Thursday, June 5, 2008

Astrology and Earthquake Prediction By Mumbai Engineer

Sometimes I am left shaking my head with disbelief at the rubbish that people try to pass off as science. DNA has a story of Mr. Amit Dave a BMC engineer who has put forth a new earthquake prediction method using the alignment of planets in the solar system as a guide. Yes, astrology now enters the field of earthquake prediction. According to him plate tectonics has nothing to do with earthquakes, it is all in the planetary positions. And its not just earthquakes, but hurricanes and floods too pay obeisance to the remote planets. Mr. Dave, and I found this hilarious, was recently transferred from the Mumbai disaster management cell (hey wait, this man needs to be made chief of the disaster management cell if he can really predict disasters), says that he has not yet predicted the next occurrence (surprise surprise) and needs time to work out this theory (he's been working at it since 1993). But Dave claims that several big earthquakes in the past occurred when the moon and Jupiter and Saturn were in "potent" positions. By the way this is not the first time someone has claimed a relation between the planetary positions and earthquakes, so Mr. Dave does not have a claim to priority here. But I think it is important to point out that claims that have appeared in literature on planetary influence on seismicity have been carried out on small data sets and seem to show an apparent relation with very shallow, small seismic events in continental volcanic regions (Mammoth Lake California) or along mid ocean ridges but these correlations break down for larger data sets and for larger earthquakes. Here is Mr. Dave's "theory" as reported by DNA:

The earth consists of a thin upper crust and molten lava, magma. The inner crust is semi-solid and hot. Like tidal waves, this molten lava is also influenced by tidal currents. The moment the high tide pull is more, it breaks open the crust and earthquakes occur. If the crust breaks completely, it results in a volcanic eruption. Dave says the most potent quakes occur when the sun, Jupiter, Saturn, and the moon are in mutual potent positions like 0º, 90º, 180º, and 360º. The two planets change their direction of motion from direct to retrograde from time to time. The gravitational pull exerted on the earth by this movement induces a change in momentum, mass and velocity of the molten lava, creating disturbances.

There is just so much wrong here that is is difficult to know where to start. Let's start with the forces involved. In typical pseudo-science fashion, Mr. Dave has done a lot of arm waving regarding planetary positions but there is no mention of actual forces involved and whether they might cause damage to the earth. Turns out they cannot. The gravitational force of the moon that an object on earth experiences is only a tiny tiny fraction of the earth's gravitational pull on that object. That means that the miniscule additional force of the moon is simply not enough by itself to create large enough stresses within the earth to break and rupture rocks in the interior of the earth. Bad Astronomy has a detailed calculation of the forces exerted by the moon, sun and other planets in the solar system. "The force of the Moon on you is only about 0.000003 times the Earth's. For me, that means I weigh an extra 0.0009 pounds more when the Moon is under my feet versus when it's on the horizon (and therefore not contributing to the downward pull of the Earth)." Other planets contribute even less and the effect of tidal forces is even tinier than gravity. The entire article is worth reading. I doubt if Mr. Dave read it. Practitioners of psuedo-science never go into the trivial details of actually understanding forces and mechanisms. They only use jargon to impress. Now, the moon does deform the earth slightly in 12 hour semi-diurnal cycles called solid earth tides. But long term monitoring of these cycles and earthquakes has shown no significant correlation between solid earth tides and large earthquakes. Dave makes much of the influence of Saturn and Jupiter but calculations show that the combined influence of all the planets in the solar system is about 1 billionth the influence of the moon. So, no "potent" alignment of planets will make any discernible difference. Which brings me to my second point and the link between earthquakes and magma that Mr. Dave makes. Mr. Dave's theory requires that there be magma in the region where earthquakes occur, since his mechanism of earthquakes is that molten material in the earth's interior is pulled by the moon and other planet's gravity and that causes the magma to break the crust. Just to clarify, the earth's crust does not contain a uniform layer of molten material. Magma occurs in discrete magma chambers localized mostly along plate boundaries and zones of anamolous mantle heat flow within plates, such as beneath the Hawaian islands. I just made a list of big earthquakes in Asia that have occurred in recent memory. Koyna 1967, Kinnaur H.P. 1975, Uttarkashi 1991, Killari 1993, Bhuj 2001, Kashmir 2005, Sichuan 2008. All of these measured more than 6 on the Richter scale. None of them are associated with recent volcanism nor is there magma underneath these locations. We know that by studying the pattern of seismic wave propagation through the earth's crust. These studies indicate only solid crust. Only crustal stresses set up by the larger plate tectonic configuration in the region can explain these earthquakes. Mr. Dave badly needs a lesson in basic geology and plate tectonics. He seems completely ignorant of how the earth works geologically.

