Monday, March 07, 2011

Humour amongst the grief...

One of the "lighter" (the pune will become clear...) moments in the days following the Christchurch earthquake involved TV3 and John Campbell's "news and views" programe.

He had invited Ken Ring along to talk about the predicition of the Christchurch earthquake. (I hope that picks up the cache copy :) ) I openly confess that I missed the interview but did see Campbell's apology the following night ("...I let my personal feelings get between journalism and the audience..."). I have since heard selected portions of the interview courtesy of Mediawatch last night. To that extent I agree with JC's apology; Not good journalism, John.

Since then, Peter Griffen writing in the NBR, has come up with comparison between Ring and another - more famous - earthquake predictor.
The furore over John Campbell’s interview with earthquake predictor Ken Ring this week really exposed a strong anti-science vein running through New Zealand that even we here at Sciblogs, seasoned from hand to hand combat with the anti-vaccination lobby, homeopaths and evolution deniers were surprised at.

As one commenter on Sciblogs put it, Ken Ring’s predictions and his methods have a “pleasant intuitiveness” to them that makes them sound plausible and offer comfort in the face of hard science, often explained in complex, unemotional or even arrogant terms by scientists.

America's quake prediction panic attack
Well, this week’s turn of events reminded me of a 20 year-old Science article I was sent in the wake of September’s earthquake (hat tip to Lynley Hood) that paints some striking similarities between Ken Ring and another earthquake predictor who has long since passed, Dr Iben Browning.

Dr Browning was a self-taught climatologist with a Ph.D in zoology who in late 1989 predicted the serious likelihood of a major earthquake striking the Mississippi Valley during the first week of December 1990.

The media jumped on the prediction and widely publicised them. Why? According to Science:

Browning’s successful scare was based on classic ingredients: a predictor with apparently solid credentials, a prediction method that sounds scientific, and unsupported claims of previous prediction successes.

Does all of that have a familiar ring to it?

Well, it seems that Ring and his believers have really missed the mark!! Why?

Read here...

There are two dates in there... here, I'll give you a hand with them.
The time line provided by the internet forum contributor has sparked concern and criticism alike over the last week.

Feb 20 Nibiru between Jupiter and Mars orbits. 2.48 AU from Earth.

March 4 Nibiru breaks through ecliptic plane for earth change symptoms to increase dramatically. 2.261 AU from Earth.

March 15 Saturn, Nibiru, Earth, Sun, Mars, Jupiter and Uranus are in alignment creating gravity trench for volcano/earthquake/tidal events to escalate (first shaking of Hopi prophecy). First Conjunction. 2.1 AU from Earth.

So, more news next week.

Oh! "Lighter"? Choose between humour and setting fire...


Anonymous said...

And don't forget Nancy Lieder .

This links to a hilarious account of attempting to get Nance to concede Hale-Bopp.

I am surprised that we haven't had more quakes, given the moon's proximity. Actually, it's quite likely that SUVs provide some sort of masscon that counters the moon's gravity (and don't forget that the Sun is the biggest player in the Solar System Gravity Stakes).

The probligo said...

Some many years back I wrote a very learned piece for the Auckland Model Aero Club magazine “Slipstream”. It was about the mysterious attractive force between model aircraft and wire fences.

Essentially, the lighter the model aircraft (and hence the more prone to damage), the greater the attraction of fences, fence posts and particularly fence wires.

This mysterious force was also proven to be dependant upon the flying speed of the model. The higher the relative ground-speed, the greater the effect on the model. Hence a wire fence had a far greater attraction when the model was up-wind of the fence; conversely less attraction when the model was down-wind. This was initially termed “The Wind Phase Effect”. Later research showed up the “Ground Speed Effect”.

There was also a third effect from this force, one which had particular danger for radio controlled aircraft (and which also proved that the more dangerous part was the wire rather than the post). After having a number of radio controlled models “landing” on powerlines the importance of the wires became clear.

There is also an unproven statistical relationship between wooden fence posts and trees. Indications at that time were that there was a direct homing force between balsa structures and the wood of these dangers. Regrettably the government funding for continuing research into this aspect was withdrawn and so the project was terminated before completion.

Anonymous said...

I think it likely that you are referring to a Field Force. Science has made great progress since Newton's time in developing theories of force fields. Thus we have (presumably) full descriptions of force fields such as gravitation, electromagnetic, weak nuclear and so on.

What you have experienced with balsa and tissue constructions is an effect of the force that a field (ie paddock) exerts. Naturally enough the fence that surrounds the fields acts akin to a waveguide and thus the attractive force is concentrated there.

Telephone and power lines work in a different way, as can be observed by the numbers of sneakers that are attracted to them. Quite probably the force of attraction operates on slender components (no doubt described by Lace Theory, as opposed to String Theory), with a repulsive force that drives the actual footware away - hence the lace part becomes stuck to the lines and the shoes hang down.

In seeking a TOE, physicists need to examine further these forces that we have mentioned. I cannot find anything about them in standard texts.

The probligo said...

I was reading a short while back (SciAm I think, or a libry book) on the topic of branes.

Being, as you know, a fairly braneless person myself I found this pretty tough going, especially when the branes headed for their ninth dimension and the bending of a three dimensional brane was too much for the ol probligo brane (or should that be brain? Confusion braneth!).

Your (quite correct) touch upon field theory and strings has a number of very relevant extensions.

The first would be the application of the theory to control-line models; an aspect not previously considered at all.

So too, the fact that any model aircraft is braneless must justify some serious consideration. Oh, hang on, confucious again...

