Saturday, May 31, 2014

Predicting Earthquakes

Dear Madame L,

I just read an article about some guy who says you CAN predict when earthquakes will take place, despite what some scientists say. Specifically, this man who used to be a teacher in California says he noticed that earthquakes always happened around dusk or dawn, and he says this is because of “conjoined lunar and solar gravitational tides."

What do YOU say?


Living in California and Wanting to Stay Alive There

Dear Californian,

Since Madame L is not a scientist herself, she must decline to comment except to say that in general she tends to trust the scientific judgment of actual scientists who are specialists in the field being discussed. For example, Madame L refers you to the blog of Dr. Jeff Wynn, a USGS scientist who says earthquakes cannot be predicted with accuracy.

Thus Madame L tends NOT to trust the observations of a "guy" or even a "man" who used to be a teacher in California. Madame L also used to live in California, and also experienced some earthquakes, none of which occurred around dusk or dawn. While Madame L must assume the teacher was a good teacher, she does not feel compelled to assume that he's a good scientific observer or gatherer or analyst of data.

In addition to the general blog address of Dr. Wynn, which Madame L recommends highly as a place to browse about earth sciences and science in general, Madame L suggests you read the following:

"What states are safe from earthquakes?"

"Are tsunamis and volcanic eruptions a result of other catastrophic natural disasters?"

"With every fault is there an earthquake?"  

"Earthquakes and climate change --- related?"

"Earthquakes --- how often?"

"The largest possible Bay Area earthquake"

Dr. Wynn will be writing again about this topic soon because lately two seismologists have published a paper in "Science" (which has stirred up an ants nest among seismologists) claiming that certain very large earthquakes might be predicted.

Meanwhile, Madame L will be watching with bated breath (ha ha ha) for the guy's prediction of earthquakes on "July 12 and Sept. 9, between 4:45 to 7:55 a.m. and/or p.m."

"If I had a dollar for every one of those predictions that has proven to be false, I could finally buy a new car!" comments Dr. Wynn.

Good luck in California,

Madame L

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