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Earthquake Prediction Months In Advance

Hemos posted more than 10 years ago | from the looking-into-the-future dept.

Science 297

eegad writes "A UCLA seismologist named Vladimir Keilis-Borok claims earthquakes can be predicted months in advance. In the article at the University of California Newswire, he claims that the "team including experts of pattern recognition, geodynamics, seismology, chaos theory, statistical physics and public safety ... has developed algorithms to detect precursory earthquake patterns." It also says "the team's current predictions have not missed any earthquake, and have had its two most recent ones come to pass." They predict "an earthquake of at least magnitude 6.4 by Sept. 5, 2004, in a region that includes the southeastern portion of the Mojave Desert, and an area south of it." We'll see if they're right."

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But can they predict this? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7952245)

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Tough prediction there.... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7952257)

like this one: I predict at least 5 more MS bashing articles on Slashdot by September 5, 2004. Please bookmark this post and put a reminder in your PDA to see if my bold prediction came true! :)

DUPE! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7952261)

This article is a DUPLICATE and the second posted in 10 minutes!

How useful is this? (1, Insightful)

michaelhood (667393) | more than 10 years ago | (#7952263)

I mean, if they could narrow it down to +/- 3 (10?) days or something.. then maybe? But, really, I have a system of my own:
There will be an earthquake of at least 6.4 magnitude in the state of California. Before 2010. So far, my predictions have always been accurate +/- 7 years.

Re:How useful is this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7952325)

Spending millions in taxpayer $$$ to tell me there's going to be seismic activity in an earthquake prone region in the next *9* months. Oooooo. Be still my beating heart. This is about as useful as the tornado research money we spent to find out they spin really fast and destroy stuff.

Re:How useful is this? (5, Insightful)

R_Harrold (669587) | more than 10 years ago | (#7952480)

The key is to start out general and work down to more specific predictions as the methodology is improved and you can build an adequate database and figure out what parts of your model are hogwash and which parts contribute. If they can get one or more parts of the prediction accurate at the 9 month mark, then there is a chance that they can become even more accurate over lesser ranges as time progresses. Also, the ability to predict a major earthquake out at the 9 month mark would be quite welcome for municipalities who are planning emergency preparedness. Imagine being able to budget so that your emergency personnel have the materials on hand that they need. Imagine being able to say "Ok, no-one go on vacation during the August-September timeframe as we are probably going to need all the bodies we can lay our hands on. Just because in the past it has not been possible to predict this sort of thing accurately does not mean it will not be possible in the future and therefore is not worth spending money on. Robert H

need to be like bad weather predictions (2, Informative)

peter303 (12292) | more than 10 years ago | (#7952675)

Meterologists have found that people dont pay attention to tornado or hurricane predictions unless they are better than 30% accurate over a city-size area and couple hour time window (one day for hurricane). Too many false alarms are ignored.

An earthquake prediction is considered successful in the scientific sense if it beats background chance. (Backround chance is computed by counting space-time windows through seismic catalogs). Earthquakes are so rare, e.g. large ones in tens of thousnds of days in California, that large space-time window can beat chance. However, no one has published a reproducable methods for general earthquake prediction (ecuding aftershocks, maximum force, etc) that has eat chance.

so... (4, Funny)

inkedmn (462994) | more than 10 years ago | (#7952268)

They got rid of the old guy with his knee that "acts up" right before an earthquake?

Re:so... (0, Funny)

ThrasherTT (87841) | more than 10 years ago | (#7952281)

No, he died in an earthquake.

Re:so... (0, Funny)

955301 (209856) | more than 10 years ago | (#7952364)

Yeah, read that article. Some witnesses said he almost made it to safety. Except that something appeared to be wrong with his knee just before the earthquake started, so he couldn't run fast enough. Got crushed by falling objects warning sign.

Re:so... (0)

inkedmn (462994) | more than 10 years ago | (#7952491)

So it was his extraordinary gift that ended up being the cause of his untimely demise? sounds oddly like John Travolta in Phenomenon...

Time to Press (1, Insightful)

SirChris (676927) | more than 10 years ago | (#7952270)

So they can predict it X number of monthys in advance, but how many months does it take to finally let people know about it. If they can predict it 3 months in advance but takes 4 months to let anyone know about it, we are just going to hear a lot of, "well, yeah we knew it was going to happen"

Yep (5, Insightful)

Em Emalb (452530) | more than 10 years ago | (#7952273)

While this is a great advance, the real deal will be when we get to the point we can predict precisely enough to WARN the people living in these areas.

As in, hey two weeks from friday, leave the area for a day or two.

I think he did (3, Insightful)

siskbc (598067) | more than 10 years ago | (#7952398)

At least those who read /. ;)

Seriously, I imagine if this sort of thing holds up, authorities will. Although this warning is so vague, it's only enough to get people to load up on emergency supplies, and possibly local governments to review disaster policies. Not that that accomplishment should be minimized, but something more certain a day in advance would be great.

