- Big Q: Are all people created equal?
- Big Q: Is art getting better or worse?
- Big Q: Are books dead?
- Big Q: Why are 43 percent of Americans barely able to read?
- Big Q: Who's better at communicating -- men or women?
- Big Q: Are there any modern mummies?
- Big Q: Is texting the end of talking?
- Big Q: Is privacy a dying concept or the next battleground?
- Big Q: Is the Internet making us sicker?
- Big Q: What makes a good citizen?
- Big Q: Is race a social construct?
- Big Q: Can love actually kill you?
- Big Q: Should we force a cap on the U.S. population?
- Big Q: Do prisons create more criminals?
- Big Q: If the 1 percent had less, would the 99 percent really have more?
- Big Q: Are humans meant to be monogamous?
- Big Q: Can humanity counteract the damage it's done to Earth?
- Big Q: Is global warming real?
- Big Q: Is healthy food a right or a privilege?
- Big Q: What is Gender?
- Big Q: Is there a "gay gene"?
- Big Q: Are rich people smarter?
- Big Q: If you saw someone being mugged would you stop to help?
- Big Q: Can music make you smarter?
- Big Q: What role does creativity have in business?
- Big Q: Should your health be public information?
- Big Q: Can prayer heal cancer?
- Big Q: Is there life before birth?
- Big Q: Is racism hereditary? (Is there a racist gene?)
- Big Q: Would the world be different if we all looked alike?
- Big Q: Are we inherently evil?
- Big Q: Is it better to confess a lie or keep it secret?
- Big Q: Will the world end in 2012?
- Big Q: What's the first thing you'd say to an alien?
- Big Q: Is there a sixth sense?
- Big Q: Is God evil?
- Big Q: Should fast food be outlawed?
- Big Q: Why is depression becoming more common?
- Big Q: Will surgeons be replaced by robots?
- Big Q: Can we arrest aging by destroying certain cells in our bodies?
- Big Q: Is any place in the U.S. safe from Mother Nature?
- Big Q: Does the Mayan calendar predict our doom -- will the world end in December 2012?
- Big Q: Did the Mayans use multiple calendars?
- Big Q: Why did the Mayans use a 260-day calendar?
- Big Q: Will humans still look the same 10,000 years from now?
- Big Q: Can the brain solve problems while the body sleeps?
- Big Q: What impact does ocean acidification have on undersea life?
- Big Q: Would we age differently on another planet?
- Big Q: Are near death experiences just hallucinations?
- Big Q: Is fashion empowering?
- Big Q: Can playing games make us smarter?
- Big Q: Could a hacker take down the Internet?
- Big Q: Do animals have a sense of right and wrong?
- Big Q: Do clothes really make the man (or woman)?
- Big Q: Does having children make us happier?
- Big Q: Does monogamy make us happier?
- Big Q: Does quantum foam hold the keys to time travel?
- Big Q: Does the Internet make travel irrelevant?
- Big Q: Does the modern prison system work?
- Big Q: Have credit cards made us poor?
- Big Q: How does science fiction predict the future?
- Big Q: How has the Internet changed politics?
- Big Q: How is globalization changing culture?
- Big Q: Is marriage dead?
- Big Q: Is taxation stealing?
- Big Q: Is the "American Dream" really possible?
- Big Q: Is the U.S. Constitution out of date?
- Big Q: Is there an ideal form of government?
- Big Q: Is your personal information the new currency?
- Big Q: What are the odds of surviving a plane crash?
- Big Q: What does 'free speech' really mean?
- Big Q: What does it take to explore the Mariana Trench?
- Big Q: What is fashion?
- Big Q: What is the future of the book?
- Big Q: What is the future of travel?
- Big Q: Why are humans competitive?
- Big Q: Why does fashion change?
- Big Q: Why does health care in the United States cost so much?
- Big Q: How much longer will we use paper currency?
- Big Q: Is technology killing our ability to practice patience?
- Big Q: Who is the world's most powerful person?
- Big Q: Does good grammar still matter?
- Big Q: Is Internet access a right or a privilege?
- Big Q: Are we getting dumber?
