Japan Nuclear power plants map. source : http:...

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The news coming out of Japan over the past seven days has eclipsed everything else and rendered the techfest that is SXSW a noisy irrelevance.

If anything, the inanity of some of the Tweets, Facebook and Foursquare messages served only to highlight the self-absorbed, publicity-seeking vacuousness of the mass gathering of geeks.

While a tide of thoughtlessness flowed from Austin, Tx, the tsunami of unimaginable power did its horrible worst to coastal communities in north-east Japan.

For Sam Leith in the Evening Standard we were all watching catastrophe as if it was just theatre; “Earthquake porn” as his girlfriend dubbed it, with nothing to learn.

Leith’s assertion was wrong, though his sentiment that the least we can do is “pay for a ticket” and donate to the Red Cross appeal was unquestionably right.

There are learnings aplenty from the devastation – everything from pragmatic lessons on the siting and safety regimes around nuclear power plants, to a more Zen-like appreciation of the fragility of life.

It’s because we watch, examine and learn from catastrophes that we survive and thrive. A quake of that magnitude almost anywhere in the world other than one with Japan’s building codes would have killed many thousands more people. The tsunami – even with advanced warning systems – was another matter.

Throughout it all there has been some extraordinary footage, including this UGC clip: Six minutes of terror as tsunami destroys town

Google again deployed its people-finder service though the shysters, sharks and sickos were never far behind as this Metro story highlights and this bogus BBC radiation alert shows.

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