Re:Yep (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7952433)

Or how about when we're able to read. As in warning people months in advance!? : )

Re:Yep (1)

shawn(at)fsu (447153) | more than 10 years ago | (#7952537)

If this works out, it's not that bad. It could end up being like Hurricane season on the east coast. People don't evacuate for just because it's hurricane season or board up there windows, but they do (or should) make sure they have the supplies they need just in case.

Re:Yep (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7952657)

More likely is that we can predict when there will be lots of stress along the fault line, evacuate the major cities, then set off the quake with a nuke.

Re:Yep (5, Funny)

American AC in Paris (230456) | more than 10 years ago | (#7952679)

While this is a great advance, the real deal will be when we get to the point we can predict precisely enough to WARN the people living in these areas.

As in, hey two weeks from friday, leave the area for a day or two.

Dear Greater Los Angeles Metro Area ,

It has come to our attention that there is a high risk of an earthquake of magnitude 8 or greater strking the Greater Los Angeles Metro Area in the next 24-48 hours. While we understand you may be concerned about the prospect of this earthquake, rest assured that the vast majority of earthquakes that strike the Greater Los Angeles Metro Area region are no greater than magnitude 5 , and we do not expect this magnitude 8 earthquake to cause any unusual disruption to your daily schedule. In general, we only advise evacuation in the event of a magnitude 7 or greater earthquake. This magnitude 8 earthquake is certainly no cause for alarm.

Once again, thank you for subscribing to our automated Earthquake Alert Service, Greater Los Angeles Metro Area !

skeptism (0)

pvt_medic (715692) | more than 10 years ago | (#7952283)

months in advance, that is pretty far fetch. At best right now they can do like a day. I think the fact that they skipped predicting it by a week or so makes me less inclined to believe this. and predicting in september that like over half a year in advance.

Re:skeptism (1)

l3prador (700532) | more than 10 years ago | (#7952497)

Actually, they've previously able to detect earthquakes years in advance, but only within broad ranges of time. The prediction of them months in advance is actually an increase in accuracy rather than an increase in foresight.

Re:skeptism (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7952617)

They are predicting an earthquake will occur in that region with that approximate magnitude between now and September, not specifically in September. Big difference.

uhhuh (0)

bbowers (596225) | more than 10 years ago | (#7952289)

So about the first this this method of detecting them is ineffective, then they tell us that there were doubts about the %error that they would recieve from their measurements... oops forgot about that one, sorry mates.

This is rubbish. (-1, Troll)

Krapangor (533950) | more than 10 years ago | (#7952291)

Natural chaotic systems can only decently predicted for a timespan of 9 days due to the limits imposed by the Heisenberg uncertainity principle.
Someone is whoring for funding and PR here.

Someone is karma whoring here... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7952357)

...unless you'd care to back that one up with figures/a link?

Re:This is rubbish. (1)

Potor (658520) | more than 10 years ago | (#7952512)

Heisenberg be damned; the whole project has its own UP; that's why they are predicting, not reporting, an earthquake based on a mass of physical and statistical data.

So that means... (3, Interesting)

TheDredd (529506) | more than 10 years ago | (#7952292)

that if they published this information a bit earlier, or used the tech worldwide a bit earlier, lives could have been saved in Iran

Re:So that means... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7952563)

You are making the very large assumption that even if they had said something that Iran would have believed them or done anything about it. Have you seen the areas that have been devastated? It doesn't exactly look like the type of place that would have an internet cafe on every corner. There is also that inherent distrust of anything western.

Re:So that means... (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7952614)

You don't have to be an expert to predict earthquakes in Iran:

Dec. 26, 2003: Southeastern Iran, magnitude 6.5; at least 20,000 killed.
June 22, 2002: Northwestern Iran, magnitude 6; at least 500 killed.
May 10, 1997: Northern Iran, magnitude 7.1; 1,500 killed.
June 21, 1990: Northwest Iran, magnitude 7.3-7.7; 50,000 killed.
Sept. 16, 1978: Northeast Iran, magnitude 7.7; 25,000 killed.

They're certain it works (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7952293)

They just can't seem to get their results to agree with the computer's results on that one inverted gamma factor

Earthquakes predicted months in advance, (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7952296)

Still no cure for cancer

Well *I* can predict tides! (5, Insightful)

Joe the Lesser (533425) | more than 10 years ago | (#7952299)

In June of 2003, this team predicted an earthquake of magnitude 6.4 or higher would strike within nine months in a 310-mile region of Central California whose southern part includes San Simeon, where a magnitude 6.5 earthquake struck on Dec. 22.

