Apparrent size difference at Perigee and Apogee

Just to be Clear: The Moon Did Not Cause the Earthquake in Japan

Article Updated: 24 Dec , 2015

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We’re getting a lot of visitors to our site today, many searching for information about earthquakes, tsunamis, and the ‘SuperMoon’ phenomenon. Just to be clear, the Moon did not cause the earthquake in Japan. Several scientists have posted articles online today clarifying the topic, and all of them, in no uncertain terms, agree that the the upcoming perigee of the Moon — where it is closer than usual in its orbit to Earth — had nothing to do with the earthquake and ensuing tsunami. Tammy discussed this yesterday, but as we often do, we’ll also point you in the direction of an article by astronomer Phil Plait about this topic, and another by Ben Goldacre, who completely debunks an article that appeared in the Daily Mail about the possibility of a connection between the two events.

In addition, Dr. Jim Garvin, chief scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, has provided some answers to questions about the ‘supermoon’ phenomenon, below:

Question: What is the definition of a supermoon and why is it called that?

Garvin: ‘Supermoon’ is a situation when the moon is slightly closer to Earth in its orbit than on average, and this effect is most noticeable when it occurs at the same time as a full moon. So, the moon may seem bigger although the difference in its distance from Earth is only a few percent at such times.

It is called a supermoon because this is a very noticeable alignment that at first glance would seem to have an effect. The ‘super’ in supermoon is really just the appearance of being closer, but unless we were measuring the Earth-Moon distance by laser rangefinders (as we do to track the LRO [Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter] spacecraft in low lunar orbit and to watch the Earth-Moon distance over years), there is really no difference. The supermoon really attests to the wonderful new wealth of data NASA’s LRO mission has returned for the Moon, making several key science questions about our nearest neighbor all the more important.

Question: Are there any adverse effects on Earth because of the close proximity of the moon?

Garvin: The effects on Earth from a supermoon are minor, and according to the most detailed studies by terrestrial seismologists and volcanologists, the combination of the moon being at its closest to Earth in its orbit, and being in its ‘full moon’ configuration (relative to the Earth and sun), should not affect the internal energy balance of the Earth since there are lunar tides every day. The Earth has stored a tremendous amount of internal energy within its thin outer shell or crust, and the small differences in the tidal forces exerted by the moon (and sun) are not enough to fundamentally overcome the much larger forces within the planet due to convection (and other aspects of the internal energy balance that drives plate tectonics). Nonetheless, these supermoon times remind us of the effect of our ‘Africa-sized’ nearest neighbor on our lives, affecting ocean tides and contributing to many cultural aspects of our lives (as a visible aspect of how our planet is part of the solar system and space).

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73 Responses

  1. iantresman says:

    Which part of Ben Goldacre’s article, debunks the article in the Daily Mail? I see no more science than the Daily Mail article.

    • IVAN3MAN_AT_LARGE says:

      Dude, try clicking on the “the caveat in paragraph #19” link.

    • Hon. Salacious B. Crumb says:

      For someone who claims they are trained in the sciences, you seem to have a ridiculous degree of almost idiopathic tunnel vision in its application.

      From your words here, we can only conclude that you think here that the astrologers might be right? If so. you are much crazier than I thought.

      • iantresman says:

        Your comment reads just like a horoscope: Personal, sensational, inaccurate and baseless.

        And you are asking me to predict whether the astrologers might be right? (notes irony). Right about their moon prediction? I’ll just wait until next week, then we’ll know for sure whether they were right or wrong.

        Perhaps you are asking whether astrology is right, and can predict lunar-caused earthquakes? For the record, I think that astrology and horoscopes are bunkum. If you read the Daily Mail article, it doesn’t tell you on what, the astrologers made their predications. For all I know, these astrologers based their predictions on some peer-reviewed scientific papers. It’s unlikely, but I’ll check the facts first before jumping to conclusions.

      • Hon. Salacious B. Crumb says:

        Astrology just like EU/PC is NOT science. Making claims of scientific fact using (or professing) pseudoscience is actually meaningless.
        If he wants to be taken seriously, the jerk behind it should not have called himself an astrologer.

  2. iantresman says:

    Yes, I read the Caveat in Paragraph #19. (1) It has nothing to do with Moons (2) Again, it contains no science (3) Goldactres is guilty doing exactly the same as he is criticising, and not getting to the point until Paragraph 19.

    So I stand by my original comment. Where is the debunking of this particular issue? Just point me to ANY relevant sentence.

    • Hon. Salacious B. Crumb says:

      …astrology is crap! Who really needs evidence!

