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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Will Bizarre Quake Prediction Come True?

Posted By on Thu, Sep 30, 2010 at 2:59 PM

Our past ... and future?
  • Our past ... and future?
Our past ... and future?
A self-anointed earthquake predicter's bizarre claim that Los Angeles would be rattled by a 6.0 to 7.0 temblor today has nine-odd hours to come true. At the strike of midnight, Luke Thomas of will either become an object of reverence or revulsion.

The Florida-based strange person triggered an Internet sensation, especially on Twitter, when he claimed there was a "98 percent chance" that the L.A. area would be hit with a major quake today. An actual trained seismologist with diplomas from a degree-granting institution stopped short of calling Thomas a charlatan. But she did remind SF Weekly that no one can predict earthquakes -- not even Chuck Norris.

When told a 7.0 quake had been foreseen for -- NOW! -- U.C. Santa Cruz professor of seismology Emily Brodsky laughed. "How lovely!"



claims the "main method we use to make our earthquake forecasts is

based on thermal temperature changes caused by kinetic frictional

heating of the tectonic plates." He also utilizes "Moon phases; Animal

behaviour (sic); Human behaviour (sic); Satellite earthquake clouds;

Water temperature changes; and other arcane studies.

All of

these, Brodsky says, have been considered by real scholars. "But none of

them have shown to be robust. If we knew how to predict earthquakes,

I'd be pretty excited. Unfortunately, it's not something we know how to

do at this stage."

Some or all of Thomas' listed criteria sound scientific,and

some may even play a role in earthquake generation -- but none impart

the ability to, say, declare the 98-percent certainty of a major quake

hitting L.A.

Take "moon phases," for example. In very rare circumstances, notes Brodsky, tidal movement can have an affect on coastline faults, as the movement of the ocean results in millions of tons weighing down or being released from oceanside faults.


this phenomena is particularly inapplicable to California's faults: The

state's tides are puny and its faults are are inland. It also warrants

mentioning that while lunar phases move trillions of gallons around, the

force they exert on land is infinitesimal. Per calculations from U.C.

Berkeley astronomy professor Alex Filippenko:

The tidal forces exerted by the Moon upon a

one-meter-tall vine or wine barrel are actually around 60,000 times

weaker than the tidal forces emanating from a 175-pound man standing one

meter away. Incidentally, if a two-pound bunny were to scurry beneath

the vine or barrel, it would be exerting 750 to 1,000 times the tidal

force of the Moon.

Does this mean, however, that a

vast, Australian-style herd of bunnies could exert enough tidal force to

trigger an earthquake? "There is a 98-percent chance that I am not

going to answer that question," said Brodsky.

And that's just what happened. Wow! Amazing!

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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