In July of 2003, the team predicted an earthquake in Japan of magnitude 7 or higher by Dec. 28, 2003, in a region that includes Hokkaido. A magnitude 8.1 earthquake struck Hokkaido on Sept. 25, 2003.

In 6-9 months there will be an earthquake within 310 miles of San Francisco of at least 4.0.

This is fun!

Re:Well *I* can predict tides! (5, Insightful)

American AC in Paris (230456) | more than 10 years ago | (#7952556)

In 6-9 months there will be an earthquake within 310 miles of San Francisco of at least 4.0.

This is fun!

Not to ruin a joke, but there are roughly 14,500 4.0+ earthquakes every year. By contrast, there are an average of 134 earthquakes between 6.0 and 6.9, and a whopping 17 between 7.0 and 7.9.

...so while these guys seem to be managing to hit the target, you're suggesting that you can reliably hit the broad side of the barn.

If they are on to something, this could be huge. Imagine that you're in charge of running a major international relief organization. Think of how useful it could be even to have this degree of earthquake prediction, considering that today you basically need to wait for a city to collapse before you can even begin the logistics of sending aid. If this team turns out to be on to something, odds are they'd be able to further hone their simulations and predictions to the point where you could have, say, a 200-mile radius and a 3 month 'window'. Given this window, you could take care of a lot of preparation, not the least of which is dealing with the politics of an international aid operation. Add to this the ability to 'beef up' aid agencies in the region, and you've got a lot better emergency response before the thing ever even hits...

Re:Well *I* can predict tides! (2, Insightful)

pantycrickets (694774) | more than 10 years ago | (#7952604)

If they are on to something, this could be huge. Imagine that you're in charge of running a major international relief organization

Imagine that I'm in charge of a large earthquake insurance company.

Seriously though, this does pose many any questions.

Well.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7952300)

They predict "an earthquake of at least magnitude 6.4 by Sept. 5, 2004, in a region that includes the southeastern portion of the Mojave Desert, and an area south of it."

Oh by, big enough window?

I predict an earthquake by the end of 2010. Let's see if I'm right :rolleyes: I want more hard dates. "Earthquake on date XX/XX/XXXX center around the area of city YYYYYYYYYY."

Blogzine [blogzine.net]

prove it... (-1, Redundant)

zasos (688522) | more than 10 years ago | (#7952303)

"he claims that...." I'll belive him as soon as he'll predict the next big one in Cali...

USGS Earthquake Reference Site (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7952308)

USGS Earthquake Reference Site [usgs.gov]

Incidentally, I'm posting this because I want to test the load bearing of this server, one of the ones I take care of here at work. So click away.

(anon to avoid karma-whoring)

Re:USGS Earthquake Reference Site (1)

Spirilis (3338) | more than 10 years ago | (#7952501)

Works great for me.

As a side note, doing this as an AC can be the ultimate prank.

Re:USGS Earthquake Reference Site (1)

sprekken (623464) | more than 10 years ago | (#7952650)

Hot Damn!

I don't know how many other people clicked this link, but I was surprised at how fast it loaded! BAM! Lightning quick.

Good job.

I can see it now... (5, Funny)

clifgriffin (676199) | more than 10 years ago | (#7952309)

Coming soon to a TV near you: The earthquake channel! Get your 10 day seismic activity forecast!

Cheaters (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7952326)

I think they found a copy of CowboyNeal's itinerary and are making some educated guesses.

PBS (5, Informative)

starvingcodeartist (739199) | more than 10 years ago | (#7952328)

For years scientists have known about the signs that the faults give off before an earthquake occurs, but most scientist are skeptical that they'll ever be able to accurately predict them because there are so many environmental factors to consider. Read more on PBS's microsite called Savage Earth, The Restless Planet: Earthquakes [pbs.org]. It talks about prediction and whatnot.

Re:PBS (4, Interesting)

grasshoppa (657393) | more than 10 years ago | (#7952423)

True, but like anything else, it follows natural laws, so it is possible to predict it, if we can find an easy way to consider all the variables ( or most of them, at least ).

Which is why I am confident we will someday find a way to predict ( with 100% accuracy ) weather patterns.

Re:PBS (1)

starvingcodeartist (739199) | more than 10 years ago | (#7952584)

Made famous by the movie "PI" and recently in IBM's Linux commercials...it's kind of like chaos theory. Out of chaos, patterns emerge. I too think that one day scientists will be able to predict with some degree of acuracy what we now refer to as "natural phenomena". However, the PBS article says that many scientist don't think they will ever be able to understand enough of the variables to "predict" earthquakes.

Re:PBS (5, Insightful)

Dun Malg (230075) | more than 10 years ago | (#7952680)

True, but like anything else, it follows natural laws, so it is possible to predict it, if we can find an easy way to consider all the variables ( or most of them, at least ).

