How the Japan Earthquake Shortened Days on Earth Staff

This map shows the location of the March 11, 2011 earthquake in Japan, as well as the foreshocks (dotted lines), including a 7.2-magnitude event on March 9, and aftershocks (solid lines). The size of each circle represents the magnitude of the associated

This map shows the location of the March 11, 2011 earthquake in Japan, as well as the foreshocks (dotted lines), including a 7.2-magnitude event on March 9, and aftershocks (solid lines). The size of each circle represents the magnitude of the associated quake or shock.

The massive earthquake that struck northeast Japan Friday (March 11) has shortened the length Earth’s day by a fraction and shifted how the planet’s mass is distributed.

A new analysis of the 8.9-magnitude earthquake in Japan has found that the intense temblor has accelerated Earth’s spin, shortening the length of the 24-hour day by 1.8 microseconds, according to geophysicist Richard Gross at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

Gross refined his estimates of the Japan quake’s impact – which previously suggested a 1.6-microsecond shortening of the day – based on new data on how much the fault that triggered the earthquake slipped to redistribute the planet’s mass. A microsecond is a millionth of a second. [Photos: Japan Earthquake and Tsunami in Pictures]

“By changing the distribution of the Earth’s mass, the Japanese earthquake should have caused the Earth to rotate a bit faster, shortening the length of the day by about 1.8 microseconds,” Gross told in an e-mail. More refinements are possible as new information on the earthquake comes to light, he added.

The scenario is similar to that of a figure skater drawing her arms inward during a spin to turn faster on the ice. The closer the mass shift during an earthquake is to the equator, the more it will speed up the spinning Earth.

One Earth day is about 24 hours, or 86,400 seconds, long. Over the course of a year, its length varies by about one millisecond, or 1,000 microseconds, due to seasonal variations in the planet’s mass distribution such as the seasonal shift of the jet stream.

The initial data suggests Friday’s earthquake moved Japan’s main island about 8 feet, according to Kenneth Hudnut of the U.S. Geological Survey. The earthquake also shifted Earth’s figure axis by about 6 1/2 inches (17 centimeters), Gross added.

The Earth’s figure axis is not the same as its north-south axis in space, which it spins around once every day at a speed of about 1,000 mph (1,604 kph). The figure axis is the axis around which the Earth’s mass is balanced and the north-south axis by about 33 feet (10 meters).

“This shift in the position of the figure axis will cause the Earth to wobble a bit differently as it rotates, but will not cause a shift of the Earth’s axis in space – only external forces like the gravitational attraction of the sun, moon, and planets can do that,” Gross said.

This isn’t the first time a massive earthquake has changed the length of Earth’s day. Major temblors have shortened day length in the past.

The 8.8-magnitude earthquake in Chile last year also sped up the planet’s rotation and shortened the day by 1.26 microseconds. The 9.1 Sumatra earthquake in 2004 shortened the day by 6.8 microseconds.

And the impact from Japan’s 8.9-magnitude temblor may not be completely over.The weaker aftershocks may contribute tiny changes to day length as well.

The March 11 quake was the largest ever recorded in Japan and is the world’s fifth largest earthquake to strike since 1900, according to the USGS. It struck offshore about 231 miles (373 kilometers) northeast of Tokyo and 80 miles (130 km) east of the city of Sendai, and created a massive tsunami that has devastated Japan’s northeastern coastal areas. At least 20 aftershocks registering a 6.0 magnitude or higher have followed the main temblor.

“In theory, anything that redistributes the Earth’s mass will change the Earth’s rotation,” Gross said. “So in principle the smaller aftershocks will also have an effect on the Earth’s rotation. But since the aftershocks are smaller their effect will also be smaller.”


Give, you shall receive !

Give and you shall receive (brickbats)


The fact that billionaires are giving away their wealth to charity is not creating much impression among the sceptics.

CHINA was shocked when real estate magnate Yu Peng Nian, 89, gave away his whole fortune to his Yu Pengnian Foundation last year.

Coming from a poor background, Yu had no qualms about leaving his children nothing. When asked why, he only said that if they were capable, they would have made their own money.

Tan: ‘When you are wealthy, you can afford to give back to society.’

Similarly, one of Taiwan’s richest men, and apparently most generous, tech tycoon Terry Gou, 57, has pledged to turn over his massive wealth to charity before he dies.