By a coincidence or call it the favorable alignment of planets, along with Mr. Dave's public announcement came the news that geologists have drilled and recovered core material from the San Andreas fault zone, one of the most earthquake prone region in the world. And guess what? No magma there either. But as predicted by plate tectonic theory, evidence of rocks crushed and sliding past each other due to the relative movements of the Pacific and North American plates.

I think one of the reasons why people readily believe such claims is that it can be shown that some past big earthquakes did occur when planets were aligned in preferred positions. I don't doubt that. If you go through a list of several thousand earthquakes a few are bound to coincide with whatever planetary alignment that you deem to be potent. The mistake is to ignore one of the most basic rules of statistical analysis which is correlation need not mean causality. Just because two events are coincident there does not have to be a cause and effect relationship between the two. Planets may have been aligned in a certain way when the Sichuan earthquake took place but that does not mean they caused it. Mr. Dave's "theory" lacks a workable mechanism. Only plate tectonics and internally produced stresses can provide it. Reading articles like these really make me mad. But I am mad more at the media than at Mr. Dave. I mean kooky theories are proposed by people all the time. But doesn't the media, in this case DNA have some responsibility in being more selective in the manner by which they publish such claims? Our media is too hooked on to sensationalism and does not take it's role of reporting science seriously at all. It's reporters have not training in science and are too ill prepared, uncritical and gullible, unable to distinguish between quackery and valid science, which is a real shame since most people in India get their science news from such newspaper articles.

Update: Mr. Dave left some questions for me in the comments section. I have answered those in a separate post: Geology Lessons To An Astrologer

Disclaimer Sept. 17: Contrary to some comments left on this post I did not predict the Sept. 17 earthquake which occurred in the Satara district of Maharashtra. Nor did anyone else. Don't let people fool you otherwise. You have to give accurate location information (latitude and longitude) along with a hypothesis in terms of geological forces and stresses acting at that location why an earthquake is likely or imminent. Simply saying that an earthquake will occur on this day and time does not qualify as a prediction. The reason is that there are plenty of earthquakes occurring everyday on earth. On average about 10-11 earthquakes of 6-7 magnitude occur every month, 3 earthquakes of 5+ magnitude occur everyday and more than 20 earthquakes of 4+ magnitude occur everyday somewhere on earth. Without a location and a justification "predicting" an earthquake is easy!! :-)

I'll be writing a larger post on this later maybe in a couple of weeks. Do visit again.

Update: Was September 08 Earthquake Month?


  1. sir
    I am Mr Dave , about whom the comments are given . Thank you sir.Let us not debate on my theory right now. I will give few more dates for major quakes /disasters. After that we shall discuss the theory
    dates are
    7 th September 2008-----7.1 quake
    10 th September 2008----7.3 quake
    15/16 th September 2008--->7.6 quake
    pl watch the dates
    Mr Dave

  2. sir
    In continuation of my reply ,here are some of my blogs wherein I have predicted the dates well in advance. These dates were forwarded to USGS also
    2. forum by author name AMITJDAVE

  3. Mr. Dave,
    I also predict earthquakes astrologically.
    I find also your dates good, but I will also add another large earthquake on 24th October 2009.
    Mr. Tony