    • Hon. Salacious B. Crumb says:

      Let’s see. Well the article of the Daily Mail (linked directly by Goldactres) says;

      “Two days ago, in an interview with ABC radio discussing the potential impact of the March 19 supermoon, astrologer Richard Nolle, who first coined the term in 1979, said he was convinced that lunar perigees cause natural disasters on Earth.
      ‘Supermoons have a historical association with strong storms, very high tides, extreme tides and also earthquakes,’ he said.
      However, scientists dismiss this as utter nonsense and that although it makes a good photo opportunity for astronomers it has no impact on Earth.
      Dr David Harland, space historian and author, said: ‘It’s possible that the moon may be a kilometre or two closer to Earth than normal at a perigee, but it’s an utterly insignificant event.’

      Evidence enough, methinks.

      Note: What the point by you here. There are clearly open motives by you outside this debate. You are always trying to create doubt when there is none. I believe, regardless of your self-rectitude and abuse of logical fallacies like you precious ad hominem, that you are a troublemaking fool, sir!

  3. iantresman says:

    Agreed, astrology is bunkum. But Richard Nolle did not use astrology to make his prediction. He made a valid hypothesis suggesting that “lunar perigees cause natural disasters on Earth.” The statement is not incorrect because he is an astrologer. Perhaps he based his statement on peer-reviewed papers, such as these:

    L. Knopoff, “Correlation of earthquakes with lunar orbital motions”, in Earth, Moon, and Planets, Volume 2, Number 2, 140-143, DOI: dx.doi.org/10.1007/BF00561957

    John F. Simpson, “Earth tides as a triggering mechanism for earthquakes”, in Earth and Planetary Science Letters, Volume 2, Issue 5, August 1967, Pages 473-478. doi: dx.doi.org/10.1016/0012-821X(67)90192-6

    Fritz Gackstatter “Lunisolar Effect on Spring Tides, Earthquakes, and Tsunamis”, Journal of Coastal Research, (2007) Volume 23, Issue 2: pp. 528 – 530, doi: dx.doi.org/10.2112/06-0700.1

    I am not claiming that Nolle, or lunar perigee as a cause of earthquakes, are correct. I am claiming that Goldacre did not debunk the Daily Mail article.

    • DrFlimmer says:

      Well, let’s see:

      The moon’s perigee is on 1 week. By now, the moon is almost as far away as it could be (I read on BA it’s about 400.000km). So the “supermoon” had no causal connection to this event.

      There, case closed.

  4. Janedoe says:

    I think you are missing the bigger picture here!! All things work together and if you all would communicate with your left hand to see what your right hand knew and vice versa then maybe we’d all learn the truth of things don’t you think?
    I am surprised that those of us that can connect the dots seem to know more about your business then you sometimes through minor speculation and insight mixed with common sense.
    How long you gonna keep the real truth from us all? Was your buddies HAARP/CERN involved as well during the Solar Flare/CME bursts?
    Time will tell cuz you evidently aren’t

    • IVAN3MAN_AT_LARGE says:

      Poe’s Law states:

      Without a winking smiley or other blatant display of humor, it is impossible to create a parody of Fundamentalism that SOMEONE won’t mistake for the real thing.

    • Olaf says:

      HAARP?
      You have no idea what you are talking about don’t you?
      Now how exactly would HAARP create a CME?

    • Paul Eaton-Jones says:

      Utterly crazy. You’re not the demented Jenny from the 2012 – comet site are you?

  5. HelloBozos says:

    Wasn’t the Moon,i’ll go with that, What about Sun? With all these x flare’s? 2 in short peroid…

  6. Hon. Salacious B. Crumb says:

    What about the so-called solid tides, where the Earth in average is daily kneed by 2 to 0.4mm everyday. Highest is about 4mm to 5mm in Western Australia. The concept of these tides date back to the geophysical work by Love (1944) and then by Munk and MacDonald (1975).
    The solid tides are influenced by the solar perihelion around January. The moon makes more of a difference in solid tides, and like ocean tides, the maximum ‘high water’ lags on average by about 2.5 hours.
    More importantly. “The magnitude of the velocity change depends on both the site latitude and which part of the 19.6 year periodic signal is sampled.” There seems to be another component, other than the 18 year 11.3day Saros cycle.
    [We could easily conclude that the differences here means earthquakes are unrelated to the Saros cycle or even the alleged lunar SuperMoon phenomena.]
    At a guess, I’d expect that the braking of buildup of pressure along fault lines is fairly random and unpredictable, as it depends on the rate of stress, the resistance along the fault, etc. However, even though seemingly small events might trigger major earthquakes, it is far more likely that the energies of other smaller earthquakes on the fault line will trigger the main large or extensive quake. It would be more likely that triggers for earthquakes were from cumulative forces from multiple causes and not just one Frankly, if really periodicity were happening by the close approaches of the moon, geophysicists would be instantly using these to issues warning of pending earthquakes.
    The question for all the naysayers here is that if this was a means of predicting major earthquakes, then why don’t geophysicists simply use “supermoons” to issue warnings? Clearly, the reason is there is absolutely no useful correlation from the available data.
    If geophysicists know this, then what chance do wannabe pseudoscience have of proving such correlations exist? Just because someone thinks there might be a correlation, doesn’t make it so. In this case, simple, the evidence doesn’t support it!