Only last week, Malaysia’s own billionaire Tan Sri Vincent Tan, chairman and chief executive of Berjaya Corporation, pledged to donate half his wealth (worth RM3.8bil) to charity, saying, “When you are wealthy, you can afford to give back to society.”

Interestingly, he also said that he hoped to inspire more wealthy Malaysians to donate their fortune to charity.

This surprised, not to mention angered, many ordinary Malaysians who can only imagine that much money.

One shop owner in Cheras who only wants to be known as Makcik Mah says: “Really, the rich need to be inspired to help others?”

Perhaps, our rich can take a leaf out of Microsoft founder Bill Gates’ bankbook: after giving away US$30bil through the Gates Foundation in an effort to combat disease, hunger and other global problems, he still came in second in Forbes’ latest list of the world’s billionaires at a worth value of US$56bil.

When Sunday Star asked around about how Malaysian billionaires can give back to society, there are many like security guard Ahmad Izuan Ahmad, 44, who says, “I know where they can donate their money – me, my foundation.”

Although not entirely convinced by the philanthropy of most multimillionaires, 20-something writer Smita Elena says it is still a good thing when the Vincent Tans of the world give up some of their capital.

“Charity is the big guy buying off the small guy. Indeed, it serves to strengthen modern capitalism by making tycoons look good and by ever so slightly ameliorating the conditions of the poor,” she quips.

Zain: ‘The wealthy should contribute to infrastructure and development for all.’

“Still, it’s much better to hear about Vincent Tan’s pledge than about a millionaire super club for consumerism, where rich kids buy helicopters and the like.”

Smita believes that the super wealthy should not do whatever they want with their money.

“I’d think, for starters, they could stop using their capital to exploit others! Then they should feel bad for being such greedy fat cats and give away ALL their money and declare themselves bankrupt and go live in an ashram and spend their remaining days in service to the poor.”

For the millionaires “who need persuading” to give away their bounty, she asks them to read what Andrew Carnegie has to say on the matter: “Mainly that nobody should die rich! And then they can go fund either a library or a university,” she says.

For Sen Tyng Chai, a researcher at Univer­siti Putra Malaysia, education is also the best charity for the wealthy to consider.

“For example, university endowments are rare in Malaysia and few donations are ever made for local research and development. We do have some private scholarships but more could be done in the area of education, apart from philanthropic work towards peace, social justice and social entrepreneurship,” he says.

Sen adds that it would be more meaningful if the act of giving is planned carefully so that the donated wealth is well spent to generate returns beneficial to society as a whole, rather than fuelling dependency or a false sense of entitlement.

“Sometimes it is not necessary to throw away huge amounts of money to ‘give back’ to society. Creating employment opportunities for marginalised communities or disadvantaged groups, making more environmental-friendly changes to their business processes or incorporating CSR policies and strategies are but some examples of how millionaires/billionaires and their corporations can contribute to the nation’s development.”

One possibility, he suggests, is to set up a charity to provide counselling, support and information to help people deal with gambling addiction or gambling problems.

Social media consultant Zain H.D. agrees, saying that instead of simply “donating” their money, the wealthy should contribute to infrastructure and development for all.

“A lot of poor people can raise the same amount one rich man has, but they don’t have the accessibility (or) consensus to build on something larger, like a school or telco grids in rural areas.”

He believes that the rich should either help the poor who are not able to help themselves, or specifically help those where there are multiple returns or impact to the whole society.

“It’s not just about utilising resources but also matching those to get the best outcome,” he notes.

Trainer Angela Kryss thinks it should not be about the amount of money given away but about how timely the help is.

“What’s the point of doing charity when charity comes too late, or the millions/billions amassed so far have already done damage – probably more damage than what the millions and billions can do in terms of the charities it’s going to support.

“Giving away 50% of a lot is not a big act of charity. Giving away 50% of the little of whatever you have is worth much more and is a much bigger act of kindness and caring.”

As she points out, ordinary people – and even poor people – give money to charities or to people in need, and this sort of help means much more because it’s always as an immediate and constant response to the need.

For the millionaires looking for a cause, she proposes the development of entrepreneurial skills for the poor.

“The rich should also support healthy competition in the market so that there will never be a situation where there’s a need for millionaires and billionaires to donate their money to get tax refunds. By paying their taxes in full and not try to get out of it, there will be better public goods, services and facilities.”

