Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Was September 08 Earthquake Month?

The September earthquake story has developed nicely with just the right amount of coincidences to cause excitement in the astrology community. Triumphant comments have been left on my earlier posts on earthquakes claiming "prediction" success. I noticed throughout the month of September quite a bit of traffic coming to my blog from search queries of the like " September astrology earthquake prediction" and so I gather there is a lot of curiosity about whether astrologers can really predict earthquakes.

Just a quick recap for those who have not been following this thread. Some astrologers claim that they can predict big earthquakes based on the alignment of the moon with the sun and other planets in the solar system. Mr. Amit Dave who lives in Mumbai is one such astrologer. He claims that certain alignments of the moon and sun (and other planets) exert tidal stresses on earth. No one doubts this. Nothing new here. The relevant question is whether these tidal stresses acting alone i.e. without input from internally generated tectonic stresses are enough to cause big earthquakes. The answer is clearly no.

In two earlier posts I exposed Mr. Dave's lack of understanding about geology and earthquakes and explained just why tidal stresses acting on their own are incapable of causing big earthquakes on earth. He never gave me a single substantive reply to my questions but kept making foolish claims about his "predictions" in the comments sections of my posts. So in this post I will try to explain what is a scientific earthquake prediction and whether Mr. Dave's "predictions" measure up to this standard.

The main confusion among people is between making the rather mundane claim that earthquakes will occur on any particular day against the more meaningful exercise of predicting a earthquake. Astrologers are unable to grasp this distinction or more cynically ignore it since the laypersons they are trying to reach certainly don't make this distinction.

When geologists make a prediction about a earthquake it is in this format:

An earthquake of magnitude ...6.5-7 magnitude (range).. will strike (with a probability) ...time range..(usually in the range of the next few years) at location... Longitude X and Latitude Y due to ... hypothesis of how and why an earthquake is due /imminent in the declared region.

Astrologers ignore the third requirement of the location and are puzzled by the fourth. Why give a hypothesis of how and why an earthquake is imminent.

Here's why. Geologists studying earthquakes and working in a particular area have a hypothesis on how geological stresses may cause an earthquake. This hypothesis describes for example the rates at which strain is accumulating along a particular fault based on say the motion of the earth's plates. Or take tidal forces. Ultimately they can only act or trigger earthquakes by imposing stresses on the crust. So even a theory of earthquakes like Mr. Dave's which relies solely on tidal forces needs to explain in terms of the imposed stress and accumulating strain how , why and where these tidal forces are likely to cause a rupture. If an earthquake does occur in that region, this hypothesis can then be validated against what actually happened. It gives geologists a chance to test how good their understanding of earthquake mechanisms is.

Here is a great example of this process from the September issue of Geology in a paper that studies the big Kashmir earthquake of 2005:

.... We thus conclude that the 2005 event did not occur on the plate boundary megathrusts, but on intraplate active faults within the Sub-Himalaya. Consequently, the accumulated elastic strain around the complex northwestern margin of the Indo-Asian collision zone has not been significantly released by the 2005 earthquake.

What this means is that the earlier hypothesis that a big earthquake in Kashmir will likely take place along a major boundary fault zone was wrong. The earthquake instead took place on a subsidiary fault system. This however warned geologists that strain is still accumulating along the major fault and another big earthquake in that region is likely.

Science is a self correcting process. If we are to improve our understanding of earthquakes, a prediction must include a declaration of a hypothesis which can then be validated against what actually took place.

Alright, on to Mr. Dave's "predictions". Here it is

1) 7th September 2008 -- 2020GMT ---- 7.2 On Richter scale at 12 Degrees East or/168 Degrees west ( Precise location both longitude and latitude is not possible as of to day)2) 10th September 2008 --1950 GMT ---7.3 on Richter scale-at 66 Degrees east or 114 degrees West3) 15 th September 2008 --0910 GMT----More than 7.5 on Richter scale -at 147 Degrees East or 33 Degrees west4) 16 th September 2008 ---2015 GMT---- 7.5 on Richter scale -at 87 Degrees East or 93 Degrees West

The original prediction he gave me did not have even the incomplete location information. It is only when the USGS insisted that a location is necessary (he forwarded me a mail from the USGS) that he put in just the longitude.