    Note: Those interested in this subject might like to read the available on-line paper; Watson,C., Tregoning, P, Coleman, R.,”The impact of solid Earth tide models on GPS time series analysis,”; Geophys. Res. Lett., 33 (8), L8306 (2006) Especially Fig.2 shows the observed cycle.

    • Hon. Salacious B. Crumb says:

      Oops. The quote on the periodicity of solid tides comes from the linked paper!

  7. Hon. Salacious B. Crumb says:

    OK. Let’s quote Nolle, here. He claims that “Supermoons.. occur every 10 to 20 years – the most recent being in 1955, 1974, 1992 and 2005.” (Note the difference in years, here 19,18,13 years) Then almost magically, in 2011, it is again 18 years. He is obviously just using the Saros for his predictions, but is ignoring the error between past earthquakes.

    According to this article; http://www.smh.com.au/technology/sci-tech/i-see-a-supermoon-rising-but-do-i-see-trouble-on-the-way-20110311-1bqrw.html

    “Mr Nolle said the most recent supermoon on February 18 had an impact on Earth from February 12 to 21. He drew a link between the lunar phenomenon and the Christchurch earthquake, which hit New Zealand on February 22.”

    Yet this time, he is stating his supermoon is not an instant of time but now a period over nine days whole days

    Also he was clearly not originally talking about Japan here, otherwise he’d need precognition.

    It is too far easy to debunk this as nonsense. Frankly, you might as well believe in the “Four Pillars of Density.”

  8. Aqua says:

    I think we can all agree that we have tides caused by the sun and moon. Two low tides and two high tides per day. As someone who frequents the ocean I pay attention to those cycles. We all know that tides are higher during new and full moons, less so at first quarter and third quarter. Yes, Luna and Sol help create the mixing pf waters in our seas.

    Does that tidal influence influence the liquid magma under the crust? I think its pretty obvious that they must but that influence is NOT nearly as instantaneous as the tides at sea.. instead that tidal pull stretches that magma like taffy, creating a ‘rolling’ bulge as the Earth rotates. When harmonic nodes of and in that bulge coioncide over a weak point in the crust, where hot spots are at work… things move.

    Again… a number of factors must be present and the effects are not instantaneous, but indeed the moon is a factor!

    • Torbjorn Larsson OM says:

      Considering that the actual volumes magma is an insignificant part of the crust (and not usually part of what lies below), what the Moon would do is insignificant compared to what it does to the whole Earth by the tidal coupling to sea and gravitational irregularities.

      What lies below the crust is the mantle, and its dynamical viscous time scales of hundreds of years means that the orbiting Moon time scales averages out.

      The Moon is not a factor at its orbital time scale, apart from what the post mentions.

    • Olaf says:

      Aqua, sea water is pretty fluid and is in open air. It can move pretty easy.
      Magma under the crust is not that fluid and also is forced to stay under the crust. The lifting up and down of the crust is pretty equal distributed over very large surface. The Earth quake can only be triggered when there is enough difference in forces at the crack. But since the crust moves up and down equally the force difference is lower than other local forces e.g.like Earth’s own gravity and the force caused by moving plates. Maybe a small Earth Quake just next to it might have triggered this big one.

      • Torbjorn Larsson OM says:

        Maybe we are discussing confusing language (what is “under”?), but magma is a characteristic of *mainly* the crust:

        “Despite being found in such widespread locales, the bulk of the Earth’s crust and mantle is not molten. Rather, most of the Earth takes the form of a rheid, a form of solid that can move or deform under pressure. Magma, as liquid, preferentially forms in high temperature, low pressure environments within several kilometers of the Earth’s surface.” [Wp]

        Magma preferentially grows within the crust, in suitable locales where the surrounding mineral can melt. This is why I commented on Aqua’s what I interpret as incorrect description.