Social activist Hasbeemasputra is more sceptical. He believes donations by the rich and corporations are a sham.

“They will get tax rebates for some, if not all, of their charitable donations, which means we, the people, end up footing the bill. The money creation and supply mechanism as it exists in our current infinite growth paradigm is nothing more than a Ponzi scheme, only benefiting the power elite of our society.”

He cites the Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) or the Ronald McDonald’s Children’s Charity (RMCC) as examples.

“McDonald’s has donation collection boxes at all their counters where people drop in their loose change. The money is channelled to RMHC, an independent charity which supposedly aims to provide free ‘home away from home’ accom­modation at hospitals across the UK, enabling families to stay close to their child and maintain a degree of normal family life (as described on”

He alleges that by funnelling this money (which wasn’t even theirs to begin with) to RMCH, McDonald’s is entitled to tax rebates. In some countries, the rebates can be up to equal the value of the donation, which means that for every $1 they donate to RMCH, they get $1 in tax rebates.

If multimillionaires are serious about helping society, he says, they can look into funding empowerment programmes that wean people off dependence on “the System” or, as he puts it, “Teach the people how to fish instead of giving them fish.”

As postgraduate student Jenny sees it, there will be no need for philanthropy if there is a more equal distribution of wealth.

“Doesn’t it make sense to say that there wouldn’t be a need for charity if wealth was more equally shared in the first place? The government plays a huge role in ensuring that there isn’t the very rich versus the very poor,” she says.

A world with extreme wealth in the hands of a few while the majority struggle to make ends meet is an untenable scenario to maintain in the long run, she opines, citing the Pareto economic principle (also known as the 80-20 rule, the law of the vital few, and the principle of factor sparsity).

“I remember an economist who said that if you envision this situation like a champagne glass but without the base, the rich sitting on top in the mouth of the glass (hoarding the bulk of the world’s wealth) and the not-so-rich squished into the handle part of the glass (sharing the remainder of the world’s wealth), and there is no base at the bottom, you can see that the glass is balancing precariously and can topple over any time.

“This is how the world is today – and the financial crash in the US two years ago is symptomatic of this situation.”

Anwar goes on the defence

Insight By Joceline Tan

Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is at his lowest ebb since March 2008 and he is turning to the ceramah circuit to defend himself against multi-pronged attacks.

ONE of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s oldest and most loyal friends ended his days as a widower on Thursday night.

Tumpat MP Datuk Kamaruddin Jaffar, better known as Datuk KJ, remarried a year after his first wife died of cancer and the guests of honour were Anwar and Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim.

But the honour of making the speech was given to PAS politician Dr Syed Azman Syed Ahmad of Terengganu. Dr Syed Azman was the matchmaker for Kamaruddin and his Malacca-born wife and he almost brought the house down when he teased the newly-weds: “Last week, we failed to capture the Merlimau seat but, never mind, Datuk Kamaruddin has successfully conquered Malacca.”

On attack mode: Anwar, seen here in Penang, has hit the ceramah circuit again. He is training his guns at his long-time nemesis Dr Mahathir, whose memoirs touch on Anwar’s sex life.

It was a relaxing affair for many of the Pakatan Rakyat politicians that evening, and particularly for Anwar who has been increasingly under siege.

The PKR de facto leader is at his lowest point since his post-2008 political comeback. For a couple of years after the March 8 “tsunami”, it seemed like Anwar could walk on water. But very little has gone right for him in recent months, be it his party affairs or the sodomy trial.

PKR people still insist he is Pakatan’s Prime Minister-in-waiting. But most PAS and DAP leaders have stopped talking about the road to Putrajaya. They are more concerned about whether they can hold on to their seats now it is clear they are unable to hold on to the Malay vote.

Anwar has just climbed back from the precipice in the sodomy trial. The trial had been inching towards revealing the identity of Lelaki Y (Male Y), the term investigators used for the mystery man whose DNA was allegedly found in Saiful.

»Anwar has been through a lot. It takes more than that to upset him« SAIFUDDIN NASUTION

On Tuesday, the courts ruled that several items with the DNA of Lelaki Y could not be tendered as evidence. It was a big win for Anwar’s legal team because the evidence would have tied him to Lelaki Y.

He must have felt great relief because his detractors had begun taunting him as Lelaki Y when he campaigned in Kerdau. He was greeted with banners that said, “Mr Y, selamat datang ke Kerdau” – and that was one of the more polite banners.