Which is why I am confident we will someday find a way to predict ( with 100% accuracy ) weather patterns.

My god, are you channeling Von Neumann? He said the same thing about weather and predicted 100% accurate prediction "very soon now" for quite a while. The problem is, "most of" the variables isn't enough, and there's no way to get all of the variables exactly right. Even if you had (say) a temperature sensor for each cubic inch of air space in the atmosphere, the temperature variations between the sensors will make any model you base off your sensor readings deviate from reality after a relatively small number of iterations. Complex iterative models are often insanely sensitive to initial conditions. There will never be 100% accurate weather prediction.

Re:PBS (1)

Urkki (668283) | more than 10 years ago | (#7952696)

I think earthquakes are kinda easy to predict though, relatively speaking. I mean, if there's tension, you know it's going to get released sooner or later, so you have a good starting point for the prediction.

If you compare this to weather forecasting, the time scales are quite long, which gives more time for calculations. I think there must be less variables too, and they interact much more slowly. So forecasting earthquakes months before might have about as much inherent uncertainity as predicting weather a few days ahead (ie not too much).

There's been other studies (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7952332)

There's been other studies like this.

For example, 30-odd years ago, some school did research looking in newspapers of the last 30 days before an earthquake for missing dog reports. Their results showed a large increase right around the time an earthquake happened in the area of the quake.

Blogzine [blogzine.net]

Anyone heard of Kushida in Japan? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7952336)

He made an earthquake prediction in Japan [space.com] based on radio waves, and he actually came pretty close [patriot-paradox.com]. Close enough that his ideas are worth more investigation.

An Earthquake in California? (-1, Offtopic)

General Sherman (614373) | more than 10 years ago | (#7952338)

We've actually had quite a few small ones (~2-3) magnitude earthquakes quite recently.

Very unnerving to have the ground suddenly shift right out from under you without any warning, here's hoping that they're correct now and in the future.

Any relation to (0)

inode_buddha (576844) | more than 10 years ago | (#7952346)

this? [erols.com]

Dr. Elizabeth Rauscher was there, speaking about her ELF work and project HAARP. [alaska.edu] Interestingly, she claims a very accurate prediction rate, but I'm told that the US Navy asked her to quit that line of investigation (they use ELF for long-range comms)

Forecasting the world (0)

addie (470476) | more than 10 years ago | (#7952360)

Wow. Neat! It's incredible to see the strides forward that both meteorogical and seismic forecasters have made in the past 50 years. To crunch those kinds of numbers and actually predict the result accurately is very impressive.

What other fields are we going to be able to do full accurate predictions in? I'd imagine biological ones are a bit more random, but that's not my field...

There's a downside to this (4, Insightful)

John Jorsett (171560) | more than 10 years ago | (#7952366)

If this turns out to be true, it would be a disaster for the economy in an area. Would you hang around or invest in a place where there's a big quake known to be coming in the next few months? It'd be like being told you've got a 100% chance of contracting cancer in the next few months. Although it helps you prepare, life can't be normal after that.

Re:There's a downside to this (4, Insightful)

Schlemphfer (556732) | more than 10 years ago | (#7952564)

If this [ability to predict earthquakes] turns out to be true, it would be a disaster for the economy in an area.

No, the real disaster for a local economy is when thousands of people hang around, and are buried alive because they weren't told to clear out. People can always come back to town after the quake hits, and return to their land and repair their buildings.

Re:There's a downside to this (1)

Threni (635302) | more than 10 years ago | (#7952565)

> Would you hang around or invest in a place where there's a big quake known to be
> coming in the next few months?

Yeah, who'd live in California if there was any chance there'd be an Earthquake there?

Re:There's a downside to this (3, Insightful)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 10 years ago | (#7952616)

Well, I think people should have thought of the ethical concerns about allowing building in earthquake prone zones in the first place.

If an entire country will be asked to pay for disaster relief, I think it behooves the entire country to keep a cap on construction in known disaster prone areas.

Re:There's a downside to this (3, Insightful)

Junta (36770) | more than 10 years ago | (#7952640)

Yes, that is true, but consider that the amount of resources invested overall increases, as investments are less frequently total losses with this forewarning. Bad economically for the geographic locale predicted to quake, good in general for investment. Fewer resources lost and lower risk all comes out to healthier investments. This is all assuming that false positives are *extremely* rare and that it is also capable of predicting >90% of disasters, change either variable and the picture changes.... Of course some investments would go up (construction companies and the like would clean up on 'quake-proofing' non-movable structures).

Now, back to the geographic locale's state. Sucks to be them economically, but let's say you had the choice of having equal chance at having investments near your house, or knowing that in ~3 months, a catastrophic quake that could kill you is extremely likely. The economic problems are both temporary and offset by the value of increasing awareness to save lives. 4 months later after the quake happens, no further risk is seen and companies are already lined up to do reconstruction of whatever was destroyed. 3 months of warning allows a community to do a lot to protect investments from harm and prepare a rapid recovery plan for high-risk, high-value structures that may be destroyed. So while in the short term economic conditions are potentially bad, having 3 months warning provides better long term economic circumstances.