  4. Hi
    Thank you sir.Yes there will be major quakes in October 2009. Ther will be slight variation in dates like this
    18 th October 2009 ------more than
    6.8 on Ritcherd scale
    and 27 th October 2009 -----more than
    7.2 on Ritcherd scale
    I would also like to know the theory of Mr Tony
    you can contact me on mail


  5. Sir
    A few question to MR.kher
    (1) Does moon force depend on the body it is acting?
    (2) How such a small force produce 4.5 mtrs of high tide in the oceans?
    (3) can we observe high tide and low tides in a bucket full of water? why ?
    (4) Does mass and volume of molten lava is more than that of waters in the oceans?
    Now some questions to Plate Tectonics
    (1) Why there are quakes at other than plate boundaries?
    (2) How and why the initial two plates ie Laurasia and Gondwanaland
    separated initially ? Due to heat currents or Due to Earth rotation?
    Because magma will not solidify at the places where splitting forces are already there how did they separated ?
    (1)Why there are major quakes allover the globe ,on different plate on a given date?
    (2) Why some months are prone to major natural disasters Like May 2008?
    (3)Why some of the major quakes have occured onf
    full moon or new moon day. BOth Latur(30-09-1993) and Bhuj 26-01-2001)quakes are on full moon day
    (4) How does plate tectonics explains pre shocks ?
    Amit J Dave

  6. sir
    Thank you all for observing my dates. If it is only a fluke , You and I both have equal probability of success or failure You can also give some dates randomly,which also have the same probability.
    I will be little more specific in my prediction .Here are the time on the given dates
    1. 8th sept 08 --0150 IST or 2020 GMT on 7th sept 08
    2. 10th sept 08 ---1950 GMT
    3. 15 th sept 08---0910 GMT
    4. 16th sept 08-----2015 GMT
    pl watch the dates and times

  7. Sir /Madam
    pl see my earlier blogs of earthquake predictions and actual occurrences.
    Here I am giving some more dates for September 2008 for quakes more than 7.0 on Richter scale.
    Yes , As of today I am unable to pin point the place for the quakes . Nevertheless I strongly believe that it can well be predicted. In fact I have already pin pointed the places for these quakes . However the accuracy of place is not higher than 50 %
    Hence I can not disclosing the same publicly. This is because the place depends on time accuracy in minutes as well as the crust above the tidal force at that minute.
    Science ,can predict the quakes in Himalayan region any time from tomorrow to 100 years span,(such predictions are useless) but My predictions are asked to be precise.What is the harm being more vigil on 12 to 15 dates in an year ?
    In all probability (90% major quakes will occur on these dates only)
    Why science is not open to any thing other than plate tectonics? If the plate tectonics was correct By now it should be able to predict the quakes accurately.
    I believe, The plates are due to quakes and quakes are not due to plates

    I am basically an Engineer, and my theory is based on pure tidal force theory
    I would like USGS to watch the dates in September 2008 (8th,10th,15th and 16 th September 2008)

  8. Hello friend
    pl observe major quakes on 8th and 10 th of September 2008
    vanuattu - 7.0
    hokaido - 7.0
    Indonesia - 7.6
    Pl keep watching . Two more dates are appoeching
    15th and 16 th September 2008

  9. Interesting topic. I arrived here looking for other with my same theory about gravitational effect.
    Of course the moon has a tremendous influence, beyond the scope of earth's gravity. Salt water, I understand to contain electrolytes. Think for a minute about tidal flows as an effect of the moon, and how earth's spherical form may change as the moon pulls the ocean water. There must be an magnetic effect from gravity traveling through the very conductive medium of salt water upon the tectonic plates. Salt is a piezo-electric component which may vibrate when an electrical field passes through.
    From my casual research it appears that many strong quakes do occur in coincidence with similar lunar alignment.
    Today, 9/15? I think a good call.
    A better call next month. 10/14
    Best wishes to all...