On top of that, he had to endure a “joint ceramah” with his female nemesis Ummi Hafilda Ali who was speaking just a stone’s throw away from him. People on his side of the ceramah could hear quite clearly what she was saying about him, and it was not pleasant stuff.

PKR secretary-general and Machang MP Saifuddin Nasution denied that Ummi rattled his boss that night.

“Anwar has been through a lot. It takes more than that to upset him,” said Saifuddin.

But PKR politicians are rather wary of her given the crowds she pulled in Kerdau and Merlimau. Besides, who else apart from Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has spoken so explicitly and daringly about Anwar?

Anwar’s detractors would like to think that his downward slide began after he failed to deliver on his Sept 16 claim.

But the real slide started after PKR’s trouble-ridden elections last year and the defections from his party. It gave the impression that he could not control PKR and that his priorities were too wrapped up in his court case.

Some think that Anwar is in the midst of one of those perfect storms.

Apart from the trial, the publication of Dr Mahathir’s memoirs has sort of switched things up. It could not have been worse timing for Anwar. Dr Mahathir has repeated his accusations about Anwar’s sexual exploits, this time in print.

At the book launch, a mischievous Dr Mahathir said he was “trembling” at the thought of being sued. Of course, he was telling Anwar to “bring it on, man, bring it on”.

The people around Anwar are furious about the book.

“I’m not buying the book. It’s a story we have heard before,” said Muaz Omar, an aide of Azmin’s.

At the PKR political bureau meeting two nights after the book launch, several party leaders felt that Anwar should not let Dr Mahathir get away with what he has written.

“Anwar’s stand is that he had long ago decided to move on where Dr Mahathir was concerned. He said he’s not interested in challenging an old script and he doesn’t want to be stuck in another court case,” said Saifuddin.

Anwar prefers the court of public opinion rather than the court of law. He has been on a ceramah blitz ostensibly to promote the Pakatan manifesto, the Buku Jingga, but also to counter the renewed attacks against him.

Dr Mahathir has become a central target of his attacks the last few days. He does not rebut what Dr Mahathir is saying about his sexuality but he has hit out at the former premier’s cronies and his children’s businesses and wealth. He seems to be steering clear of Ummi, though.

Anwar also suffered a setback when a hoped-for meeting with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did not materialise. Shortly before Clinton’s visit, a news portal reported that a meeting was being lined up. It was a rather strange report because the meeting was apparently never on the cards.

There has been a cooling on the part of the US administration towards Anwar’s cause and Clinton’s stance during her recent visit was in sharp contrast to that of Vice-President Al Gore at the height of Sodomy 1.

Moreover, Clinton’s visit follows improved ties between the United States and Malaysia. The Obama administration sees Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak as a Muslim leader with whom they can sit down and have a dialogue.

In that sense, Anwar’s crusade against Apco may have more to do with Apco’s role in presenting Anwar’s sodomy case to US lawmakers than Apco’s so-called Jewish connections.

The lobby group has explained the trial in a way that Americans can relate to, that it is an alleged sexual harassment involving an employer and a subordinate and the trial is a result of a report lodged by a complainant, unlike the first trial where the Government was the main initiator.

But the most damaging strike has been the Wikileaks report quoting Singapore Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew as saying that Anwar knowingly walked into a trap. Singapore has played down the report but has not denied its contents.

The success of Najib’s visit to Turkey was another blow to Anwar who counts Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan as a friend and supporter.

Erdogan had welcomed Najib in Ankara, saying, “this is my brother Najib and I am happy to have him here.”

Their scheduled 10-minute four-eyed meeting over-ran into 45 minutes and Erdogan insisted on a joint press conference. The Turkish Premier also eschewed protocol and insisted that Najib ride in the same car as him. It was a political coup of sorts for Najib.

All these events add up to a challenging time ahead for Anwar and his party.

“I can’t blame Anwar if he feels he is all alone. He has been consumed by successive crises and there are now less people whom he can count on to defend him and do the attacking. To him, the trial is to stop his political ambitions and his goal of power, and it is taking a lot out of him,” said Merdeka Centre director Ibrahim Suffian.

Reporters covering his trial said he seems to be holding up well and is still able to see the lighter side of things. For instance, when a witness was asked to identify him, Anwar, who was sitting in the dock, playfully dodged as though trying to hide.

He is reportedly upset that PKR members have not been turning up in court to show him their support.