Re:There's a downside to this (4, Insightful)

mcmonkey (96054) | more than 10 years ago | (#7952718)

Who mods this stuff?

Would you hang around or invest in a place where there's a big quake known to be coming in the next few months?

Apparently the answer is Yes. California--with the earthquakes, fires, mud slides, Bonos and Schwarzeneggers --is the most populous state in the union. So people do hang around despite imminent doom.

And it's not just the nuts on the west coast. Idiots from Florida to the Carolinas continue to build houses in the ocean. Sure it looks like dry land today, but wait until the next hurricane comes through. Just like the California quakes it's a question of 'when' not 'if'.

So how can better predictions be bad for the local economy? Is there going to be a mass exodus? "Oh no! There's going to be an earthquake, let's all move to South Dakota!" If it hasn't happened yet, I doubt it's going to happen. And I'm sure SD prefers to be left alone anyway.

So rather than scaring off residents and business, maybe better predictions will help reduce damage and injury, which might help reduce insurance rates and costs of doing business in diaster-prone areas.

So if this turns out to be true, not only would it not be a disaster to the economy, it would be a huge asset.

Although it helps you prepare, life can't be normal after that.

Have you watched the news lately? Do you know the supreme executive of the state is 'Hercules in New York'? I would guess a life most of us would consider normal is not something most Californians need to worry about.

let's hope (2, Funny)

Transcendent (204992) | more than 10 years ago | (#7952381)

They predict "an earthquake of at least magnitude 6.4 by Sept. 5, 2004, in a region that includes the southeastern portion of the Mojave Desert, and an area south of it." We'll see if they're right.

C'mon schwartz.... c'mon schwartz!

Slippery little fish (0)

bbowers (596225) | more than 10 years ago | (#7952389)

To me it just seems as if mother nature should be left a little hard to predict...and maybe it's not necessarily a good thing to be able to predict things like this. Having almost full control over things could be bad. I think we really need to learn how to control global warming or something of the such before predicting earthquakes. I mean think of it this way...there is an earthquake, a few people die or what not and we use our money to reduce global warming more. OR we spend money on trying to predict something that won't matter in say 100 years cause global warming will have killed us anyways. Some priorities need set I believe.

they've been making these predictions 20 years (5, Informative)

peter303 (12292) | more than 10 years ago | (#7952404)

This Russian group first got attention in the US seismology community when it "predicted" the Loma Prieta (Silicon Valley) quake of 1989. The technique performs spatial-temporal statistical analysis of weaker earthquakes that proceed large quakes. The first President Bush even asked the US Geological Survey to look into this.

The method may work, but it has not yet passed the scientifically required of repoducibility by scientists outside the Russian research group. Several leading US seismologists have tried reproducing this analysis method without success. Either the method is devilishly difficult to reporduce, important details have [perhaps intentionally] not been published, or it really doesn't work. Furthemore, you dont see the US results in press, because people generally dont publish negative results. Hopefully the reproducibility issues will be resolved and there will be a successful prediction method.

(Read my lips: cold fusion)

A related effort that could really help (4, Interesting)

lildogie (54998) | more than 10 years ago | (#7952420)

People expect that earthquake prediction would be accurate to within a few hours, so that evacuations can be accomplished, while avoiding unneccessary evacuations. The trouble is, evacuations are expensive, have their own hazards, and it's going to be incredibly hard to choose the lesser evil of bad evacuation timing, versus the present practice of not evacuating and being unprepared for the quake.

What would really help is a preparation protocol that can be syncronized more accurately with risk. If an earthquake could be predicted with a graduated probability, then gradually more disruptive preparation steps could be taken as the risk rises.

Knowledge - Will it change much? (5, Interesting)

ParadoxicalPostulate (729766) | more than 10 years ago | (#7952421)

There is no doubt in my mind that this is a breakthrough in earthquake science, and that the researchers who developed this so called "tail wags the dog" method should be congratulated for their achievement.

One thing bothers me, however. Okay, so we know that there's going to be an earthquake somewhere in the world. The question is, what can we do?

In an affluent country/county, with educated individuals and a well organized emergency response force, there are several things to be done. First, evacuation procedures are begun. Secondly, the rescue and medical teams can be put on standby. Many similar actions can be taken.