But that's not it. These dates are way too specific and Mr. Dave then provides a hedge.

As per my theory the dates of September 2008 are already published in my blog. However one more thing required to be noted is that , the dates shown are the peak force dates ,and have maximum potential of triggering the quakes. However , the quakes follow a sinusoidal pattern. As the dates mentioned approaches nearer the quake intensity and frequency keep on increasing. After the dates have passed the tidal force slowly fades away.

And then not satisfied that his sinusoidal wave will cover enough ground, a few more dates:

Thus , there are fair chances of quakes of 6.5 to 6.8 Richter scale on following dates also. places not known.27 th August 2008----0415 Hrs IST31 th August 2008-----0115 Hrs ISTAlso 22 nd and 23 rd September 2008----up to 7.0 on Richter scale
So, he has covered so much time with his spread of dates that he has ensured himself a high degree of "prediction" success.

Why is that? Because of the high frequency of moderate to big earthquakes, something most people are unaware of. 7-8 magnitude earthquakes occur at a frequency of 1-2 per month, 6-7 magnitude earthquakes occur 10-12 per month, 5-6 magnitude earthquakes occur 2-4 per day, and 4-5 magnitude earthquakes occur 20-25 per day.

As expected Mr. Dave claimed earthquakes of varying magnitudes on dates before, between, on and after his peak potent period. Not a single 7+ earthquake occurred on any of these days, but Mr. Dave blatantly misstated the magnitudes of these earthquakes. It is a comical list of claims, but one that speaks to his disingenuity. He seems incapable of reporting accurately even the most basic of facts.

You can check for yourself all this earthquake information by going on the USGS earthquake search.

But my main quibble is not with these reporting inaccuracies. I put that down to over-excitement. My objections are over procedures.

What is the justification for claiming that tidal forces caused the earthquake that was claimed and not one of the dozen others that took place on that day? All Mr. Dave is doing is choosing post facto from a list of earthquakes that occurred on the day, the earthquakes that is closest to the magnitude he gave or one he deems significant in some way.

I like to call this retrospective coronation.

Again, how does he know that tidal forces caused the bigger earthquake he has claimed and not a smaller earthquake that took place some where else? He doesn't know, but you see without a prior declaration of a location and a hypothesis it is impossible for anyone to verify his claim. And that suits the astrology community just fine.

That is why astrologers never give a location.

Mr. Dave will deny that he chooses earthquakes after they occur, but here is an example which gives his game away. He had "predicted" that an earthquake of magnitude 7.5 or so will occur on September 16th. Unfortunately for him there was no earthquake larger than 6 on that day. So what did he do? He claimed a 5.0 magnitude earthquake (he gives the mag. as 4.9) that occurred in the Satara district of Maharashtra as proof of his "predictions"!

It is stupid claims like this one that lays bare the intellectual bankruptcy of these bogus earthquake prediction schemes astrologers concoct from time to time.

Remember earthquake frequencies? There were 26 earthquakes on September 16 of magnitudes 4-6. There were 4 earthquakes of magnitude greater than the one he choose. How does he know that tidal stresses caused the Satara earthquake and not any one of the other 25? He doesn't. The only reason he choose to claim this particular earthquake is because thousands of people in the Mumbai-Pune area felt it. Humans react to and remember events that occur close to the place they live and Mr. Dave knew he could fool people into believing that he actually predicted that earthquake.

So astrologers are not really predicting a earthquake. They are simply just highlighting after the fact one out of the many that occur on any given day.

Location and a hypothesis, Location and a hypothesis, Location and a hypothesis. Without these any claim to a prediction is meaningless.

Did I mention even the incomplete location information given by him was wrong for all the earthquakes he has claimed?

I find this non-disclosure of location information most revealing! Mr Dave and other astrologers argue that they too are trying to save lives by coming up with a prediction system. That is as strange an argument as I have even come across. How on earth can you save lives if you don't specify where an earthquake is going to strike?