        I’m not sure what you mean by “forced to stay under the crust”. Magma is a participant in volcanoes and other geological formations, and appears on top of the crust as lava. Do you envision sheets of crust where magma floats on top, like it seems Aqua does. That is mistaken, perhaps “folk geology” even. Again, below the crust is the mantle, which is viscous albeit on other time scales than magma.

      • Olaf says:

        A reference to a media channel is proof?
        The same channels that also promotes the end of the world when they see dead fish?

      • Olaf says:

        This article talks about tidal forces, not the distance of the moon and not the rotation of the Moon around Earth but but the rotation of the Earth that causes this with the attracting force of the Moon.
        Also a 1% of the Earth quakes only the magnitude 4.0 or less, do I not classify as proof. It might indicate an error in the methods they used to come to this conclusion.
        So was this moon high above the horizon when the quake got triggered in Japan?

      • Trippy says:

        Did you read that before you linked it?
        “A new study has found that bulges in Earth’s crust — solid Earth tides — trigger about 1 percent of earthquakes. ”
        And:
        “Scientists have known about this effect for over a century and have speculated that it might cause earthquakes. ”
        And:
        “The effect is most pronounced in smaller and shallower earthquakes, and harder to detect in tremors above magnitude 4.0. ”
        And:
        “Overall, the triggering effect is much weaker than expected, though. ”
        (And queue the meaningless recital of “Theoretically it will impact big earthquakes too,” Metivier said. “But the main problem is that there aren’t enough big earthquakes to make a correlation.”)

      • Olaf says:

        ““But the main problem is that there aren’t enough big earthquakes to make a correlation.””

        I would think that lack of big earth quakes to make a correlation could mean that the Moon does not trigger one. I would expect clockwork Earth quakes every month at a fixed date.

  9. Uncle Fred says:

    While these posts are fun and generate lots of interest and comments, I secretly wish UT steered clear of these topics. I understand the importance of debunking myths, phobias, and general tabloid nonsense. Yet these postings seem to act rather as a sounding call for the Astrology/EU/Plasma Universe/doomsday crowd (sorry if I left your pet idea out!).

    Maybe I am wrong and there is a good reason to discuss these things here at UT.

    • iantresman says:

      I don’t see any promotion of Astrology/EU/Plasma Universe/doomsday. I’ve just been critical of whether there has been any debunking, and what exactly was being debunked.So I’d be interested in what aspects of the discussion you disapprove?

      • Hon. Salacious B. Crumb says:

        Please. Don’t be an absolute ass and drop all this innocent pretence. Do you have an opinion here, or are we up to the BS mind games, yet again?

        Saying “I’ve just been critical of whether there has been any debunking,…” and
        “I’d be interested in what aspects of the discussion you disapprove?” says an awful lot about your own unsubstantiated beliefs and its application in your mind. All I see underscored here is your promotion of own distorted notions and that you don’t really understand why they are being properly and continuously debunked all the time. Yet deep down you still don’t understand the open hostility in what you say, and why people completely reject what you say and write about your notions of PC/EU.

        The open disapproval is not the “promotion of Astrology/EU/Plasma Universe/doomsday”. That is rather trivial. Much of the rejection here is on the deliberate organised agenda and the untoward methods of wanting to creating doubt in science just to supplant it with faith, anti-science or pseudoscience.
        Astrology/EU/Plasma Universe/doomsday is rejected as it has not credible supported with any of the necessary factual evidence, logical conclusions, or the application of the scientific method. It is openly debunked because it is already proven to be wrong.
        In the end, fraudsters will always be openly debunked. From your track record, it is no wonder people disapprove, and could not give a toss if it true, false or even relevant. You have put yourself in this position, and because of it, few are interested.

      • iantresman says:

        More insults. No surprise there. More inaccuracies (I have provided my opinion, for example, on astrology), and I have not promoted anything on PC/.EU, yet it is you that brings it up every time I post. I understand that science can be demanding for some people, but you don’t find me resorting to your style of rhetoric.

      • iantresman says:

        “So you are not trying to get google rankings and followers by linking back to your web site?”

        (1) My link has zero effect on Google Ranking. As is common on most blog sites, such links are tagged with a “nofollow” tag (2) Do you really think that people “succumb” to a website and become a “follower”? I bet that the number of people who have followed my link and become a “follower” is zero. And the number who are negative towards it, are significant. These figures are not based on any science, but is testable, and would seem to work against me.

      • Olaf says:

        I have not promoted anything on PC/.EU, yet it is you that brings it up every time I post.

        So you are not trying to get google rankings and followers by linking back to your web site?