:D :D

The probligo said...

It occurs to me that I might be more P-braned than braneless. Oh, and after careful research through the Librarians Library it seems that I lost a couple of dimensions. No wonder I was having trouble!

Now, which one did I leave TARDIS in?

Ann said...

My husband , an water engineer has his eyes glued to his computer. I don't know about all these predictions. The end result is the same, death.

If you told me you were going to Pasifika, I would make it a date with you. LOL

The probligo said...

Ann, LOL ( :D:D ) indeed. The Mrs probligo might have said a few words too...

Truth as far as I am concerned on the prediction thing is that we do not know enough to make those predictions. So they are little more than "educated guesses" in many respects.

Some have more education behind them than others... The others rank in my opinion with the writers of horoscopes for womens' magazines and the like.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure that the Japanese would have the most sophisticated earthquake warning systems in the world...base on scientific understanding. Without that the March 11 event would have been far more catastrophic in terms of loss of life.

Unfortunately Ken Ring's earthquake predictions, like those of weather, are based on pseudoscience...looks good on the surface but shonky foundations. He might just as well use chicken entrails. (If you want some evidence of his lack of accuracy in weather predictions, just compare back issues of his books with reality.)

I feel for the poor Japanese people. They have the additional horror of radioactive release compounding on top of earthquake, tsunami, loss of homes and life, and then have to look forward to the devastation on the Japanese economy. Makes the Christchurch event look comparatively trivial.

The probligo said...

MF, what you say is very true. I do not doubt that the Japanese do have the most sophisticated earthquake prediction systems available; science and all.

The difficulty there is that the science is still unable to express its prediction in anything better than a probability.

So, there is (let us say for the sake of making the point) a 5% probability of a 9.1 earthquake and tsunami hitting Wellington in the next 1,000 years. There is, correspondingly, a 1 in 20,000 chance of it happening in the next year. If you want to try and pin it on a specific location (like the Wairarapa Fault) the probabilities start to stretch even further.

Where the Japanese are so far ahead of everyone else is not in the prediction of earthquakes per se. They have invested huge amounts in researching structural methods and engineering to try and ensure the survivability of buildings - and hence the people inside - in any foreseeable earthquake. As you have said, the results of that research is clearly shown by the current quake. What was not included in the research briefs was the sudden (in a matter of seconds) arrival of 10 metres of water.

There is a wally in the paper this morning suggesting that the proposed Royal Commission on the Christchurch quake should investigate the Mayor Parker's administration and the Chch.C.C. for its responsibility in allowing so many non-earthquake proof buildings. He has the "blame blinkers" on and can not see that the solution, the strengthening of old buildings, requires money for the investment. I guess that he would be very happy for his rates ten years back to be quadrupled so that the CC could undertake a major programme of compulsory building and rebuilding.


Oh, hang on. He lives in Remmers.

Anonymous said...

My point is that the Japanese have sophisticated warning systems. Prediction is an entirely different pot of piscoids.

At least the Remmers Wally doesn't (yet) blame fornication, same-sex marriage, bestiality and dope-smoking for the ChCh quake.

Unlike the Governer of Tokyo...

The probligo said...

Sorry I slipped on that particular herring.

The truth remains that despite the sophistication of the Japanese warning systems, there was little to no warning of the 9.1 monster, and (from what I hear) only a couple of minutes warning of the following tsunami (it hit shore about ten minutes after the quake?). There was nothing and nobody that connected the 7+ a couple days earlier with the prospect of another so powerful to follow.

All of which does not in any way reduce the size of the tragedy, nor in any way apportion blame. Quite the reverse in fact (and I think we are agreeing here :) ).

There is no science yet that is capable of saying "At some time in the next 24 hours there will be a major seismic event in the northeast of Japan. Citizens should seriously consider the possibility of moving to open and higher ground."

I am (as you well know) a pedantic ol' probligo and that to me is "a warning". Blowing a siren five minutes after to say "We just had a major earthquake." is not. That part of the system seems to have worked impeccably, so everyone should have been in little doubt about what had just happened.

I just know that at some point in the future there will be an event (of what nature I have no idea) with my number on it, and small to no chance of avoiding it. Ann had that right.

Whanga Ray said...

"Warning" so far is of the order of seconds in the case of earthquake (depending on distance from the epicentre) and is achieved - if that is the correct word! - by seismometers that pick up the P waves, which travel faster than the longitudinal S-waves.

20 - 60 seconds warning could make a lot of difference. I believe such systems are in place in California and Japan. In the case of the tsunami there was more advance warning, like about 20 minutes I gather.

As you point out, when your number is up there's not much you can do about it. Eat, drink and make love while you can! (In which vein, try some C J Pask Gimblett Gravels 'Declaration' sometime.)

Anonymous said...

Whanga Ray's philosophy seems sound. Obviously s/he is on the right track and is prepared for contingencies by consuming good wine...maybe even congruently with other hedonistic activities? What better way to go as upheaval strikes!

The probligo said...

DOOMED!!! We is all DOOMED!!!

The best I could manage at the moment would be a supermarket Aussie red, or a Reisling I have set aside for the wetting of a baby head in about seven months. Oh, and now I need an extra bottle of that vintage... :D:D

Anonymous said...

Ho! More mist for the grill...

Just watched TV and seen pros and cons of Ring's Hypothesis. Ian Ferguson in support?? Bring on Ritchie McCaw (or anyAB in fact) and lets have the definitive answers.

And that's my final comment on this atrocious travesty of 'rational' thought masquerading as science.