Recently, party members received the following SMS from PKR Tanjung Karang chief Yahaya Sahri: “Salam, sokongan DSAI di mahkamah amat merosot hampir tiada. Saya ingin mencadangkan agar kita atur kawan-kawan kita drp cabang turun beri sokongan moral, klu kita bergilir pun ok, satu cabang klu hantar 20 org pun dah ok. Jadual mahkamah akan saya sms.”

Yahaya was urging PKR divisions to send members whether in rotation or groups of 20 to show moral support for Anwar because the number of supporters in court had dwindled to almost nil.

Anwar is the ultimate political animal. A lesser person would have cracked under the pressure. He told Saifuddin that when he goes on the ground and sees a big crowd, he feels motivated.

The crowds at his ceramah have indeed been growing and a lot of it has to do with his trial approaching a critical stage and the sensational evidence coming out.

Anwar, said academic Prof James Chin, is in “distraction mode”.

“He cannot devote his full time to Pakatan or PKR. The trial is taking away his attention and focus. But everything hinges on the next general election. If Najib does not get his two-thirds majority, he is in trouble. If Pakatan does badly then they are in trouble,” said Chin of Monash University Sunway Campus.

The attacks by Dr Mahathir, said Chin, has impact among rural Malays but less so among the urban crowd.

Anwar’s supporters also bristle at the suggestion that he has become a liability for Pakatan. But privately, PAS and DAP leaders are frustrated that Anwar has overwhelmed their political agenda.

Anwar, said blogger Syed Azizi Syed Aziz who is better known as Kickdafella, has image problems in the rural Malays areas and that becomes a problem for PAS. Outwardly, DAP and PAS still stand by him but, privately, they are riddled with doubts about the trial and his ability to hold things together.

Moreover, Generation Y, the youth cohort born between the mid 1970s and 2000, is not rallying around Anwar the way Generation X took to the streets to support him during his first trial. Generation Y is neither loyal to Anwar’s politics nor affiliated with the ruling coalition. They are as critical of Pakatan politicians as they are of those in Barisan.

As such, Pakatan’s claim that young voters are with them is not exactly true. The young voters are still out there and their vote will go to the party that can offer them a better future – and that means education, jobs, homes and a lifestyle of their choice.

Anwar is in a difficult political situation and he will be fighting many fronts in the months ahead.

Politically motivated exploits target activists on Google

Serious Windows bug used in ‘highly targeted’ attack

By Dan Good

Politically motivated attackers are exploiting an unpatched flaw in all supported versions of Microsoft Windows to carry out highly targeted attacks against activists using Google, the company’s security team warned.

The unidentified attackers are wielding a serious vulnerability in the way Windows parses webpages containing MIME-formatted content. In January, Microsoft issued a temporary fix for the flaw, which allows attackers to steal sensitive information, spoof trusted websites or carry out other actions not authorized by the user. The company hasn’t said when the MHTML bug will be patched.

In a blog post published on Friday afternoon, members of Google’s security team said the attacks are also being carried out against users of another popular social website, which they did not identify. Facebook representatives didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

“We’ve noticed some highly targeted and apparently politically motivated attacks against our users,” they wrote. “We believe activists may have been a specific target.”

They reiterated Microsoft’s advice that users install the temporary fixit as soon as possible. A better course of action is to halt all usage of the Internet Explorer browser, since that is the sole vector for exploits. This may not be possible for users with custom applications that rely on the Microsoft browser, but even avoiding it while on social networking sites is a good idea, if at all possible.

In addition to issuing the temporary fix, Microsoft has been working with Google to develop server-side protections that mitigate the threat. While those protections are no in place, they shouldn’t be relied on.

“These are not tenable long-term solutions, and we can’t guarantee them to be 100% reliable or comprehensive,” Google’s blog post warns. “We’re working with Microsoft to develop a comprehensive solution for this issue.”

It’s not the first time Google has blown the whistle on what it believed to be political attacks against its users. In January 2010, the company said it uncovered a “highly sophisticated and targeted attack” used to steal Gmail from Chinese dissidents. The so-called Operation Aurora attacks targeted dozens of other companies.

Microsoft updated an advisory published in January to say it “is aware of public proof-of-concept code being used in limited, targeted attacks” and repeated its advice to install the fixit. Vulnerability details and proof-of-concept code were first published here. Microsoft has more about the flaw here. ®

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