      • Hon. Salacious B. Crumb says:

        Yeah, right. A proponent of pseudoscience and you complain of inaccuracies!! You are really already notorious for promoting plasma universe stuff all the time. As for style rhetoric, mockery seems to be the only option you guys understand.
        Actually, your original complain Ben Goldacre’s article does debunks the article in the Daily Mail is wrong. Like me here, he really mocks the stupidity of it all. (You indirectly imply an astrologer might have something relevant to say on geophysics. The guy who promoted this whole nonsense tries to justify astrology as a qualification of his opinion.* If this is true, then why the heck do you comment about it?)

        According to this twit; “The April 18 full moon SuperMoon Mars-Saturn opposition (just a week after the Mars –Pluto waxing square) has some ominous antecedents, geopolitically as well as geophysically. A longitudinal swath touching Ottawa, New York, Washington, Cuba and Hispaniola and virtually all of western South America figures into this; as well as Indonesia, Indochina, China, Mongolia and Siberia – and that’s just the geopolitical end of the spectrum.

        From http://www.astropro.com/forecast/predict/2011-all.html

        Are not “ominous antecedents” the hallmark of astrological prediction.

        Reading this, anyone would debunk this as nonsense, exception you is more worried about spewing irrelevancies which have be shown, even by plain common sense, just plain nutty.

        As for “Which part of Ben Goldacre’s article, debunks the article in the Daily Mail?” Who gives a &#@! toss?

        HIS WORDS ARE CLEARLY WRONG!
        End of story.

        Now please vaporise!!

      • Hon. Salacious B. Crumb says:

        Future Supermoon, according to Nolle, are on the following page; http://www.astropro.com/features/tables/cen21ce/suprmoon.html
        His next supermoon is presumably November 14, 2016

        According to him; “A SuperMoon is a perigee-syzygy, a new or full moon (syzygy) which occurs when the Moon is at 90% or greater of its mean
        closest approach to Earth (perigee)”

        Just plain nuts!

      • Hon. Salacious B. Crumb says:

        Oh. You want direct evidence that this is for promotion of astrology, well here it is;

        “If you’re interested in the history of SuperMoon alignments in connection with great storms, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, you’ll find a sampling of them in my book Interpreting Astrology (published by the American Federation of Astrologers).”

        Its all about flogging astrology books!! And you say of me; “Your comment reads just like a horoscope: Personal, sensational, inaccurate and baseless.”

        You are a total fool, sir!

      • Olaf says:

        I don’t see any promotion of Astrology/EU/Plasma Universe/doomsday.
        You are joking! Every one of your posts links to a Plasma universe web site.

      • Excalibur says:

        http:\\www.plasma-universe.com March 13, 2011 at 1:10 am
        I don’t see any promotion of Astrology/EU/Plasma Universe/doomsday. I’ve just been critical of whether there has been any debunking, and what exactly was being debunked.So I’d be interested in what aspects of the discussion you disapprove?

        Are you saying you DONT promote http:\\www.plasma-universe.com ?

      • Uncle Fred says:

        I wonder if UT could just ban individuals who promote their pet theories. Seems to me it’s usually the same several culprits every article. An enforcement of the rules on the forums would help keep the discussion centered around science.

        I would rather hear Crumb’s or Olaf’s considerable knowledge on Astronomy related topics over endless targeted diatribes. Lets face it, some of these guys live in an alternate realities. Others like LC tends to steer clear of the fray. Maybe if UT’s moderators could be encouraged to enforce forum rules, no one would need to counter the nonsense.

        Let me know what you guys think. If others here share this option I’ll contact UT and see if we can arrange for a change in site moderation.

        Regards,

        UF

      • iantresman says:

        Hear hear. The BAUT forum rules> should apply.

    • HeadAroundU says:

      I have a trouble with debunking here on UT as well. It’s like a double-edged sword.

      The main problem is probably that UT advertises those sites. Negative ad is still ad…

  10. iantresman says:

    You’re joking right? A username link is not a “promotion”, nor an endorsement. It’s a link that if followed, declares my interest. I am sure that if it tell foul of UniverseToday rules, I would have been asked to remove it long ago.

    I have no doubt that (a) if any of you linked to a website relevant to yourselves, then that would be fine, and would not be considered “promotion”, (b) even if I removed the link, do you think it would make one jot of difference.

    • Excalibur says:

      Yes it would make a difference, you would no longer be suspected of promoting a personal opinion in violation with the rulse for posting on this site.