However, the vast majority of the world that experiences earthquakes with some consistency can't do quite as much with such foreknowledge. First, most of their buildings are not specially enhanced to survive earthquakes (witness Iran, an extreme case of unpreparedness I admit but it serves my pont). Secondly, the population is highly dense and these people don't necessarily comprehend the danger, making evacuation procedures much less effective. Thirdly, the emergency police/medical presence in such areas is pitiful. Finally, the state itself does not have the necessary resources to carry out effective measures - they have to wait until foreign aid pours in. Now, the question is, will the U.S. grant emergency aid to, say, Iraq, because someone predicted that an earthquake would occur? Not likely. And if they don't get the money, these emergency operations don't get underway in any meaningful manner.

It seems to me that the focus has been diverted from building the infrastructure necessary to cope with earthquakes (in terms of buildings as well as emergency care) to instead predicting them in advance. As I said, if predicting them won't do too much good, why are we concentrating more in that area than in the one that actually WILL make a difference.

Hell, its probably the same deal as with research in diseases. The people with the money to conduct research don't have the same priorities/problems as those for whom research could benefit most.

Maybe I'm just pessimistic.

His methoda aren't only for earthquakes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7952441)

This is the same seismologist whose methods were applied by American University professor Alan Lichtman in developing his "13 Keys to the Presidency". Lichtman has correctly predicted the outcome of the presidential popular vote for about the last 20 years using the resulting model.

Judging by (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7952493)

The results they got on their earthquake prediction methods, I'm guessing this is because all of the outcomes he predicted were something like "there will be a presidential election by November 15 2004 in which either a Democrat or a Republican will win".

More than just earthquake predictions... (-1, Redundant)

Rahga (13479) | more than 10 years ago | (#7952443)

For example, in the next couple of months, I predict that home and real estate owners will begin a massive "Own a dream home, safe in the privacy of the mojave desert." ad campaign in the coming weeks. It's only a matter of time before we get "for sale by owner" CAN-spam.

Where is said prediction? / Why it can't work (5, Insightful)

dirt_puppy (740185) | more than 10 years ago | (#7952458)

I couldn't make out where that exact prediction was made - that might have to do with the fact that I didn't find an article following the link, just an index of articles of which one was about Earthquakes.

It is apparently now possible to locate the epicenters of tiny earthquakes ("microquakes") that occur very often, and they found that these often occur in the same spot, which would tell us that that location is a place where no bigger Earthquake could happen, as the tension is released often.

Even if we assume that we can conclude the other way round (saying, if the microquakes cease for a while, the probability of a bigger quake right in that spot would rise - which is probably true sometimes), still there would be no information about when the bigger quake would occur or how much bigger it was.

Sure, one could estimate the energy buildup (maybe, in some way), but the time when the bigger quake happens is still unknown. Also, the absence of microquakes is just telling that no more of these are happening - noone can know if this is because tension is building up or if for some reason this place is now lubricated better and tends not to lock anymore.

What one would need is a reliable way to measure the tension underground, and still it wouldn't be possible to know when a big quake happens. It would give a result like "Uh this tension is really high. Better we leave right now and dont come back until the big quake happened."

So far, the only sensible protection against Earthquakes is either buildings that withstand earthquakes (or dont kill people when they collapse... well the first approach sure is favoured ;) or not building at all where quakes happen.

Hey, I can do that!!! (4, Insightful)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | more than 10 years ago | (#7952460)

Here's my prediction: "somewhere on earth, before the end of time, the earth will have at least a 0.1-magnitude earthquake!"

The point is, that only claimed that that had no false negatives. But they didn't discuss another critical aspect: how many false positives they had, and how tight their specificity is.

Without those details, you miss a lot.

local economies (5, Insightful)

cr@ckwhore (165454) | more than 10 years ago | (#7952467)

This all seems like a hoax to me, BUT... lets pretend for a moment that it is absolutely true.

If earthquake prediction became the norm, imagine the damage to local economies here in the US!

Imagine this scenario...
"Earthquake, 2 months from now, Seattle area".

Ok, what do you, a business owner, do? Pack up and get out. Hell, you've got 2 months to do it.

Ok, what do you, a would-be tourist on vacation, do? Pick an alternate destination.

Ok, what do you, a local citizen, do? Panic. Perhaps pack the family and leave. Perhaps stay and stockpile supplies if your employer hasn't left yet.

I think it's very obvious that natural disaster prediction would be devastating for local and regional economies. In the big picture, as local economies start their own self-destruction, it'll have a bigger effect on the nation as a whole.

Re:local economies (0)

ParadoxicalPostulate (729766) | more than 10 years ago | (#7952489)

Ok, what do you, a homeowner, do? Get homeowner's insurance with an earthquake clause and hope to God the people at the insurance company don't watch the news ;P

Re:local economies (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7952524)

well, yeah, so the reasonable thing seems to be not to live nor do business in earthquake prone areas. I don't need no scientist to tell me that there will be a big earthquake in California within a year or two.

