Skepticism

Shaky Ground: Can We Predict Earthquakes?

It’s a new Curiosity Aroused! Amy talks to Luke Thomas (a man who says he has the ability to predict earthquakes), and geologist/past TAM speaker Ray Beiersdorfer to sort out fact from fiction.

You can listen at curiosityaroused.com (where you can also see show notes), viaRSS, or on iTunes in the culture section. If you are on iTunes, please rate and comment!

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

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4 Comments

  1. Very interesting podcast. Good job with the interview, Amy – you kept your composure much better than I could have. I’ve heard that “animals can sense natural disasters’ argument for years, but I never knew anyone actually put so much stock into it as to check the local pet lost & found ads to predict earthquakes.

  2. I like how Luke left open all the other woo possibilities, like dogs being able to smell radon (a colorless, odorless, tasteless noble gas, according to the ever-reliable Wikipedia.) (Alpha particles (Helium nuclei) are also odorless, AFAIK.)

    How do you distinguish hot weather due to impending earthquakes from hot weather due to it being hot?

    He also seemed a little vague on the difference between electromagnetic radiation and sound.

    Oh, well, he seemed to be a nice guy. Shouldn’t that count for something?
    ;-)

  3. Nice episode! I appreciate that both the long-term (missing pet ads) and short-term (dog running out of the room) aspects of the animal sensation question were addressed.

    One quibble at about 17:40, though: The connection that some want to draw between weather and earthquakes isn’t an instance of “correlation does not prove causation,” since that would require an actual correlation to exist. Rather, the fallacy at play is a form of confirmation bias: selectively remembering the times when circumstances favor preconceived notions and ignoring the contrary examples, giving the illusion of correlation. (“Coincidence does not prove correlation,” perhaps, if you want to keep the alliteration. ;-))

    But one little labeling issue doesn’t detract much from a great episode. Kudos to getting a more substantive interview with (and rebuttal to) Thomas than CBS News could provide!

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