      • iantresman says:

        Do you mean “person opinion” or “personal theory”, or both? If “personal opinion”, then that would suggest that I can’t give my personal opinion that astrology is bunkum. Which would suggest you mean “personal theory”, which my web site is not.

      • Excalibur says:

        I would expect the topic at hand would limit what is “the topic at hand”. However this also makes this statement of mine off-topic so im not going to go into details. I am even going to appologize for briefly mentioning it.

        Your personal theory is also your personal opinion, by necessity. Other peoples theories may still be your personal opinion, if you accept the theory, wich you clearly seem to do as you link to the theory. Do you claim that you are NOT promoting that theory? Do you reject the Plasma Universe Theory?

        Your opinions do not all have to be theories, any and all of your opinions that are on-topic are perfectly acceptable. If Astrology is the topic, your opinion about it is acceptable, whether you accept or reject Astrology.

        However, the rules says to not promote pet or peeve theories.

      • iantresman says:

        “Do you claim that you are NOT promoting that theory?
        On Universe Today, I do not promote any theories.

        “Do you reject the Plasma Universe Theory?”
        Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of the communist party? Do you believe in god. Do you accept dark matter and the dark forces. You never expect the inquisition!

        “any and all of your opinions that are on-topic are perfectly acceptable”
        Just let ,me know when I go off-topic then, by way of specific examples. I accept that this post is also off-top, and also apologise, and won’t go into details, and will continue on-topic.

      • Hon. Salacious B. Crumb says:

        Actually, Excalibur, I’m really quite grateful for the link to this site. If it were not for its many useful inadequacies, it would have taken me ages for me to strip apart, piece by piece, the whole EU/PC facade.

        As for “I can’t give my personal opinion that astrology is bunkum.” Bingo! We’ve hit the jackpot.
        So our friend here must supports astrology even though he denies it! If he claims he doesn’t, he is using his own abhorrently held straw man argument just to imply the science must be doubtful. Ben Goldacre’s article or the DailyMail has nothing to do with his arguments here! It is all designed to sucker us into denying the undeniable!

        Such inconsistency from his unstated major premise reveals the true heart of the matter — a “personal theory” indeed.

        (I’ll look at his website to see if I can find anything on astrology. Could this actually be a unbeknown branch of PC/EU that we have missed somewhere on the way?)

        Cheers

      • Hon. Salacious B. Crumb says:

        On Universe Today, I do not promote any theories.

        One word. Bull.

    • Hon. Salacious B. Crumb says:

      Let’s face fact here.You do promote your site, and you have historically done so by stealth. However, most here seem to use the link to their sites as a means of authority on some subject.
      Most of the linked sites are junk, and many showing all how lost and deluded they really are. Old Anaconda, for example, just use to link it to a dead zone, thinking other might be trick that he knew what he was talking about.

  11. iantresman says:

    Did the Moon cause the Earthquake in Japan? The issue is not as clear-cut as suggested, depending on your definitions of “cause” and “influence”. There is no doubt the the Moon and Sun influence the Earth, causing not only the ocean tides, but also solid tides (AKA Earth tides), as noted by Hon. Salacious B. Crumb above. If a straw breaks the camel’s back, is the straw the cause?

    1. Diurnal tides occur twice day.
    2. Larger spring tides (twice a month)
    3. Even larger equinox spring tides (twice a year)
    4. Perigean spring tide coincide with the Moon’s perigee every 6.5 months (ref: http://goo.gl/eDutB PDF, p.8) are about 20% larger than usual (this is the so-called Supermoon, or perigee-syzygy ref: //goo.gl/eWXcE )
    5. Proxigean spring tide coincides with the closest Moon perigee (about every 18 months) (AKA proxigee-syzygy ref: //goo.gl/eWXcE )
    6. Extreme Proxigean Spring Tides (every 31 years)

    My interpretation of Plait’s Discovery article is that he dismissed cause, because there is no an earthquake everytime the Moon is at perigee, and on the same date. Yet he recognises there is “a weak correlation between shallow, low intensity quakes and the Moon” and the U.S. Geological Survey web site (ref: //goo.gl/O0qyJ ) further notes that for this kind of earthquake, the probability is increased by a factor of about 3.

    Of course correlation does not imply causation, but it also doesn’t rule out a contribution, and as Hon. Salacious B. Crumb reports “small events might trigger major earthquakes .. more likely that triggers for earthquakes were from cumulative forces from multiple causes and not just one”.

    • Olaf says:

      A mere 1% of all the earth quakes below 4.0!
      I would call this a fluke in your data and time to figure out what you are doing wrong in your methodology.

