6404 Seismic Quackery, Earthquake Prediction, and Panic

Monday, February 20, 2012: 9:45 AM
Room 118 (VCC West Building)
Albert Yuan , San Lian Life Weekly, Beijing, China
Earthquake Prediction has a long history in China. Chinese school textbooks during Cultural Revolution claimed that Zhang Heng, a Chinese astronomer who lived in Eastern Han Dynasty (25–220 CE) built the world's first Earthquake predictor. Although his invention was later on changed to a mere seismometer, his legacy lives on. Hai Cheng earthquake in 1975 was declared a victory of earthquake prediction network established by Chinese government. And the failure to predict Tang Shan earthquake in 1976 was widely criticized by the public, which prompt the government to form the Institute of Earthquake Prediction in 1980. In the mean time, there are a lot of pseudo-scientists claimed that they have found the secret of earthquake. But most of their methods involved abnormal behavior of animals, a notoriously unreliable indicator of earthquake prediction. Wen Chuan earthquake in 2008 again started the public debate about the validity of earthquake prediction, with many believers claimed that the Institute of Earthquake failed, with political purposes,to declare the upcoming earthquake, therefore the Institute should be charged with misconduct. This new wave of public outcry successfully swayed the public attention from the poor quality of buildings to a false culprit-the earthquake scientists.