Supermoon etc.

I’ve come across two explanations for the 11 March Japanese earthquake. One struck me as rather more plausible than the other.

The plausible explanation was that of the ‘Supermoon’, which is what happens when a full moon or a new moon coincides with a time when the moon is closest to the earth. Both the sun and the moon exert gravitational forces on the earth which cause oceanic tides. These tides reach their highest when the sun and moon and earth are in line with each other. The tides are even higher if the moon or sun are closer to the earth than usual.

And, according to Jennifer Marohasy it wasn’t just that the sun and the ‘Supermoon’ were lined up, but that also the solar system’s two largest planets – Jupiter and Saturn – were also in opposition (i.e. on the other side of the sun from each other) and roughly in line with the earth. If so, that would have increased the tidal forces a notch higher.

On March 1,  10 days before the earthquake, Accuweather raised the possibility of extreme weather events or earthquakes around the time of the 19 March Supermoon.

AccuWeather Facebook fanpage member Daniel Vogler adds, “The last extreme super moon occurred was on January 10th, 2005, right around the time of the 9.0 Indonesia earthquake. That extreme super moon was a new moon. So be forewarned. Something BIG could happen on or around this date. (+/- 3 Days is my guess)”

But on 11 March, Accuweather reports Deborah Byrd of earthsky.org saying:

“Apogee was March 6. Perigee is March 19. Today, the moon is about halfway between its closest and farthest point to Earth. But, the point is, the moon isn’t particularly close today. The supermoon-earthquake connection, as I understand it, depends on two things. First, an extra close moon. Second, a moon at the full phase – when the Earth, sun and moon make a line in space. Neither condition exists today. The moon is not close to Earth, and the Earth, sun and moon aren’t aligned. In fact, we’re only a day away from first quarter moon – so the moon is more or less at right angles to the Earth/sun line. It’s nearly as far from being aligned with the Earth and sun as it can be. In other words – both in the sense of its distance from Earth, and also in the sense of an Earth/moon/sun alignment – the moon is very far from the condition of “supermoon” today. It’s nearly as far from being a supermoon as it can possibly be. And yet there was this massive earthquake. So where’s the connection?”

All the same, a very large earthquake did actually occur around the time of the supermoon, and the possibility that it might cause earthquakes was being discussed. Furthermore, the gravitational forces at work here have visibly large effects simply in the form of oceanic tides.

The other (conspiracy) theory was that it was deliberately triggered by a secret US weapon system known as HAARP which emits a high-energy, low-frequency signal which can vibrate the atmosphere, and induce earthquakes.

And this struck me as thoroughly implausible. For while a source of sound waves like a loudspeaker may vibrate strongly, and emit sound waves, it’s very difficult to get sound waves to make loudspeakers vibrate strongly.  Karl Popper, in his autobiography, Unended Quest (30) described the problem

The typical case is an expanding spherical light wave, or a process like an explosion that sends particles to infinity (of Newtonian space). The opposite – a coherent spherical wave contracting from infinity (or an implosion from infinity) cannot occur – not because such a thing is ruled out by the universal laws of light propagation or of motion, but because it would be physically impossible to realise the initial conditions.

Same with HAARP. In principle it’s possible to start earthquakes with sound. In practice it’s next to impossible.

But both explanations are sort of slightly, vaguely plausible. The tug of the supermoon. The vibrations of HAARP. But both rely on small influences having large effects.

And doesn’t that ring a bell? The global warming hypothesis is that trace amounts of CO2 in the atmosphere have huge long-term effects on climate. The smoking hypothesis is that trace amounts of tobacco smoke in the atmosphere have enormous long-term effects on human health.

Modern ‘post-normal’ science seems to be all about making ever-so-slightly, vaguely plausible explanations for events not only seem completely plausible, but to become unquestionable truths. It’s no longer what actually causes things that matters, but what people believe causes them. And the less educated people are, the more easily they can be duped into believing physically impossible explanations of events. i.e. they can be made to believe in magic.

About Frank Davis

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18 Responses to Supermoon etc.

  1. Tim says:

    Solar flares are at an all time high too right now. Plus the sun is dipping down through the equatorial plane of the galaxy and lining itself up to be closer to the central plane of the black hole at the center of the galaxy (and perhaps most galaxies). And if the science isn’t interesting enough, then the astrology has us going into the 13th sign of the zodiac soon also.

