Written by: Tom Rieland
Date: May 28, 2010

A virtual meter setup by the crew at PBS Newshour is letting us track how much oil is leaking into the Gulf.

Depending on whose estimate you believe, just drag the slider bar and see how many gallons a day is going into the Gulf. Here is an excerpt from the blog from PBS “NewsHour” Interactive Editor Chris Amico, in which he expressed his concerns about producing the meter:

“It’s probably worth mentioning up front that at first, I thought building this thing was a bad idea. I thought it was gimmicky, and that it assigned specificity where there was none. I argued that any number we pick as the rate of spillage was almost guaranteed to be wrong, since the government, BP and outside experts were all changing their estimates and estimates varied so widely. Also, I didn’t think I could do it.

My colleague Dave had the idea a few weeks ago. No one, he rightly pointed out, was keeping track of how much oil had spilled into the Gulf of Mexico. The leak had been going on for less than two weeks at the time, and most news reports only noted the daily spill rate.

Figuring out how much had spilled based on when the leak started and how many barrels or gallons per day were leaking isn’t hard: total = rate * time. I’ve been joking at work that the past month has been all eighth-grade algebra and JavaScript.

But as I mentioned, picking the right rate is probably impossible. The official rate, from the US Coast Guard and NOAA went from 1,000 barrels per day to 5,000 to some unknown number greater than 5,000. Outside experts have said anywhere from 25,000 to 100,000 barrels a day could be leaking. BP told Congress it could be as high as 60,000 barrels a day (then called such estimates ‘alarmist.’)

So the challenge was to build a tool that would do simple math, but had all the uncertainty of the situation baked in. Hence the slider. That way, we let users pick which estimates they believe, and the ticker shows them how much oil has leaked into the Gulf based on that figure.”


  • tigersgrowl

    I never knew about that. Had I known, I would have listened to local radio because my data is capped within the first week due to all the 3G radio I listen to. This will be a great help however, I use the Kyrocera Event (don’t laugh, it was only $20 and I got a mortgage) with the Virgin Mobile service using the Sprint network. I contacted Virgin just now, we’ll have to see if they give me the run around as expected with most phone companies or not. If they do, I won’t give up there, I will consult the blogs and forums. If there is a way, I will find it.

    • Jessie

      @tigersgrowl, I also have Virgin Mobile and they use the Sprint network. I will call them also, but I would really appreciate if you post your updates.

  • Yoga Bear

    “I want my FM Radio! Unlock the FM chip in all smartphones you sell so I can get important emergency information when data networks are unavailable and reduce the amount of data I use each month.

    Thank you. I have a HTC one m7 I have looked and the phone has a FM chip and I have Verizon I have called there tech support and they told me all I need to do is find a radio app, you can’t find one that will work without the net, theses company’s just lies to get you off the phone, so I called HTC by the way Verizon told me not to do that, so me being one not to do what I’m told lol I called any ways, HTC told me that they will be updating to lollipop in a few months and then they’re going to come out with the update that send you a FM radio to your phone that they have been working on it for several months without any support from Verizon Wireless so they’ve taken it on their self to go ahead and make a program to turn on the FM chip so that it will work so that we can have free FM radio on our smartphones, we will see. I’ll give them two months if they don’t do it I’m calling back.

    • Joseph Ogidan

      I had a Nokia phone back in 2008 that had a radio. All I needed to activate it was my head phone, and it worked perfectly well.

  • jeremiah stansbury

    please its our rite we paid for the phone why cant we have fm radio it wont cost you any thing to keep the public informed

  • callthemanufacture

    you’re provider has nothing to do with this they do not make the phones so be sure to call the manufacture the provider does not have a way to unlock this so don’t blame them and give more information on fm chips besides call your provider

    • Irwin Busk

      You are very incorrect. The provider orders the phone with their preferred software load, and with certain features and applications locked. The carrier can provide an “unlock” code, but is not required to by law. many will do so, if you are near the end of your contract.

  • sm spfld ma

    Radio is not a right. I’m all for the chip being activated but come on. npr is using you to push their agenda and getting this activated. It’s a scarf tactic. We all got text messages from the weather service when the tornado was on its way to western ma. Say you did have a radio on the phone then; how many people would put the radio on? I Google the tornado then and got the info I needed. Don’t be fools: you’re bejng used by public radio cronies to get more people to listen to PUBLIC RADIO. It’s a cheap marketing initiative.

    • Mrpockets

      If you are all about activating the chip then why are you urging people not to ask for it? Sure it’s an agenda. Everyone has an agenda. For all we know, you could hold a bunch of stock in Pandora and are pushing your own agenda by trying to make people feel stupid for wanting access to something that they’ve always had. That’s what you sound like to me.

  • Floyd Durham

    I just contacted Virgin and they claimed to have no knowledge of any of this. I was told that basically it probably not real and that just because it says so on the internet it doesn’t mean anything. They don’t want people using it then they loose money for data use….Like the owner of Virgin needs more money..lol