    • Paul Eaton-Jones says:

      I’m afraid that the chances of the ‘supermoon’ [stupid name] causing or even contributing to this earthquake or any ‘quake is as good as zero but let’s not allow the facts to get in the way of a good [scare]story. Earthquakes are caused by the movement of tectonic plates and the sticking and subsequent release of the sticking. They are driven by convection of the mantle heated by the decay of radioactive elements deep within the earth. They are not the product of pixies, elves, fairies, trolls or giant green lizards hiding under the ground or the proximity of the moon.
      As has been mentioned elsewhere on this story perigee is/was a week in the future but again don’t let the facts get in the way. With 2012 on the horizon there are going to be a whole load of these way out ideas emerging from the rotting woodwork especially if there are more ‘quakes. And there will be because we live on the surface of a very turbulent planet.

  12. Andy Jenkinson says:

    Hang from a thin branch. It may not break for weeks.
    Hang from aqnother similar branch. It may break immediately (especially if its structure has already been weakened.
    You would still be a cause of both branches breaking.
    Make a sand castle and hollow out the centre. Fill with water. Add a small drop so that it overflows. The small drop causes the water to erode the sand with devastating results. A small force can have major consequences. It is not very scientific to argue that the the sun and moon cannot cause earthquakes just because their influence is small. By ignoring the possibilities scientists are doing us all a disservice.

    • Torbjorn Larsson OM says:

      No one is ignoring possibilities when using likelihoods, that is the whole purpose of statistics, to account for properties of events in a space of possible outcomes and to do it in the best way possible.

      What you are alluding to by your catastrophe figures of analogy is the areas of failure analysis and risk management, which are quite separated from astronomy and geology. I.e. what can happen in complicated systems (not what is already happening in processes such as orbital mechanics and geology) and how should we manage it in the best (humane and/or cheapest) way possible.

      By ignoring the differences laymen are doing us all a disservice.

    • Olaf says:

      Yes the moon has an effect, but the effect is tiny compared to the real forces that are also there. Also because the Earth rotates every 24h a day the likelihood that a big earthquake would have a chance to build up reaches zero fast. The plate never gets the chance to build up that high to have a severe Earth quake because the moon tear it down before it can build up.

      • Olaf says:

        To build on top of that, what if I claim that the Earth quake happened because someone farted? Yes someone could fart and a mega Earth quake would be the result because of the straw that broke the camels back!

  13. Paul Eaton-Jones says:

    One of the things that is making me chuckle and boil at the same time is that anyone is taking seriously an article in The Daily Mail. For the non-UK people here the Mail is a now largely discredited newspaper whose accurate reporting hey-day is 60 years in the past. It has gone from being a fairly responsible paper [right of centre politically] to become the paper of choice of racists, petty right wing ideas and peddalling scaremongering stories about ‘too many immigrants’ and social security scroungers. Its sports coverage is however rather good.
    Also what burns me is the fact that we never, ever see one of these pseudo-scientists/crackpots pitted against a scientist in an open debate on televison. The last such debate I personally saw was James Randi taking on some ‘expert’ on ESP/telepathy whatever and Randi destroyed him within 10 minutes. [I think Randi was on an off day 😉 ]. THIS is what we need on prime time t.v. especially with the rising hysteria surrounding 2012.

  14. Lawrence B. Crowell says:

    Reposted from the “supermoon” article: Tidal forces are a change in the gravity field across a body. In the case of the earth this is

    Delta F = 2GMmd/r^3,

    for d the diameter of the Earth and r the orbital radius to the moon. The dependency on the radius is cubic, which means any small variation in r is pretty small. If I have r change to r + &r (r >> &r) then the cubic reciprocal of this is about 1/r^3 + 3&r/r^4. Here the &r is the radial difference between perigee and the average orbital radius. Some thinking should indicate the change is pretty small. The decreased distance between the Earth and the moon at perigee is really not that great.

    Also this 18 year cycle means there is a similar cycle where the moon is at perigee at the new moon, with a 9 years “phase difference.” From a gravitational perspective it makes no difference whether the moon is new or full. The full moon might have a bit of a visual or psychological impact, but this has nothing to do with physics. No matter how you look at it, the Newtonian orbital parameters mean the moon has this perigee, and whether it happens at new moon, full moon, at a quarter or any other period of the lunar phase has absolutely no bearing on the gravitational physics involved.