  2. Marie says:

    Excuse me asking Tim, but “Solar flares are at an all time high too right now” compared to what exactly? Last month, last year, previous decades or the last milenium?

    • Tim says:

      There have been photographs online of immense solar flares back up to a high level again, some kind of cyclical process with the sun, going from quiet/dormant sunspot activity, back up to higher flares, which the photographs have been on the internet since a few days ago.

      • Tim says:

        Here is one set of photographs and explanation from NASA saying there was a super large solar flare-up on the 9th of March. There are other websites that have picked up on this information from NASA and other agencies reporting recent flare-ups on the sun.

        It may be cyclical, every so many years, but my point was there were some recent large flare-ups just recently, was all I was saying.

        http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/sunearth/news/News031011-xclass.html

  3. Tim says:

    Here is the cycle that is starting to heat up again and produce sudden “powerful blasts” after four years of being very calm. The cycle runs every 11 years, but suddenly started flaring up again this month. And by the size of them, very large, X-class, not tiny flares.

    http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/sunearth/news/News031011-xclass.html

    “After four years without any X-flares, the sun has produced two of the powerful blasts in less than one month: Feb. 15th and March 9th. This continues the recent trend of increasing solar activity associated with our sun’s regular 11-year cycle, and confirms that Solar Cycle 24 is indeed heating up, as solar experts have expected. Solar activity will continue to increase as the solar cycle progresses toward solar maximum, expected in the 2013 time frame.”

    Definition of “X-Class” is at: http://spaceweather.com/glossary/flareclasses.html

    “Scientists classify solar flares according to their x-ray brightness in the wavelength range 1 to 8 Angstroms. There are 3 categories: X-class flares are big; they are major events that can trigger planet-wide radio blackouts and long-lasting radiation storms. M-class flares are medium-sized; they can cause brief radio blackouts that affect Earth’s polar regions. Minor radiation storms sometimes follow an M-class flare. Compared to X- and M-class events, C-class flares are small with few noticeable consequences here on Earth.”

    I hope that explains better what I had been reading elsewhere about recent solar flare activity suddenly increasing with super large flares.

    • Marie says:


      If you enjoy getting into a twidget take a look at this. It must have given whoever was monitoring the data stream a moment or two of existential uncertainty. Did not lead to the end of the world, at least not as far as I know.

      • Tim says:

        Regardless, two X-class flares happened, after a long period of silence. Not end of the world, just two X-class flares.

  4. iessalb says:

    And the less educated people are, the more easily they can be duped into believing physically impossible explanations of events. i.e. they can be made to believe in magic.

    Sometimes it seems the more educated people, the PhD class, are duping themselves into believing these events. Or at the very least, are the dupers who know better but go right ahead and hoodwink the dupees.

    Scientific scaremongering is so lucrative nowadays.

    Now onto a pending earthquake prediction that may affect whether I post here again in the near future.

    Jim Berkland. This guy intrigues me. When you hear his voice and mannerisms firsthand he comes across as Stanton Glantz’ polar opposite. He’s quiet, unassuming and completely open to criticism.

    News-worthy.info Story

    Blue Star Chronicles

    He hits close to home for me. I designed and built a complex remodel home in Santa Cruz in 1979. It involved supporting the second story independent of the first story. It featured a view of the earthquake namesake Loma Prieta Mountain from a third story deck I included. His claim to fame was predicting the 1989 Loma Prieta Quake.

    When I heard the news that the quake hit, I was freaked out. I now lived 400 miles to the south, in Southern Cal. I pictured the second story collapsing down onto the bottom story.

    I called the owners up and ascertained that the only damage was some minor sheetrock rippling at the stairwell, which was the only common structural connection between the two stories and made complete sense.

    So as not to end up in the spam box, there will be another two links in the succeeding comment. It includes one that is skeptical of him.

    PS. I miss the preview feature. You never know how the links are going to show up this way.

  5. iessalb says:

    Two more Jim Berkland links, including one that is skeptical of his methods.

    Death By 1000 Papercuts Blog

    A Berkland Skeptic

    I hope these links work. I did my level best to code them correctly.

  6. iessalb says:

    Whoops. Here is the aforementioned Death by 1000 Papercuts story.

