Battering Rams: Estimating the energy of the 7.2 magnitude earthquake that destroyed Bohol’s churches

“Little Boy” atomic bomb

According to Philippine Star, Dr. Renato Solidum of Phivolcs reported that “a magnitude 7 earthquake has an energy equivalent to around 32 Hiroshima atomic bombs”.   I verified his estimate in Earthquake Energy Calculator and constructed the following table:

Read more at Monk’s Hobbit: Battering Rams: Estimating the energy of the 7.2 magnitude earthquake that destroyed Bohol’s churches

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On the problem of crowd estimation for the Aug. 4, 2012 EDSA prayer rally: an interview for CBCP News

Crowd size estimate during the Aug. 4, 2012 EDSA Prayer Rally

Crowd size estimate during the Aug. 4, 2012 EDSA Prayer Rally

My estimate of the crowd size during the Aug. 4 EDSA Prayer Rally was featured in CBCP News.  I was then asked by CBCP News to answer a few follow-up questions.  But since I tend to answer in paragraphs and not in sentences, I think my response would not fit into a regular news column.  So I’ll post my responses here and CBCP News can simply copy parts of it or repost the whole thing:

1.) Why did you feel you needed to come out with this crowd estimate, considering that other groups had come out with their figures?

After coming from the Aug. 4 EDSA rally, I read in Facebook about the estimates published in newspapers which give figures of 7,000 and 10,000 persons for the rally. My hunch is that newspaper writers have a deadline for sending their articles before 3 pm, so that it can be part of tomorrow’s headlines. Thus, the crowd present during the 5 p.m. mass was not counted. So I made my own estimates and came up with 45,000 to 60,000 persons

2) What is your field of expertise and how long have you been with the Manila Observatory?

My expertise is in theoretical physics, particularly in the use of Clifford (geometric) algebra in many branches of physics: mechanics, optics, and electromagnetics. I am an Assistant Professor of Physics at Ateneo de Manila University. I do my research on ionosphere and magnetosphere at Manila Observatory’s Ionosphere Research Building, now known as ICSWSE (International Center for Space Weather Science and Education) Subcenter. I was with MO since 2008 when I was still writing my Ph.D. dissertation. But I do not speak in behalf of the Ateneo Physics Department or of Manila Observatory. I speak only on my own as a theoretical physicist.

3) Are there other methods of crowd estimation? What limitation could these methods have?

Ideally, there should be a camera at the top of Robinson’s Galleria or aboard a plane or a satellite, so that we can get pictures at different times and determine the exact extent of the crowd in time.  Here is a good example of how crowd estimation is done from wired.com:

At President Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration ceremony, the high-resolution, Earth-orbiting GeoEye-1 satellite took pictures from 423 miles away, and another camera was hanging from a balloon 700 feet off the ground. After examining pictures from both of these sources, researchers put crowd estimates at anywhere from 1 to 2 million.

In the manual method of crowd estimation, you can mark out the areas with similar crowd densities by encircling the areas with a colored pen or by subdividing the areas into a regular grid of square boxes. Areas with similar crowd densities we can refer to as clusters. You can then zoom in to one part of the cluster, count the number of persons per square meter, and multiply this by the area of the cluster. The result is the number of persons per cluster. Then you add all the number of persons in each cluster to get the size of the crowd. The only difficulty is to determine which group of people belongs to in a particular cluster. The more cluster types you use, the more precise your estimate becomes, but it also makes distinguishing one cluster from another more difficult. The fewer clusters you use, the easier it is to distinguish each cluster, but the margin of errors in crowd size estimates would be bigger.

In the computer method of crowd estimation, one way is to get the total area of the black parts and divide it by the average area of each black head in the image. The principle is straightforward and there are computer programs that can do this, depending on the threshold level for the gray scale. But what makes this method difficult is the possibility of counting black shadows and black shirts, too, which would increase the crowd estimate. Furthermore, umbrellas and blondes would make the method useless.  There is also the problem image distortion due to perspective (areas closer to the camera appear larger) and camera lens imaging (straight lines becomes curved due to pincushion and barrel distortion).  And as your camera goes higher and higher to see the whole crowd, image resolution deteriorates, making it difficult for the computer and even for human crowd estimators to distinguish one person in the crowd from another.  To write a computer algorithm for crowd estimation that can handle all these problems is a very difficult challenge.

