Sunday, December 11, 2011

How You Too Can Become A Big-Shot Quake Predictor

I have noted with bemusement (as well as with derision) over the years the claims and "attitudinalness" of the pseudo-scientific earthquake prediction crowd. I note that in most cases they know a little bit about geology and seismology but there's their problem: a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing. Were they to more thoroughly study geology and geophysics they would not be who and what they are and not be doing what they do.... which they don't do very well. I also note that they hold professional scientists in low regard insisting that the professionals don't know what they are doing. Furthermore, they insist that "establishment" scientists either suppress the truth as part of some conspiracy to keep the masses in the dark and/or steal the ideas of the "quake predictors" and take credit for them.

Some even go so far as to suggest that scientists don't wish to predict quakes because if they're wrong they will lose their jobs and hence their silence is merely job-security-driven. This, of course, ignores the fact that scientists do predict, or rather forecast, earthquakes with all the necessary caveats. Most such forecasts stretch across decadal time periods. However, occasionally a forecast will go out for a given region set within a smaller timeframe such as anywhere between one year or several. We don't hear much about more tightly time-constrained forecasts because they are nearly always research-related and not yet reliable enough to be regarded as public-safety bulletins. In other words, scientists don't refrain from quake forecasting to save their jobs but simply usually lack the scientific foundation for making scary-sounding forecasts of impending regional seismological catastrophe. Were science able to reliably forecast that a M7.4 earthquake was about to strike the Elsinore Fault Zone within a month or a year then you would no doubt here about it and public safety and emergency management personnel and agencies would be hard at work making ready for it.

One fact that favors the psuedo-scientific earthquake "predictors" is the sheer number of earthquake predictors in action as well as the sheer number of predictions they make in the aggregate. Invariably, any earthquake of note that occurs now can be claimed by one or more of these charlatans to have been successfully predicted by them. This, of course, is folly and follows the principle that a broken clock gives correct time twice a day.

Below is a list of useful tips that you will find useful if you too decide to get into the fun and accountability-free hobby of predicting earthquakes. You might not need all of these tips but no doubt some of them will be useful in your particular circumstance.

  1. Be extremely dogmatic and haughtily certain about your own claims. Hey, you know what you're doing... you listened to Jim Berkland on Coast-to-Coast AM... while living with your mother.
  2. Be disdainful and condescending in regards to the scientific establishment. Heck, what do they know?
  3. Claim that your research was rejected by peer review panels because the panel members weren't sophisticated enough to grasp your "outside the box" ideas.
  4. Claim that "establishment" scientists often steal ideas from hard-working quake predictors like you and then take credit for them... those rascals! 
  5. Make predictions as often as necessary to increase your odds of a coincidence of an actual notable earthquake falling within the parameters of one of your prophetic predictions. Remember: a broken clock gives correct time twice a day!
  6. Make predictions as flexible in parameters and vague in specifics as possible. Think and talk like Nostradamus.
  7. Your own blog as well as Youtube and Twitter and other social media channels are your friends. Use Powerpoint presentations and other graphic tools with cool sounding music and impressive-sounding jargon. Finding fools this way will be like shooting fish in a barrel.
  8. You can always back-date blog posts so it appears you said things before a given earthquake that you actually said after said earthquake. Conversely, ALWAYS clean up after yourself and expunge all electronic evidence of past failures. 
  9. Get yourself a college degree that is at best obliquely-related to the research of quake forecasting. Think electrical engineering or urban planning. By all means avoid geophyics or seismology because those people will be ruthless. Now you will be able to boast that you are a scientist predicting quakes.
  10. Get yourself published... well, self-published. By adding that you are a published author, and not necessarily about earthquake predicting... could be a book about UFO's, doesn't matter, you're a published earthquake-predicting author. This might even get you on Coast-To-Coast AM!