    LC

    • Olaf says:

      LBC, formulas are nice but kids get impressed by numbers or by comparing to something they know.

      e.g. How big would this camel be for a straw to break its back 😉

    • Aqua says:

      I’m thinking in terms of the Earth/Moon gravitational barycenter and how that moves and/or is enhanced by the Moon’s proximity and how that might correlate with Solar tidal resonances which then might vibrate in long wave harmonic cycles that eventually hit the right NODE and like Tesla’s ‘rumored. resonance generator, create a sudden rise in amplitude! BANG! Shake it up!

      • Olaf says:

        Apparently, we are the 20th right now almost the 21th.
        Incredible boring super moon in regard to some disaster.

        It amazes me that all those doom’s sayers are now in shock that nothing happened…. again. Another one of the failed prediction list. Also 15 March failed to deliver an end of the world situation again.

  15. William928 says:

    Uncle Fred, I support you completely. Unfortunately, anything short of banning the “nutters”, as HSBC calls them, will likely fail. I thought the UT rules were quite clear, but these insane comments don’t seem to be moderated anymore. I’m afraid we’ll see more of this nonsense in response to the latest article regarding dark matter.

  16. William928 says:

    IVAN3MAN, Good to have you back! Had you lost your coat and hat?

  17. Olaf says:

    I did some teeny weenie calculation about the gravitational influence of the moon on any mass on Earth. It is only 0.4 to 0.3 milli procent. That is it, nothing more.
    Local forces have way more influence than the Moon ever could.

    • Hon. Salacious B. Crumb says:

      … or even that the forces involved in the fault line finally braking might have something to the fault line itself.

      Have these jackasses ever considered the influence of the moon against the friction of moving fault lines. I.e. What is the primary force driving the earthquake in Japan? The inference is that the the trigger of the quake was the Moon itself, when clearly it is not and is not the only factor.

      Great comment, Olaf. Drive home that these doomsayers are nothing more than uneducated and deluded fools!

  18. Olaf says:

    Oh yes, supermoon almost passed and we have a boring day.

  19. darrelwright says:

    The moon helps the Earth get high tides and low tides! Not Cause EarthQuakes!
    http://gripperclippers.org/

  20. billavet says:

    Sooo, when the moon is CLOSER to the earth and aligned with the sun it causes moon quakes, but cannot cause earth quakes. Yeah, Right! The moon pulls the tides, but cannot affect tectonic plates floating on magma. Yeah, right! Someone needs to recheck their physics 101. WS

    • Olaf says:

      There is no evidence of Earth causing Moon quakes, especially when you realize that the same face of the moon is pointing towards Earth.

      I did a small calculation and the effect of the moon was somewhere 0.3 micro pro-cent while Earth’s influence would be 99.9997%. You can check this simple, Earth’s gravitational attraction is 9.82 m/s^2. That is awful big compared to what the moon attracts. You know the drill F = -Gxm1xM2/r^2

      Yes the sea moves up and down, but don’t forget that this see is basically unrestricted in its movement while the rest of the Earth is far more fixed or has no easy way to move since it is not in free air.

      • Olaf says:

        At the closest point the moon would have a 0.4 micro procent attraction force. The earth’s force would still be 99.9996% compared to the moons attraction.
        Basically, the cause of Earth quakes is for 99.9996% caused by Earth’s own gravity in combination with plate tectonics, and 0.0001% chance of the passing truck.

      • wjwbudro says:

        “Yes the sea moves up and down, but don’t forget that this see is basically unrestricted in its movement while the rest of the Earth is far more fixed or has no easy way to move since it is not in free air.”

        Yes but, does it not have a molten mantel and that mantel exerts pressures on the crust which is basically floating rock above the mantel? Now we have a body out there with a gravitational attraction that is competing/pulling against the earth’s gradient gravity including the mantel. Hope I said that right.

  21. Hon. Salacious B. Crumb says:

    “Sooo, when the moon is CLOSER to the earth and aligned with the sun it causes moon quakes,…”

    Show me some peer reviewed papers. please. There is some seismic data on moonquakes by Apollo sensors, but I know of no correlation in this scenario / alignment. Furthermore, what evidence is there of the magnitude of the lunar quakes?
    As the moon is smaller and is tugged harder by the Earth, both the correlation would be more significant as would the probability and periodicity would be seen in the moonquake.
    Unless your are a lunar scientist, I’d suspect you would have a snowflakes change in hell proving it with the available data.

    Positively, this a reasonable point of view not really mention by other here or elsewhere. Considering the timeframe of available data, it would be of considerable importance for future lunar exploration and monitoring.

    (Funny. If the tectonic plates were not floating on magma, would the earthquakes by less violent I.e. So disasters like Japan’s would not happen, would they? If there are solid tides, then likely the magma has tides too. However, I have absolutely no idea how you could accurately measure it.)

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