Darwin Help Predict Chilean Quake? Science Now

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