  1. Your post, like many of your others, is thoughtful, humorous, and well written. But a little of your scientific innocence comes out as well.
    Certainly this is a predictable response to the new science of quake prediction, perhaps because you have not examined it closely, or maybe because your mind though inquisitive may be slightly closed due to nature or more probable in this case nurture. Since the dawn of the inquiring mind new ideas have been met with the full spectrum of responses, from examination to ridicule, it is most human to do so. You have done nothing new here.
    Professional scientists show the best of man but the also show the worst of man. What better way to live a life on this planet than to discover. They discover, but ultimately their ideas become tools for the humans in power to either destroy other humans or to extract profit in a big loss way for others and the environment. If the professional scientists are truly accountable and have the means to make a difference, how can they sleep at night, for us amateur ones who do not make a difference only see destruction in many forms as the result of their work.
    A quake predictor may have only a little knowledge, but that may be a choice that they have consciously made. An intelligent inquisitive mind, though recruited by the military or corporations may have chosen another more difficult but eminently more peaceful way to live, and die, on this God forsaken planet. We now see science nearly every moment of the day and applied the proper way, in everything but humans. A flock of geese will use the principle of aerodynamics and turbulence while flying south, a human will use this yes to fly, but the most sophisticated flying machines are military. And how does a geologist sleep at night realizing the fruits of their labor are destroying the land through hydrofracking? Professional scientists are accessory partners to the humans in power, and us amateurs see what you are doing to this planet. So to all the scientist that "matter"or are actually accountable, whether geologists, climate scientists, or whatever, you get a big thumbs down. Look around you! And since scientists are human, they are not immune to the trappings of power, whether through peer review, or ridicule of new ideas. Let the quake predictors play, the ones that need to be ridiculed in a humorous, pithy blog are the scientists that are screwing up the planet.

  2. Paulie,

    You know me, I'm just a scientific "blushing bride" who cherry has yet to be popped. ;-p

    The "science" of quake prediction is not a new thing... Dr. Charles Francis Richter once said about its practitioners "Only fools, liars, and charlatans predict earthquakes."

    Scientific quake FORECASTING is another matter entirely.

    I am actually quite familiar with the myriad of eclectic quake prediction assertions and hypothesis that have popped up over the years. And they continue to pop up. I have on occasion done battle with their advocates. I have an annoying habit if demanding proof.

    You are quite obviously correct to point out that new ideas that are correct are always initially met with skepticism. That is the point of the process. The relatively few good ideas invariably come out of a much larger collection of bad ideas. The skepticism is what separates the wheat from the chaff.

    Your second paragraph while true in some respects is also self-aggrandizing of amateur scientists and condescending of professional scientists. It places all the latter group in a shoe box. It judges them by a one-size-fits-all measure. How the professional scientist's discoveries are utilized by society is superfluous in this particular debate. What is germane here are results. Regardless if they are used for good or evil purposes the professional scientists are actually doing stuff. Meanwhile, the amateurs and pseudoscientists sit on the sidelines not doing anything that can be used for good or evil.

    An amateur quake predictor electing to possess but a little knowledge has elected to not know what they are talking about and thus is doomed to fail and quite by choice which makes their dogma rather ironic.

    You refer to military applications of technology like they are a bad thing. Perhaps you were unaware that good intentions and high-minded rhetoric don't bring peace any more effectively than war-making capability and most often less so: think Neville Chamberlain.

    Hydrofracking is more destructive than plate tectonics? Can you name one fatality of hydro-fracking?

    Don't get me wrong, I don't deny that we are ruining our planet. However, I'm so skeptical I'm even skeptical of the skeptics... like you.

    You also make the mistake of assuming that the scientific community is one single megalithic complex when in fact it is riven with divisions. Case in point: climatologists work at cross-purposes with petroleum geologists, generally-speaking.

    At the end I'm struck by one conclusion: my initial comments are an adequate rebuttal to your rebuttal. Hence, I conclude by suggesting that you reread my comments as an additional response to your comments.

    Paulie, thanks for taking the time to read my blog and respond in depth as you did. I enjoy such exchanges of ideas.