Sniffing out bogus claims of earth quake predictability

There was an item today on the LiveScience.com site about a Newsweek article in which a journalist claims the recent Japanese earthquake increases the chances of a "catastrophic seismic event striking California." In a nutshell, he claims quakes on one side of a tectonic plate can cause problems at one of the other sides.

Sounds plausible. Only problem is, it isn't true. The LiveScience item quotes geophysicists at the San Francisco Bay Area Earthquake Hazards Project who study tectonic processes as saying there is no evidence of any link.

But you didn't even have to read the LiveScience item to realize the Newsweek article was all wet. All you had to do was read what the Nobel Prize winning mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot wrote about earthquakes in his popular book called The Fractal Geometry of Nature. In it he points out that tectonic processes are fractal in nature and, thus, unpredictable. He goes on to say that once geophysicists realized the fractal nature of tectonics, we stopped reading in the popular press about claims of big earthquakes being "overdue" because a lot of time has elapsed since the last big one. The time between earthquakes, big or small, is largely unpredictable.

Anyway, the LiveScience item is still interesting:

http://www.livescience.com/13347-bogus-claim-japan-earthquake-won-trigger-california-quake.html

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Lee Teschler

Leland serves as Editor-in-Chief of Machine Design. He has 34 years of Service and holds a B.S. Engineering from the University of Michigan, a B.S. Electrical Engineering from the University of...
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