I am using the manual method. Since I don’t have a picture of an aerial view of the whole crowd, I have to make estimates on the extent of the crowd based on the pictures available, and assume there is only one cluster for the whole crowd for simplicity–an assumption which I think is a valid if you look at the pictures by Anna Cosio in Carlos Palad’s blog, Catholic Position vs the RH Bill. I computed the total estimated area covered by the crowd by dividing the area into strips with the same 17 m width, and added the area of each strip.  The I used some rules of thumb in wired.com. I verified these rules by drawing on the floor a square with one meter on each side. I stood inside the square and found that 4 people can fit there with enough elbow room as I saw in the pictures. So I used 4 persons/sq.m. and came up with 60,000 persons. Even if I assume only 3 persons/sq.m., that is still 45,000 persons. I doubt that the crowd density is only 2 persons/sq.m., but even that gives 30,000 persons, which is still three times the estimate of 10,000 in newspapers.

4. Does the Manila Observatory do crowd estimation regularly? When?

No, Manila Observatory as an institution does not do crowd estimation, because its focus is primarily on geophysics and disaster science–earthquakes, typhoons, pollution, and space weather–and how these disasters can be quantified, predicted, mitigated, and avoided to save more lives. Some of my colleagues at the observatory–three of them also my fellow physics faculty in Ateneo–are working on satellite and ground data to map out climate change, rainfall patterns, and land use. But the techniques in satellite and ground data processing can easily be applied to crowd estimation, provided sufficient data such as aerial and street level photos are available. In Ateneo de Manila University, there are undergraduate students who are writing software for monitoring pedestrians and for counting fish fingerlings. There are also researchers working with cameras on toy planes to map out flooded areas. Many of these researchers are members of the Ateneo Innovation Center under Dr. Greg Tangonan, who is also the Director for the Congressional Commission on Science and Technology and Engineering (COMSTE). In short, there is expertise in Manila Observatory and Ateneo de Manila University to do crowd estimation. It is only a question whether they are interested to do it for street rallies and whether they have the manpower to do the research.  The harvest is great but the laborers are few.

As a theoretical physicist, I only do crowd estimation using pen and paper, and the Aug. 4 EDSA Prayer Rally was my first work. I am willing to do crowd estimation regularly as a service for the Church, provided I am given sufficient data consisting of time-stamped pictures in aerial and street level views. The results of the analysis can be published in the web, i.e. in my blog. Other researchers can then challenge the methodology and assumptions, and come up with their estimates using the same or more comprehensive data set. If there are more researchers working on this problem, we can create a Philippine Journal on Crowd Estimation. The results can be applied to any type of crowd–armies of ants, schools of fish, flocks of birds, herds of cattle–even if they would be as numerous as the stars in the heavens or as the sands in the sea.  For this is how science is done: a continuous dialogue in search for truth.

View of the EDSA Shrine during the Aug. 4., 2012 Prayer Rally

View of the crowd at EDSA Shrine during the Aug. 4., 2012 Prayer Rally (picture by Quirino Sugon Jr.)

5) Do you think your personal convictions affected your scientific work on this particular crowd estimation? Why or why not?

I am a Catholic who loves the Church in the same way as Faramir loves Gondor: “And I would have her loved for her memory, her ancientry, her beauty, and her present wisdom. Not feared, save as men may fear the dignity of a man, old and wise” (Two Towers, p. 314-315). I read the Bible, the Catechism, the lives and writings of saints, and the history of the Church. I organize Latin masses and promote the rosary. In the case of the RH Bill, and of all other issues such as women ordination, same-sex marriage, and human evolution, I only follow what St. Ignatius of Loyola laid down in his Spiritual Exercises–The Rules for Thinking, Judging, and Feeling with the Church:

Rule 1: With all judgment of our own put aside, we ought to keep our
minds disposed and ready to be obedient in everything to the true
Spouse of Christ our Lord, which is our Holy Mother, the hierarchical
Church.

Rule 13: To keep ourselves right in all things, we ought to hold fast
to this principle: What I see as white, I will believe to be black if
the hierarchical Church thus determines it. For we believe that
between Christ our Lord, the Bridegroom, and the Church, his Spouse,
there is the one same Spirit who governs and guides us for the
salvation of our souls. For it is by the same Spirit and Lord of ours
who gave the ten commandments that our holy Mother Church is guided
and governed.

But I am also a physicist with a passion for precision as the data allows. My model for a scientist is St. Ignatius who counts the number of times he fell into a particular fault per day by writing dots in a paper and observing how the number of dots decrease as the days go by. St. Ignatius is one great observer of the motions of his soul that the Society of Jesus he founded became one great network of observatories for observing the motions of the world–the oceans and winds, the moon and stars. The Jesuits are the pioneers in many branches of physics because their mission is to go to the frontiers of knowledge and the crossroads of cultures in order to convert the world for Christ. Seismology was dominated Jesuits during its early development and Padre Faura of Manila Observatory made the first prediction of typhoon tracks in the country. As a tribute to their scientific work, 35 lunar craters are named after Jesuits, with one of the largest named after Fr. Christopher Clavius, SJ, the architect of the Gregorian calendar we now use and a scientist who was treated with great respect by Galileo.