    Death By 1000 Papercuts Blog

  7. iessalb says:

    Damn it! Foiled by a stupid little end quotation mark.

    Death By 1000 Papercuts Blog”

  8. Barcelona says:

    I just started reading your site – thanks for writing. I wanted to inform you that it’s not displaying correctly on the BlackBerry Browser (I have a Blackberry 9700). Anyway, I am now subscribed to the RSS feed on my PC, so thanks again!

  9. Rose says:

    “It’s no longer what actually causes things that matters, but what people believe causes them”

    Case in point.

    Government vows to defend cig vending machine ban

    “The government has vowed to continue to fight legal challenges from the tobacco industry and push ahead with a ban on cigarette vending machines from October 1.

    The Department of Health (DoH) has today published a 57-page document – Healthy Lives, Healthy People: A Tobacco Control Plan for England – which sets out the coalition’s proposals on tobacco for the next five years.

    “We are robustly defending the legislation to stop the sale of tobacco products from vending machines against two judicial review cases brought by the tobacco industry,” it states”.
    http://www.thepublican.com/story.asp?storycode=69186

    Under the previous government who had already signed the FCTC

    Government ‘fixing health consultations’ with taxpayer-funded groups

    “Mr Johnson boasted that the display ban was favoured by an “overwhelming majority” of 96,000 responses to a six-month public consultation on the subject.

    Yet only a handful of those 96,000 respondents came from individuals submitting their personal views. Almost 70,000 came from those collected by pressure groups entirely funded by the Department for Health.

    Among the groups submitting block responses were SmokeFree NorthWest, SmokeFree Liverpool and SmokeFree North East, which were all set up by the Government to lobby against the tobacco industry.

    The finding has prompted critics to accuse the Government of spending taxpayers’ money on establishing groups designed merely to back the Government line on public health issues.

    Ministers have effectively been accused of “astroturfing” – cultivating a fake grassroots movement in order to make a position appear more popular than it really is.”
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/4076290/Government-fixing-health-consultations-with-taxpayer-funded-groups.html

    • Rose says:

      But of course now we know that they had to rig the consultation as they had already signed and had to ignore any opposing opinions under Article 5.3
      http://www.who.int/fctc/guidelines/article_5_3.pdf

      Article 13 FCTC

      Retail sale and display

      13 To ensure that points of sale of tobacco products do not have any promotional elements.
      Parties should introduce a total ban on any display and on the visibility of tobacco products at points of sale, including fixed retail outlets and street vendors.
      Only the textual listing of products and their prices would be allowed.

      14 Vending machines should be banned because they constitute by their very presence a means of advertising or promotion under the terms of the Convention.”

      It was already a done deal.

      Frank
      This is rather tricky and you lose the sense posting in bits without the links,
      Can’t I just send posts direct to the spam folder?

      • Frank Davis says:

        If you don’t mind a delay of a few hours, you can post what you like, with as many links as you like, and I’ll retrieve it whenever I next check the comments.

        On the other hand, if you want something to appear right away, make sure you’ve only got one link.

        That’s the best I can offer right now.

  10. Your new blog seems to work. I’ll update my ‘blogroll, you’re filed under ‘Bloggers who don’t link to me’.

    • Frank Davis says:

      This will be rectified soon, I promise.

      On LJ, I was only allowed 30 links. So lots and lots of people never made it onto my links list. They probably all hate me. I’ve got a lot of catching up to do.

  11. Rose says:

    “If you don’t mind a delay of a few hours, you can post what you like, with as many links as you like, and I’ll retrieve it whenever I next check the comments.”

    Perfect!
    I was beginning to confuse myself , let alone anyone else.

    Btw Debbie must be slightly disappointed tonight.

    “Currently the Government has in place a tax escalator of 2 per cent above inflation from 2011 to 2104. ASH and the UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies, endorsed by 68 health and welfare organisations, have campaigned for this to be increased to 5 per cent above inflation.

    Whether the Government has been persuaded by this campaign will be revealed in the budget announcement on 23 March.”

    “Reducing affordability also requires cracking down on the sale of cheap and illicit tobacco.”
    http://www.fctc.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=522:new-tobacco-plan-for-england&catid=257:opinion-pieces&Itemid=214

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