One last requirement of a scientific prediction is the complete disclosure of negative results. Mr. Dave has never admitted that his location information is missing or wrong in all the cases. Another type of negative result is earthquakes that occur on days other than those given. Ambuj pointed this out sometime back. Mr Dave claims that big earthquakes occur solely due to tidal stresses and there are potent days when they will occur. Since his September prediction which appeared on my blog on July 13 to the date of this post, leaving aside the entire month of September, there were 25 earthquakes of magnitudes 6 and above. How does he explain these earthquakes which all fell on days when the heavenly bodies were not engaged in a destructive tango?

In fact how does he explain not just these biggish earthquakes but the hundreds of smaller earthquakes that occur every day?

Here is my suggestion for what Mr. Dave's next prediction should look like:

Magnitude X (range) , Time range , location in Longitude and Latitude and a hypothesis of how and why tidal stresses will cause strain to build up and rupture rocks in the region he has indicated. This is to be followed by a full disclosure of negative results.

If he does this I am sure the seismology community will follow his claims with interest. But just rolling the dice and jumping up in excitement whenever an earthquake happens to coincide with a full moon, new moon or quarter moon day is not acceptable.

I predict Mr. Dave will not accept this qualifying criteria.

I am sure because:

Gustav ,Hanna and Ike three major storms in first week of September08Vanuattu quake of 6.5 on 8th September 2008 ,at 0305 Gmtkeep counting pleaseDave
Astrologer / Engineer

Yes hurricanes too. With this mindset Mr. Dave will continue to fool himself and other ignoramuses who are already convinced that their destiny has been decided by the alignment of distant planets.


  1. Wow ... I'm speechless, that is some crazy stuff.

    I applaud your effort in documenting and chronicling your interactions with these cranks. As scientists, it is usually far too easy to not engage them. You should be given some sort of award!

  2. thanks Brian. Astrology is huge in India, so some effort to counter these beliefs is much needed.

    I just hope I don't get trapped in a mission creep and get obsessed over this :-)


  3. What's the business about X degrees west *or* Y degrees east?? That would mean anywhere in the southern or northern hemisphere along those particular lines of longitude? Or did I miss something?

    Those aren't locations!

  4. Silver Fox-
    those longitudes are bogus. He just made them up to appear credible and then ignored them when he got all of them wrong :-)