As a Jesuit-trained lay physicist, I am married to my profession, so to speak, and I am faithful to my craft. What I write as a physicist, the others can verify even if they are not Catholics. What I compute is to the best of my knowledge using the available data and the time constraint–I have to publish my estimate the next day.  More precise estimates require days or weeks of work. I hope somebody can correct me and present a more precise estimate of crowd size during the Aug. Anti-RH Bill rally using more accurate data and better methodology.

Transforming Earth Hour as the Hour of Creation

If you are supporting Earth Hour, do it for a more edifying purpose: gather the family members, turn off the electric lights, light the candles, and pray the Holy Rosary. Then read the first chapter of the Book of Genesis:

“In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth— 2* and the earth was without form or shape, with darkness over the abyss and a mighty wind sweeping over the waters—b 3Then God said: Let there be light, and there was light.c 4God saw that the light was good. God then separated the light from the darkness. 5God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” Evening came, and morning followed—the first day….*”

The Earth Hour becomes the Hour of Creation. The Church for centuries has adopted pagan practices but baptizing them with Christian meaning, in the same way as the Church accepts Gentiles and baptizes them as Christians. We can adopt the secular practice of the Earth Hour and turn it into a Christian practice. The Book of Genesis is the First Reading in the Easter celebration, that is why before Easter Sunday, it is Black Saturday, and on Easter Eve mass, the Church is dark, to symbolize the darkness of sin that covers the entire world.

Then read the Prologue of John in Chapter 1:

“In the beginning* was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.a
2He was in the beginning with God.
3* All things came to be through him,
and without him nothing came to be.b
What came to be 4through him was life,
and this life was the light of the human race;c
5* the light shines in the darkness,d
and the darkness has not overcome it….”

The Earth Hour becomes the Hour of Creation, as Sunday, through the Resurrection of Christ, became the day of the New Creation; the Hour of the New Creation is better designated to the first hour of Easter Sunday. The light of Christ shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it. You see this in the seal of Ateneo de Manila University and Manila Observatory. The light of the world is not the sun but IHS, Christ. It is the Mystery of Incarnation. Gazing at the whole world–the Earth–is one of the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius: to see the world as the Holy Trinity sees it. That is why, the Jesuits produced the greatest geographers like Mateo Ricci, because geography is an aid to the Spiritual Exercises. The Holy Trinity sees the world of men engulfed by sin. And so the Holy Trinity decides to send the Second Person of the Trinity, God the Son, who became flesh in the Person of Christ.

These prayers, readings, and meditations would fill a whole hour. Many indulgences can be obtained here from the praying of the rosary, the 30-minute reading and meditation of the scripture–and more if done in front of the blessed Sacrament in a Holy Hour.

A blessed Hour of Creation to all.

Fr. Victor Badillo, SJ recounts his experiences on the Traditional Latin Mass

This afternoon I visited Fr. Victor Badillo, SJ at the Jesuit Infirmary in Ateneo de Manila University. It has been more than a month or two since I visited him. I usually give him updates about the Manila Observatory. At 86, he cannot anymore walk. He needs a nurse to drive his wheelchair.

“Hi, Father.” I said as I entered his room.

“Hi, Pope,” he said as he signaled to the nurse to bring me a chair. “I learned about your Latin Mass Society.”

“Yes, Father.” I said. “Fr. Tim Ofrasio is our priest. He is a professor of Liturgy so he knows the old and new rites well.”

“Where do you get your vestments?” asked Fr. Badillo.

“Our sacristan trainor is Bro. Dave of the Liturgical Commission of Cubao. He is still designing our vestments.”

“So do you know the Confiteor, the prayers at the foot of the altar?”

“A little bit, Father. I still have to memorize it.”

And he prayed the Confiteor and I followed him. I know this prayer because I always use my Baronius 1962 missal even when I attend Novus Ordo masses.

“Do you know how to sing?” he asked. And he began to intone the Kyrie, the Sanctus, the Gloria, and the Pater Noster. I joined him in the singing. He is singing the songs in Missa de Angelis which we always use in our Latin masses. I joined the choir before when they practiced these songs. We bought our chant book from Our Lady of Victories, an SSPX church in Cubao, which has excellent resources on the Traditional Latin Mass. (May they be finally reconciled with the Catholic Church soon.)

