Lots of earthquake nonsense

November 27, 2016

Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Pseudoscience, Earthquake

There have been a few stories in the news recently about earthquakes that have left me feeling skeptical:

# Palmerston North woman claims her assistant dog can anticipate earthquakes

Christine Greene's dog supposedly warns her 6-8 hours before large earthquakes in NZ, by sitting on her feet. The harder he sits, the bigger the quake. Christine says:

"He never gets it wrong. I misread it sometimes, but if you check Geonet, he is always right,"

Of course, a simple test would be for Christine to setup a Facebook page for her dog, and to post to it every time her dog predicts a quake.

# Brian Tamaki blames earthquake on gays

Hours before Monday morning's big earthquake, Brian Tamaki said in a sermon that:

"the earth convulses under the weight of certain human sin. It spews itself up after a while - that's natural disasters."

This is the kind of rhetoric we normally hear from the US, with pastors telling congregations that hurricanes are caused by homesexual people.

John Key said in response:

"clearly those plates are moving around a bit… it's nothing to do with people's sexuality. I mean, it's just madness"

# Earthquake Lights

This is an interesting one - blue lights were seen in the sky around Wellington at the time of the quake, and even captured on camera, thanks to the recent proliferation of cameras that are within reach on our smart phones. The idea of lights in the sky connected with earthquakes has been around for many years, and various mechanisms have been proposed, such as the piezoelectric effect, fractoluminescence, triboluminescence, etc.

However, none of these ideas seem plausible as a way of lighting the sky in an earthquake. My favoured explanation for at least some of these lights is that power lines are arcing when they touch after being thrown around by an earthquake. This arcing, where electricity flows through air, emits a bright light that is blue in colour. In fact, there is a video of power lines arcing during the quake in Nelson.

# Earthquake predicted, due to Supermoon

Nigel Antony Gray predicted the earthquake on Facebook, and said it would happen due to the supermoon. He runs the "Weather Modification Watch New Zealand" Facebook group, and that group has recently gone from 600 to 10,000 members! There are quite a few predictions being made in that group, with many hundreds of posts in the last week alone, so it won't be a huge surprise if someone occasionally makes a correct prediction.

The group is a rabbit hole of crazy, with lots of ideas around EMF being used to control the weather, and companies like Goldman Sachs planning to depopulate parts of New Zealand to allow the oil companies to setup land based oil drilling.

Nigel's not the only one to have "predicted" this earthquake - Frankie MacDonald from Novia Scotia also predicted it on a YouTube video, but from what I can see he "predicts" many, many major events and most of them don't come to pass.

# Seismic Boat caused quakes

Lastly, an oil exploration ship called the Amazon Warrior has been looking for oil off the east coast of the South island recently, and a website called Media Whores has been reporting that it may have been to blame for the earthquake. However, from what I can tell the ship only arrived on Saturday, and hadn't started surveying when the earthquake occurred.