  10. The methods or results of Mr Amit Dave may prove to be right or wrong, but whatever Mr S. Kher has written in this regard is not science. Mr Kher has a half baked knowledge of geology. Instead of teaching geology to My Amit, Mr Kher should acknowledge that there is no method of predicting earthquakes in geology. Yet Mr Kher believes that plate tectonics can explain earthquakes, which is sheer superstition. Plate tectonics may be a sound hypothesis, but it has failed to predict quakes. If astrology or any X-logy succeeds in predicting earthquakes and saving lives, Mr Kher should not be so intolerant. Mr Kher should read 'Planetary Configuration: Implications for Earthquake Prediction' written by four geologists of geology department of Madras University. Whether geologists or astrologers succeed in predicting earthquakes, is immaterial. What matters is that we need a workable method of prediction of disasters. Otherwise all theories are rubbish.

  11. Vinay Jha doesn't seem to know the difference between explanation and prediction. He keeps confusing between the two. Plate tectonics explains why earthquakes take place at various locations very well and geologists are using this theory to work out a way to predict when at a particular location the next earthquake might strike. It is work in progress and no doubt a difficult challenge.

    I never claimed in my posts that plate tectonics currently can predict earthquakes. I just clarified why the theory better than any other theory explains why earthquakes occur at particular locations.

    Astrology on the other hand can neither explain earthquakes nor predict them.

  12. Hi ...
    I was pulled out of sleep at 3.20am (Sep 17) by an earthquake. I am residing in mumbai and came online to check up if google could get me any information on earthquakes in mumbai year 2008 and i landed up here. Just thot of leaving this comment!

    Neha Dave

  13. Your prediction sounds eerily true. I am not sure if it's just a co-incidence or really something that you have stumbled upon, as I this is not my subject. But, definitely the date, venue and the intensity are quite near to the prediction.
    If it's really something that can scientifically determine the chances of earthquake, it should be definitely looked into. Some research and trial runs could be done. Even if the results are negative, it's worth the effort. It's more important to save lives and property by putting basic safeguards in place to prepare for the eventuality, if it can be predicted.

  14. Also, I have linked your page to my blog article -!.html
    Let's see how your theories stand the test of time.

  15. Sir
    let us not argue unnecessarily.
    Basic idea is to save some lives
    Nearly two third September 08 has passed and we have series of cyclones ,quakes and unprecedental floods.
    All that I requaest is to look the problems from different angle and think out of the box.
    Please do not say that these predictions were flukes
    If science wants me to give anotehr dates I am ready for that. I have dates till 2010
    Amit Dave
    Astrologer /Engineer

  16. Sir
    With due respect to science and geology I am hereby protesting the words of Mr kher . I am an engineer with through out distinction -with National Merrit scholarship- and not here to fool any body, and also I ahve no time for that.
    Can any body tell me why we need eitehr 0% or 100 % predictions? can we not have a smooth progress ?. If the theory is accepted worked upon I am sure 100 % predictions can be made
    Science have liberty to predict major quake in say Himalays either tommorow or after 100 years. Where is the accuracy? What is the use of such predictions? Millions of Dollars are wasted in one Directions only.

    As a result of my 14 years works I have developed a theory -which is unfortunately against existing norms
    For predicting aquake it is not necessary to know the stresses and forces in the crust.WHAT SCIENCE TREAT CAUSE OF A QUAKE IS ACTUALY AN EFFECT OF THE QUAKE.
    If required I can give next dates here and now
    Astrologer /Engineer

  17. sir
    let us work in the way,the science knows.-probability-
    I will give 36 dates (10%) of the year for next year Jan 09 to Dec 09.It means there should be around 10% of the quakes (6.0 and above)on these dates as per probability theory
    How if 90 % of the quakes occur on these 10% dates?
    Ready for next challenge ?
    Amit Dave
    Astrologer /Engineer

  18. sir
    pl note todays Mexico quake of 6.4 at 0233 GMT, as predicted on this blog
    If required , I can give the dates for the year 2009 for more scutiny

  19. hello
    Anybody there ?
    Amit Dave

  20. Well can you state these earthquakes in their locations of occurances in 2009, specific to India.