“When I was young, I was also a sacristan,” said Fr. Badillo. “Whenever there are masses outside the school, we Ateneans always volunteer to serve in the masses, because there are very few who knows how to serve. We have this group called “Sanctuario”. We take turns in serving masses for a priest. We woke up at 4 am, because the priest says mass during that time.”

“Four o’clock in the morning?” I asked.

“Yes, 4 o’clock,” said Fr. Badillo. “Before we were that hard when it comes to serving masses. Now people are becoming soft, lax.”

“In the seminary, we learned about the mass. We were trained in Latin. But when we graduated, we were ordained in Vatican II.”

“So your training was to no avail, Father?” I asked.

“Not really,” he said.

And our conversation drifted to other things: about the ionosphere and magnetosphere project, about NASA and Dr. Lagrosas trip to Palawan, about our friend Genie Lorenzo who is back from a vacation in US, about Dr. Kendra Gotangco Castillo–our Valedictorian and Summa cum Laude–who is back from Purdue University and who now heads Klima Climate Change Center, and about the International Space Weather Conference in Nigeria which I am attending this October.

“Many things are now happening in Manila Observatory, Father.”

“It started when you came,” Fr. Badillo said.

And we both laughed. The first time I went to the Manila Observatory was in 2008. Fr. Daniel McNamara, SJ asked me to stay in the Ionosphere Building, the building of Fr. Badillo, to write my dissertation. I lived a monastic life. But Fr. Badillo was not there when I came: he suffered several surgeries years before. The building was still dark and dusty then. Now, it is fully renovated and repainted. But I am still using his desk and his swivel chair.

Before I left, I took his hand to my forehead.

“Father, your skin is now soft unlike before.”

“Soft as woman’s skin.”

And we laughed again.

“How did that happen, Father?”

“Healthy diet. Just health diet.”

Finally, I said goodbye to Fr. Badillo. And he gave me his blessing.

Ateneo Latin Mass Society: Call for choir and sacristans

Date: Tue, 14 Jun 2011 22:06:10 +0800
Ateneo Blueboard

The Ateneo Latin Mass Society (ALMS) is an organization of faculty, students, staff, and alumni of Ateneo de Manila University for the promotion of the Latin Mass in both the ordinary and extraordinary forms of the Roman Rite, but with a preferential option for the extraordinary form, in the Ignatian tradition of magis or “more”. Starting this July 2011, ALMS shall sponsor Latin masses at the Ateneo High School once a month. The priest celebrant will be Fr. Timoteo “Tim” Ofrasio, SJ, a professor of Liturgy at the Loyola House of Studies and parish priest of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Novaliches.

Also, starting this June 2011, ALMS shall sponsor trainings for the sacristan and choir:

  1. Sacristan training is four Sundays, 9-12 am. Possible venue is Nativity of Our Lady Parish, Maj. Dizon St., Industrial Village, Marikina City. The training shall cover the following topics: (a) history of altar servers, (b) Holy Mass as the highest form of worship,(c) liturgical year, (d) altar vestments and vessels, (e) ecclesiastical Latin pronunciation, (f) ordinary form of the Roman Rite, (g) extraordinary form of the Roman rite, (h) practicum, and (i) commissioning. The training is organized by ALMS and by the Commission on Liturgy of the Diocese of Cubao.
  2. Choir training is at least an hour a week for the whole year. The training shall cover the following topics: (a) ecclesiastical Latin pronunciation, (b) Gregorian neumes (square notes), (b) ictus and breathing marks, (c) chanting of mass responses, (d) chants for Ordinary Feasts (Missa de Angelis), (e) chants for Feasts of Blessed Virgin (cum Jubilo), (f) chants for Sundays throughout the year, (g) chants for Sundays and Ferias of Advent and Lent, (h) Credo, Pater Noster, and Salve Regina, (i) and chants for Benediction (Tantum Ergo, Te Deum, Anima Christi, O Salutaris Hostia, Pange Lingua, Panis Angelicus). The Gregorian chant trainor will be Mr. Carlos Babiano of Our Lady of Miraculous Medal Parish, Quezon City. The choir training will be held within or close to Ateneo.

The aim of ALMS is to give greater glory to God by making the Latin mass in both ordinary and extraordinary forms of the Roman Rite available to many, as envisioned by Vatican II’s Sacrosanctum Concilium:

  1. Particular law remaining in force, the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites. (Art. 36.1)
  2. The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as specially suited to the Roman liturgy: therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services. (Art 116)

If you wish to know more about the ALMS-sponsored activities, follow us in Facebook: Ateneo Latin Mass Society. Click the “Like” button, so that you can post your comments.