  5. Sir
    Thank you very much. You have taken enough pains to prove me wrong and to save science from so called Astrologers. I will not take much time and not write a thesis.
    However, few points need to be clarified here.
    ( A) First thing first-At the out set, please remove the idea/ block that, this is an Astrology and there fore it must be wrong, or baseless. The theory is based on pure science .rather physics and it is based on Gravitational pull acting on two bodies .It requires calculation of pull, mass1*mass2/ square of the distance between two objects.
    It is also not correct that, the theory is only based only on tidal forces. It also takes in to account the change in Momentum (mass*velocity ) of the molten magma due to either change in direction of the major planets or extreme speed of the planets. This occurs when planets change their direction (apparent) from direct to Retro gate or retro gate to direct.. Extreme speed of the planets also plays an important role to accelerate or retard the momentum.
    planet normalspeed exceesive speed
    Mars 31-26 46-11
    mercury 59-8 131-32
    Jupiter 5-0 14-04
    Venus 59-08 75-42
    Saturn 2-0 07-45
    days of extreme speed
    mars -15
    merciry andvenus 10
    jupiter -45
    can see the speed /acceleration change due such variation and when multiplied with mass it can make a huge difference.
    I shall now give method of predicting a major quake
    (a)First-we need to Find out the month and date when major planets, Jupiter and Saturn changes the directions. or having excessive speed. Venus and Mercury are also considered for quakes of less intensity (<6.5)
    (b) Second- Find out the dates immediately after (a) above ,when moon (trigger)either joins ,opposes, or squares the planets changing the direction or the planet having excessive speed.
    Also find out full moon, new moon , low neap tide moon dates and time immediately after (a) above.
    As moon is the main trigger the dates and time (+/- 2Hrs ) are fixed by moon.. this is because moon takes 2 Hrs to move one degree
    (C) Third-place-The place depends on two things
    Finding place accurately is very difficult, as it depend on time accuracy. If we miss 4 minutes we are away by one longitude
    The line along the vector resultant pull of all forces and the crust right above the pull at that time It is true that quakes occur along fault line ,that is only because those are weaker sections. If the crust is solid the quake may wait for some time (2 to 4 Hrs ) till it comes right below fault line or may come little early depending on availability of weaker crust
    THE PLATES AND FAULTS ARE DUE TO QUAKES AND QUAKES ARE NOT DUE TO PLATES. Plates and faults are effects of quakes and not cause of the quake
    On some given date (say,16 th September 2008) there are lot of quakes all over the globe and on various plates not related to each other. How do we explain this with Plate tectonics?
    (d) intensity- The intensity depends on several things like
    #one or more planets changing direction( for momentum change )
    # Full moon ,New moon , low neap tide moon ( for tidal force calculation )
    #Planets having extreme speed ( for momentum change)
    #Moon at apogee or perigee ( for tidal force calculation )
    # Earth nearest to Sun ( for tidal force calculation )
    # Moon on equator ( for tidal force calculation )
    # Moon or sun at extreme declination ( for momentum change )
    #sun and moon having same declinations ( for momentum change )
    #Aspects of other planets ( for tidal force calculation )
    # eclipse( when sun and moon are in the same plane) ( for tidal force calculation)
    (D) Earthquake cycle- Once the date and time of major quake is decided ,we need to observe the dates before and after the selected dates ,the other dates for pre shocks and after shocks. These will occur before and after seven and half days, 15 days , 23rd day and one month. This is because moon takes yet another potent position after each seven and half days (90 Degrees movement). Please note these pre and after shock may not be at the same place.
    That is why I have added few more dates in my prediction .(that too well in advance )
    We also need to track the date from one month in advance and adjust according to pre shock signals.

    (B)Reply to Mr kher’s remarks
    (i) Yes .September 2008 was the month of major quakes as well as disasters. Make total of September quakes as against average quakes
    (ii) cyclone theory- The tidal forces with change in momentum also applies to atmosphere and moisture in the air. The high tide line creates high pressure and low tide line creates low pressure zone in the atmosphere. The more the tidal force ,the more the low pressure zone. This pressure difference creates high speed winds. If it happen to be ocean with 26-27 degree temp band, over which the winds blows it may create a cyclone.( DO YOU FIND ANY THING UN SCIENTIFIC IN THIS ?)

    (iii) 100 % prediction- Why do we need 100 % prediction in initial stage? Why do we need either 0% or 100 % prediction ? Why we can not progress smoothly?
    Forget earthquake prediction. Do we have cent percent weather forecast? Can we predict cloud burst with accuracy ,despite having Doppler Radar? Can we predict land fall of cyclones ,despite having satellite images with 72 hours lead time ? Why only sciences have liberty to learn from error? or self correction? Are we hypocrites? Are we working blind fold in the name of science? Do we have keyhole view of the problem? Are we not ready to think out of the box?
    Did any-body find any thing astrological in my theory mentioned above?
    (iv) Satara quake – All quakes were due to tidal force on all dates mentioned.
    I would say all major quakes are due to tidal force coupled with change in momentum.. More than 25 quakes in a day ,Where was the stress and strain ? All over the Globe? How on earth plate tectonic justify this? Are they on same plate boundaries? Was that built up stress ? Residual Stress ? No idea.
    NEXT CHALLANGE- January 2009 will be a quake prone / Natural disaster prone month. IF you want dates, they are
    2,4,11,12,15,23,25/26 th January 2009
    Year long challenge- I shall give you 36 dates (10% of the year) for major quakes (6.8 and above ) for the year 2009.
    It means there will be about 10% quakes on these dates .
    How if 90% of major quakes occur on these 10% dates ?

