Wednesday, March 09, 2011

My take on the Predictorguys

Today it is beginning to feel as if things are beginning to return to normal. But, what is normal in post Quake#2 Christchurch? I'd say it's a slightly off-centre sort of almost-normal that certainly doesn't involve a lack of quakes.

Yesterday I remarked to a friend that I can't remember a time without earthquakes. I can't remember not knowing what an earthquake felt like and not expecting one at any moment. Today I experienced my first supermarket aftershock. It was decent sized and quite dramatic, with the shelves all rattling, the floor rumbling loudly. People stopped shopping for a second, just waiting to see if it was a 'duck and cover' moment, but it wasn't. It was maybe 5 seconds of breath holding.

Once the shaking stopped, we simply resumed shopping. Even the kids in the store didn't think it was worth fussing over (although I'm sure a few tried it on for a sympathy lollypop at checkout). I caught the attention of the other woman working the organics section and we rolled our eyes at each other. That's what it's like. We are over it. We want our lives back. We are tired of being scared, staying home, fretting about the future, boiling water, taking bucket showers. We are tired of feeling like pathetic, terrified victims of an unpredictable earth. We are alive, and a little bit P.O'd. I think this is a healthy stage, past the shock and into the making the best of it in a currently broken city that is going to be rockin' and rollin' for a while yet. Of course, as those that like to practice quake-saying like to remind us, we may not yet even be on the home stretch.

In terms of earthquake prediction there are three moon and sun watching Predictorguys that I've become aware of over the past few weeks, and one Predictorgirl, Deb Weber, who is a psychic. Let's deal with her first; it won't take long. She thinks there will be more destructive quakes, sometime, or that she may be picking up on the ones that have already been. Very useful. She claims to have forseen the Feb 22nd quake, which is all very well in retrospect. Next time, hun, speak up. Thanks, that'd be great.

The Predictorguys are The Moon Man, who works with the cycles of the moon and something called King Tides, The Italianlad on Youtube who is all about solar flares and HAARP activity (particularly when they occur together) and Solar Watcher that is concerned with solar flares and coronal holes. All of them bamboozle me with what appears to be science, but may be shimmy woo. In other words, I'm quite happy to summarise my conclusion with the statement "I don't know" - something that I think should be said more often, especially in the media. I will add though, for those that are questioning The Moon Mans sincerity, I've had some communications with him in the past and am at least convinced that he believes in his system, accurate or not. I don't think he's inventing quake dates just to get attention or give us all a good scare. I'm pretty sure he's not making money out of quake prediction either, unless there is a secret method of cashing in on alarming tweets.

Lately these guys have had some apparent success. Italianguy posted on Feb 17th about a quake that might happen on the 21st or 22nd. The Moon Man tweeted on the 14th that we were in the dangerzone on the 18th 'give or take 3 days'. Both correct, give or take a day. Last week Italianguy and Solar Watcher predicted a large (above 7) quake, and there has been one. Not here, thank god/ess/universal energy/etc. Off the coast of Japan. Maybe a lucky guess. It would not surprise me if celestial factors influenced the earth in ways that we don't understand but as I'm not inclined to spend hours researching the Predictorguys success rates and learning what the hell a King Tide is, I'm going to stick with my position of 'don't know'. However, I do have an opinion about the usefulness of predictions per se.

In all the argument about whether or not predictions are actual predictions or just flotsam spat from the brain of a loony, I'd like to point out the counter-argument; geologists, of the official, credentialed sort, don't always get it right either. I'm not sure what is more harmful - being told that there is a chance of a big quake in the near future, or being told that the risk of another big quake has probably passed. Look at this release from ecan on January 21st. What does that say at the bottom of the 6th paragraph? Allow me to quote:

"The chances of an aftershock of around magnitude 6 are now very low."

This from the guys that are pure science and no woo. Apparently.

How exactly is creating a (what turned out to be) false sense of security like this any better than instilling a little bit of preparation anxiety? One thing that astounded me in Quake#2, apart from the fact that it actually happened, was that people still weren't ready - didn't have water or food, hadn't secured their heavy things, had no plans for making do without power. In the current state of terrestrial instability in New Zealand, predicting a quake has a fair chance of coinciding with one. Whether that is because of the moon, the sun, some funking around with the ionosphere by the university of Alaska, or just 'one of those things' doesn't concern me much. The Predictorguys could be right, but even if they are wrong, they could be right, just by accident. There is no point in being freaked out and scared, but being ready is definitely called for, even while striving toward a more reassuring version of 'normal', no matter what anyone says.

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