Everything you know about earthquakes is wrong

This morning I was violently shaken awake by the Encino (NOT WESTWOOD) earthquake, which felt quite similar to Kathy Bates grabbing me by the shoulders and knocking me around for 20 seconds (not as titillating as you’d expect).

Earthquakes are like rollercoasters–the person who’s telling you how “cool!” it is just shit their drawers.  Earthquakes are also an opportunity for armchair seismologists to pretend like they know the ins and outs of plate tectonics.  

“STAND UNDER A DOORWAY”, they wail, casting looks of judgment at you that’d make the Westboro Baptist congregation blush.

MYTH 1:  Earthquakes will kill you unless you stand under a doorway, also known as “God’s Pelvis”.

TRUTH:  Standing under a doorway is at best useless and at worst damaging.

In modern homes doorways are no stronger than any other parts of the house and usually have doors that will swing and can injure you.

But this isn’t good enough for some people.  They start blathering on about “aftershocks” like a Dunkin Donuts fearing Oprah’s return.

MYTH 2:  Your obituary will read that you survived an earthquake only to get completely hosed by a more powerful aftershock, and yes, will include the word “hosed” because that niece you hate wrote it.

TRUTH:  The earthquake you actually felt is highly likely to be the worst earthquake you’ll feel.

It has also been claimed that foreshocks are not simply small mainshocks, but rather are triggered by the nucleation phase of the upcoming larger mainshock. If this is true, we would expect mainshock size to influence the magnitude, number, and/or spatial extent of the foreshocks. We do not observe any such correlations.

Just because the quake subsides doesn’t mean the steady stream of bullshit stops.  These people claim that it was ‘earthquake weather’, that they could ‘feel’ it before the earthquake started, while casting their limbs out akimbo to show you that earthquakes are apparently similar to Huntington’s disease.  This is all despite the fact that what happens miles beneath the surface of the earth couldn’t be more far removed from what happens above it, and that this person should’ve used their psychic powers for good (9/11) versus stupid (predicting an earthquake after it happened).

Worse yet are people who specialize in earthquake prediction, who rank just slightly above Sylvester Stallone’s “rumpologist” mom as “seers of the future”:

way to be on the ball with CA, guys

good to see you predicted today’s quake with the same accuracy as the massive Fresno quake that didn’t happen 3 days ago

MYTH 3:  Earthquakes can be predicted by the weather and/or joint pain and/or rumpology

TRUTH:  There is no such thing as earthquake weather.  We can’t even predict the weather, let alone use the weather to predict earthquakes.

Some regard hot and dry weather as “earthquake weather,” a supposed precursor to a large quake. Yet there’s not clear cut agreement on this combination, because others deem “earthquake weather” to be when it’s hot and humid. This belief about the weather conditions above the surface’s affecting what’s going on beneath is an old one, dating to the days of the ancient Greeks. Posited Aristotle, who believed quakes were caused by winds trapped underground, less wind above the surface must mean more below, hence earthquakes were more likely when the air was still.

Earthquakes: just like that gassy kid with Cheeto fingers in the back of class!

–Aristotle

trust no bitch

Sullen and defeated, the weak retreat back to their hidey-holes of daytime TV-fueled ignorance.

But the aggressive, the General Custers of stupidity, bitterly cling to one more myth like Gollum in a Jared showroom.

“You know,” they say, putting their hands on their idiot hips, “we’re DUE for the BIG one”.

MYTH 4:  The big one’s a-comin folks.  Hitch your britches and grab yer mistresses, we gotta high-tail it out of Cal-i-for-nigh-ay!

TRUTH:  A large earthquake is more like your cousin’s unplanned pregnancy than your cousin’s general penchant for poor life choices–a possibility but not a certainty.

For example, here’s a recent LA Times article about “the Big One”:

The “Big One” that has been forecast for the San Andreas fault could end up being bigger than earthquake experts previously thought.

Recent research showing that a section of the fault is long overdue for a major earthquake has some scientists saying the southern portion of the fault is capable of a magnitude 8.1 earthquake that could run 340 miles from Monterey County to the Salton Sea.

The southern San Andreas hasn’t had a large quake for more than a century. The sleeping giant has been building stress for so long that it could snap at any moment, experts said.

I’ll hold while you change into your Pampers.

The average time interval between the last six earthquakes that ruptured the San Andreas fault in the Carrizo Plain is 88 ± 41 yr. This is less than the time since the most recent A.D. 1857 earthquake, less than all reported average intervals of prehistoric earthquakes along the entire San Andreas fault, and significantly shorter than the 235 yr average used in recent seismic hazard evaluations. The new chronological data combined with recent slip studies imply that the magnitudes of the earthquakes that ruptured the southern San Andreas fault in the Carrizo Plain since ca. A.D. 1360 were variable, and suggest that the widely held view of rare but great surface rupturing earthquakes along this portion of the southern San Andreas fault should be reevaluated.

Shhh.  I’ll wake you up after your nap.

To sum up: doorways won’t protect you (duck and cover under something strong, I can only protect two young ladies at once, sorry), you’re likely feeling the main quake and the aftershock will be pitiful, nobody can predict earthquakes, and California won’t fall off into the ocean (which the US Geological Survey actually had to debunk).

Class dismissed.

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