    Note-( I)-University of California, LA Department of earth and space science researchers have published an Article in “science” ,that states out of 2000 quakes they have studied between 1997 -2000 (>5.5) ,75 % quakes were at the time of high tides in the ocean
    (II)One big quake could trigger another –half way across the globe.-this is the findings of a team of Geologist in USA .”They could be of any size” said Parsons , who in previous research identified eight cases in the last quarter century in which 7.0 or bigger quake had lead to another that was even bigger
    Is this not enough justification of the prone dates ?
    (III)Researcher Alexandar kahlinsky at NASA’s Goddard space flight centre in Greenbelt recently found a” Dark flow “ which they say is the Gravitational pull of matter that is across billions of light years .
    What do we know about travel of the Gravitational pull across the space?
    Amit dave
    Astrologer / Engineer

  6. A prediction I heard a while ago stated that "something bad was likely to happen during the Beijing Olympics". The authors were on T.V. and stated they did not know what would go wrong but also that they did not want anything bad to happen, but felt it might, based on...something.

    Nothing happened and we can thank God or Great Organisation.

    Coming back to the discussion, any methodology which predicts results borne out by reality is good!

    Mr. Dave has given the many parameters he uses for prediction, so my question is...is it possible to use suitable, time tested methodologies (e.g.DMAIC) to refine any model for accurate futuristic use.

    As astrology is a science its exponents must want to go back and verify results.

    (DMAIC is a 6-sigma methodology and is the acronym for Define, Measure,Analyse,Improve and Control)

  7. Mukund Wow! you actually visited :-)

    As expected Mr. Dave's reply was high on the bogosity scale and zero on substance. All his fantastic claims about tides, gravity and oceans of magma etc I have countered effectively in two earlier posts.

    Wading through the morass of ignorance in his comments there is just one sentence I can write something new and instructive about which might hopefully benefit some other readers.

    He writes: THE PLATES AND FAULTS ARE DUE TO QUAKES AND QUAKES ARE NOT DUE TO PLATES. Plates and faults are effects of quakes and not cause of the quake

    I nor any other geologist will find too much problem thinking about quakes the way he has put it.

    Forces acting on the lithosphere -the upper rigid layer of the earth which includes the crust- impose stresses on the crust. If the stresses exceed the mechanical breaking strength of the rocks , there is a rupture and the stored energy is released as an earthquake. Let's say forces are acting on a continuous section of the lithosphere. Over time and millions of these ruptures and earthquakes it will eventually split into two pieces (plates). So in this sense earthquakes have caused plates to form. You can think about it this way.

    Mr. Dave is under the impression that he is telling us something revolutionary , but this is textbook geology!

    His colossal misunderstanding is regarding the origin of these forces. It is the internal heat engine (mostly heat generated through radioactive decay) of the earth, manifested as convection cells in the mantle that impose stresses on the lithosphere. Mantle convection causes the lithosphere to stretch and thin and ultimately break into pieces or plates and also causes already broken pieces to be pulled further apart or be pushed together. If two pieces of the lithosphere are pushing against each other then those collisional forces will impose stresses,... then finally rupture and an earthquake. So in this situation the plate movements have caused the earthquake!

    This is plate tectonics. The forces involved in all stages of the evolution of the lithosphere from unbroken to partially split to separate plates are internally generated.

    Earthquakes are part and parcel of this process of breaking,pushing, shoving and jostling of plates. That's what geologists mean when they say earthquakes need to be understood within a framework of internally generated forces and plate movements. Tidal forces also deform the earth slightly but their contribution is minuscule compared to the earth's internal forces.

    Mr Dave will not find all this too helpful. His unwillingness to understand how the earth really works is characteristic of an affliction known as arrogant ignorance.

    He prefers his cocoon of self-deception to reality.

  8. Hi Everybody
    please check recent quake of pakistan vis a vis theory already published on this blog
    Second challange for January 2009-
    January 2009 will witness major quakes /natural Disasters
    4.01.2009- 7.2
    11th- 7.1
    12th -7.3
    15th -7.1
    22nd -6.1
    25th -6.4
    26th -6.6
    warch out .
    Amit dave

  9. Hi again
    January 2009 is approaching.
    will January be a quake prone month?
    Dave. Astrologer/ engineer