Those interested to join the sacristan and choir training may wish to directly contact the ALMS Coordinator:

Dr. Quirino Sugon Jr.
Space Environment Research Center (SERC) Subcenter
Ionosphere Research Building
Manila Observatory
Tel. No. 426-6001 local 4850
Email: qsugon@observatory.ph

Letter to the ALMS: Traditional Latin Mass at the Church of the Gesu

Hi,

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Nearly a year ago, the ALMS was founded to have the Traditional Latin Mass said in Ateneo de Manila University. So far, we have not succeeded. Our main problem is we cannot find a suitable chapel. I think the Church of the Gesu is good enough for TLM. The problem may be the cost: it is about P 3500 per mass.  If this cost is the only thing that keeps us from having a TLM in Ateneo, then I propose the following solution:

I shall pay the P 3500.

We can have one Sunday mass per month. The mass collections can go to the presiding priest. Fifty (50) persons giving P 20 each is already P 1000. If we can have an attendance of 300 persons, the mass collection would be enough to pay for both the priest and the rental of the Church of the Gesu.

I can only give financial support, but this is not enough:

  1. We need somebody who can be the overall coordinator of ALMS, preferably a student, because we wish the ALMS to be an Ateneo student organization recognized by Ateneo de Manila University. I already have my hands full as undergraduate committee head of the Physics Department and SERC Subcenter coordinator of the Manila Observatory.
  2. We need volunteers for the choir. Mr. Nikko Vitug, faculty of the English Department, is already offering his services as choir master. Mr. Vitug has a syllabus ready for the Gregorian chant training.
  3. We need volunteers for the sacristan. Dennis Maturan, Founding Chairman of Ecclesia Dei Society of St. Joseph (EDSSJ), is already offering the services of his group for sacristan training. We only need but ask them. EDSSJ is based in Parish of Our Lord of Divine Mercy in Sikatuna, Quezon City. I could not be around during Saturdays because I have a offshore class in Angeles University, Pampanga for our M.S. Physics Program. We need a sacristan coordinator for Ateneo.
  4. We need volunteers who will make sure that the altar vessels and linens are available, and that the sacristans and priests have their vestments. Frank Chow’s TLM community in Canada can help us procure the vestments and linens which we can buy from the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate in Novaliches.
  5. We need volunteers for the promotions. Fr. Lester Maramara, SJ, the Director of the Ateneo College Campus Ministry Office, has given us permission to post TLM announcements in Bulletin Board of the College Chapel.
  6. We need to find a priest who can say TLM for us. Fr. Tim Ofrasio SJ is now assigned in a parish in Novaliches.
  7. We need to schedule our first general assembly, preferably mid January. We need to have our first TLM at the Church of the Gesu by February. We need to recruit more students and faculty to join the yahoo group.

I would appreciate your thoughts on these matters. I hope and pray that we can now finally move forward.

Sincerely yours,

Dr. Quirino Sugon Jr.

Coordinator
Ateneo Latin Mass Society

How Fr. Jett Villarin, S.J. buried “El Nino”, the aborted fetus

Fr. Jett Villarin visited my office today together with Nino Uy.   I was glad to see him.

“How is the hermit doing?” he asked.  “I heard you are redesigning the building.”

I smiled.

We talked about the lightning strikes that circled around the building before, the Kyushu University’s new FMCW radar which I am managing, and the renovation of the building that I am preparing to transform it into the Kyushu University’s SERC (Space Environment Resesarch Center) subcenter.

On their way out, Fr. Jett looked at the mango trees across the fields.

“I see many fruits.  It was not like that before.”

“Yes, Father.” Nino said. “There are many mangoes this year.”

“Is Nino still there?” Fr. Jett asked.

I thought its a joke, because Nino is beside us.

“Yes, Father.” Nino said.

“Who is Nino?” I asked.

And Fr. Jett narrated his tale:

“We found an aborted fetus there years ago.  It was wrapped in swaddling clothes.  The mother tried to burn the child to remove all traces.  When the guards saw the smoke, they rushed here.  The mother was gone.  The fetus was half-burnt.  The fetus was large, about a foot long.  We can already see his genitalia.  Kawawa talaga (a pity).  We buried him and nicknamed him ‘El Nino’.”

Fr. Jett and Nino said goodbye.  They went straight to the Climate Studies Division building.

Fr. Jett is Manila Observatory’s authority in climate change.  I heard he once led the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.  This is the reason why he is interested in La Nina and El Nino.  This is where he got the name for the aborted fetus.