Re:local economies (3, Insightful)

magarity (164372) | more than 10 years ago | (#7952603)

Ok, what do you, a business owner, do? Pack up and get out. Hell, you've got 2 months to do it.

Not likely in America! There are plenty of people who won't leave when a level 5 hurricane is howling outside so what makes you think anyone will do anything when there's a whopping two months to go on an earthquake warning? At most, you'll:
1. Make sure your earthquake insurance is paid up, and
2. Maybe call a building inspector to double-check the structural integrity of your shop.
That's about it.

Re:local economies (4, Insightful)

Skater (41976) | more than 10 years ago | (#7952610)

We know hurricanes are coming days or sometimes even a week or two in advance. People STILL BUY LAND and LIVE in those areas. A friend of mine had her house destroyed while she was in it during a hurricane (Hugo). But she still lives in the same area.

Why would earthquakes be any different?

Example: we've been hearing about the "Big One" for California. But last I checked, California's population was still growing.


Re:local economies (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7952702)

I don't think it's really worth it to move out. Maybe for a once a century level 9 earthquake, but not for the overwhelming majority of them. I would think the only reasonable action to take is to make sure you don't live or work in an earthquake-unsafe old building. The only real risk I can see is insurance companies pulling out of areas that have predicted risk. Of course quake insurance is pretty hard to get in high risk places to begin with.

Re:local economies (1)

corbettw (214229) | more than 10 years ago | (#7952719)

I think you're jumping to conclusions. People can already predict hurricanes and tornados in advance; that ability hasn't stopped people from living in areas hit by them.

The reality is, people who live in earthquake zones already know they're likely to be hit by an earthquake. Having the ability to know when a quake is likely to hit just means you'll be able to take precautions to lesson the impact (no pun intended).

DUH!! (4, Funny)

D-Cypell (446534) | more than 10 years ago | (#7952472)

Scientists have known about these advanced prediction techniques for decades...

Unfortunatly, the original research was destroyed in an earthquake in 1987.

Predicting....or causing?? (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7952474)

How do we know this guy isn't some sort of evil arch villian with an earthquake machine? How?? Huh? How??

Agreed. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7952523)

I would like to call everyone's attention to the fact that this man is named "Vladimir Keilis-Borok". Hello?? Are people named Vladmir Keilis-Borok ever the good guys?? No! The only people named Vladmir Keilis-Borok have henchmen and big fluffy white cats and an underground lair containing an army of ninja earthquake robots.

Re:Predicting....or causing?? (1)

mcasson (738882) | more than 10 years ago | (#7952672)

When he starts predicting the weiner shaped rockets are headed for California, I think we could consider him an evil arch Villian with a giant peni laser.

Richter scale... (4, Interesting)

zeux (129034) | more than 10 years ago | (#7952514)

Giving a value on the Richter scale [nrcan.gc.ca] is not really meaningfull. You can have a 7 earthquake doing almost no damage if it happens far below earth surface and big damage with a 4 one near the surface in a low developped country.

It all depends on where the earthquake takes place.

You should use an estimate on the Mercalli scale [berkeley.edu]. I find it more relevant.

Richter scale is all about energy released, Mercalli scale is all about damage/lost of lives which really is what matters.

Remember Iben Browning? (4, Interesting)

IgD (232964) | more than 10 years ago | (#7952515)

One of my fondest memories from high school was Iben Browning's earthquake prediction. He claimed a massive earth quake was going to shake the New Madrid fault around 1990. See http://geology.about.com/library/weekly/aa030903a. htm. Several months before the predicted date we had a 4.x quake during school. Everyone thought this was clear evidence Browning's prediction would come true. The school board cancelled class for 2 days surrounding the predicted date. No earthquake ever occurred. He helped us out and made the merchants in our area who jacked up their prices rich.

This isn't science, it's common sense (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7952526)

I predict an earthquake in my pants about 1/2 hour after eating Taco Bell.

I predict (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7952530)

I predict an earthquake in the 4-5 range somewhere in the pacific ocean. It will happen
between now and this time tomorrow.

If you pay attention to earthquakes it's easy to predict them.

In Soviet Russia (-1, Troll)

GillBates0 (664202) | more than 10 years ago | (#7952546)

We call our new approach, 'tail wags the dog,'" Vladimir Keilis-Borok said.

Wag dogs the tail?

San Jose early 90s (5, Funny)

phrostie (121428) | more than 10 years ago | (#7952552)

Who remembers the San Jose earthquake back in the early 90s? who here knew that there was a conference on Seismology there that same day.

probably the same number of seismologist that knew an earth quake was coming.

BTW, the conference was cut short.

the most important prediction method (5, Informative)

peter303 (12292) | more than 10 years ago | (#7952579)

The most important prediction method is to antipicate the maximum horizontal force resulting from an earth quake. A force execeeding 10% the amout of earth's surface gravity, called a "g", at one Hertz can collapse a poorly designed building or overpass. 200% g is observed in the largest quakes. A guide to destruction in terms of "g" is here [slu.edu].