Big Question: Is any place in the U.S. safe from Mother Nature?
Curiosity contributor Richard Farrell surveyed the U.S. in search of safe havens from disaster.
Hurricane Sandy, which ravaged the U.S. East Coast in late October 2012, was the culmination of a week's worth of anxious watching by professional and amateur meteorologists alike. It was considered a "freak" storm because of the path it took -- a sharp left turn into the East Coast, when such hurricanes on such paths at such times of year typically drift out to sea -- and the reason it took it (an ill-timed jet stream that effectively wrapped around the outer edge of the storm and pushed it into the coastline). In short, everything that could go wrong did.
Invariably, all kinds of soul searching happens after a storm like Sandy. Were we adequately warned? It would be hard to argue that we weren't: The forecasters really nailed this storm, with virtually all computer models agreeing on a path that seemed to defy years of weather history. Could we have done anything differently? Evacuations were issued and people either heeded them or didn't.
It's maddening to be so vulnerable, and we could be forgiven for wondering: Is anywhere safe from the whims of Mother Nature?
If you were to look at a map of the U.S., in search of the perfect place to hide from extreme weather and related calamities, you'd be hard pressed to find it. Let's look at some general areas of the country, using as tent poles the U.S. Census Bureau's four main U.S. regions: Northeast, South, Midwest and West.
The Northeast. This is New England and mid-Atlantic states New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. As we have just been reminded with Sandy, the East Coast is far from ideal for dodging Mother Nature. New York and New Jersey were hit especially hard by Sandy. Meanwhile, further north in New England you'll find true the old maxim that if you don't like the weather, just wait a few minutes. Snow is the major dread there -- the next blizzard a constant concern for its citizens. And snow, while pretty and white, can be just as deadly and costly as a hurricane or tornado.
The South. Down south, in census-speak, we have the "Delmarva" area (Delaware, Maryland and Virginia) as well as the District of Columbia, the Carolinas, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Louisiana and Texas. Here we go again: If it's not a hurricane battering Florida, the Carolinas and places northward, it's a hurricane battering the Gulf Coast. (If you want to own beachfront property there, you'd better supersize your property insurance and learn to live with the notion that your nice home might have a short lifespan.) And if hurricanes aren't your thing, then Oklahoma will be happy to supply the tornadoes. The south isn't even immune to the oddball earthquake, as Virginia found out in the summer of 2011, when a 5.9-Richter-scale quake left Old Dominion residents shaking in their shoes.
The Midwest. Think it's any better in the heartland? There you'll find foot after foot of snow in places like Minnesota, Illinois and Wisconsin. Try attending a Green Bay Packers game in December and you get the idea. Meanwhile, Kansas also knows a thing or two about tornadoes (just ask Dorothy and Toto!). So the rock-ribbed Midwest doesn't seem to offer any ideal hiding places from Mother Nature either. What's a person to do? Look west?
The West. Ah, the west. The region that has it all. The answer to the question, "Could I hide from Mother Nature here?" -- is a resounding "No," and it's not even close, as this region's got earthquakes, mudslides, wildfires, and even volcano potential. And if you're thinking, "Hey, what about the Pacific Northwest -- say Seattle. What's a little rain?" Well there's more than rain to contend with; that area has the potential for earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions. Oh, and if the LL Cool J lyric, "I'm going back to Cali" is rattling around your head about now, it's not immune to Mother Nature, either. California alone, nearly synonymous with "the west," occupies most of the coast and lives every day with the specter that the Big One, a massive earthquake, could hit.
So does the U.S. offer any safe havens from Mother Nature? Regionally speaking, not really, though you can certainly find plenty of nice days almost anywhere, and isolated pockets of greater resistance to Earth's bad moods. Forbes in 2005 tallied the safest and least safe places in the country and found Honolulu, of all places, to be the safest [source: Forbes]. Perhaps, then, if you're looking to escape Mother Nature's wrath, the thing to do is say, "Aloha" to your home state and head as far west as America allows.
In the end, of course, we all know it doesn't really matter. Something eventually finds us. Like the house in Vegas, Mother Nature always wins. It's like the old mobster saying: "You can run, but you can't hide."