The United States Geological Survey has spent a lot of effort [usgs.gov] predicting maximum forces. this is based on the location of previous large earthquakes and local soil conditions among other factors. This has resulting in relatively low death rates of quakes of similar size. For example last month's central California quake and Iranian quakes were about the same size with death tolls of 3 and 30,000. Ditto 1994 Northridge and 1995 Kobe Japan with tolls of 55 and 6,000.

What they really do is ... (1)

Sonic McTails (700139) | more than 10 years ago | (#7952593)

... randomly point at a map, and say that a quake will happen there, and the pray that they are right.

They Knew! (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7952594)

So, how many of these recent major earthquakes did they know about, and just didn't tell any one?

I can't help but wonder, I mean tens of thousands of people died in Iran. Even if they weren't sure about the results, shouldn't they have told SOMEONE?

Isn't it a little early in the morning to be playing god?

Pattern Recognition (3, Funny)

Bob Uhl (30977) | more than 10 years ago | (#7952632)

...team including experts of pattern recognition...

Wow, I knew grep is powerful, but not that powerful;-)

Insurance? (5, Insightful)

Remlik (654872) | more than 10 years ago | (#7952641)

I wonder what this might do to the insurance business. Lets say perhaps they predict a 7 or greater in LA in the next 4 months... Now a smart person living in that area would go beef up their earthquake or homeowners insurance (or buy some if they don't have it already).

But a smarter insurance company might decide not to sell any more quake insurance until after the deadline if you live in that area.

So now we know they are coming but can't do much to protect ourselves other than getting out of the area.

Predictions good or bad? (0)

qrash (63400) | more than 10 years ago | (#7952649)

Even if they can predict a 6.5 earthquake to occur say during a 6-month period, this would make the situation worse since people would not go on as usual and would worry about an earthquake occuring during that period. I think people living in a seismogenic area should always be prepared for such a catastrophe.

Algorithm? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7952661)

" has developed algorithms to detect precursory earthquake "

Mine works surprisingly well:

int isEarthQuakeAnytimeSoon()
return (srand() % 2);

My track record shows that I'm right 50% of time!!!!!!

Peer Review (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7952662)

Note that this hypothesis "... has [been]submitted... to Physics of the Earth and Planetary Interiors, a leading international journal in geophysics." I've seen similar theories that never get published because of reproducibility problems or other issues that get shot down during peer review.

Skeptical this really is news (3, Insightful)

graniteMonkey (87619) | more than 10 years ago | (#7952684)

Reading the /. headline, you'd think that "scientists have learned how to predict earthquakes", but the glaring hole I'm seeing in the article is the absence of the a success rate. Sure, it "predicted" a couple of quakes, but how many false positives did it produce? How accurate were the predictions? Was it "a 95% chance of an earthquake between 4.5 and 4.6 magnitude within 100km of x? Was it "an unknown percent chance of an earthquake between 4.0 and 9.0(a really huge difference) "somewhere in California"?

This article is extremely vague about the accuracy or precision of the method, and limited to small test areas.

Don't get me wrong, I'd like us to be able to predict devastating earthquakes to help minimize casualties, but this is way too early to call it news.

Isn't this the guy . . . (1)

pete-classic (75983) | more than 10 years ago | (#7952686)

. . . who is on the TV while Angel gets his arm cut off with a chainsaw in Scarface?


I R'd the FA... (2, Interesting)

Unknown Kadath (685094) | more than 10 years ago | (#7952695)

...and it's a press release, so there's not much actual information in there. Apparently, a chain of small quakes tends to precede larger ones, but I want to know whether the team has a model of why this is so. Matching patterns is the place to start, but saying "there's going be a quake between 5 and 6 on the Richter scale inside this 1000 mile radius within 9 months" is like saying "there's going to be a blizzard that drops between 6 and 12 inches of snow on New England this winter." You can get either of those predictions by watching long enough, but they don't have real value to people in the affected area. I hope the UCLA team is not working solely from observation, but has built or is working toward building a physical model that they can refine as they get more data.


Predictions improved (2, Funny)

RealProgrammer (723725) | more than 10 years ago | (#7952714)

I predict that:

  • A quake of at least 6.5R will hit Southern California before September 3, 2004.
  • Arnold Swarzenegger will call out the National Guard and save the day, leading to a Constitutional Amendment declaring him "High Overlord of Der Stat en Kalifehrnzie".
  • The Colorado river will widen by 11 inches, which will result in parts of it becoming wet.
  • Tonight, at some point, it will be dark. (my apologies to George Carlin)

I'll be more impressed if they can predict a quake on the less-active, but violent, New Madrid fault [memphis.edu].

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