Monday, March 28, 2011

'Moon man' forecasts earthquakes

A "lunar forecaster" who was ridiculed by scientists after he claimed to have predicted the devastating earthquake in Christchurch has correctly predicted another shake. 

Ken Ring cautioned that an aftershock would hit Christchurch on Sunday, leading scientists to make public a bet that it would not.

However, they were left surprised when the city was indeed shaken by the biggest aftershock since the February catastrophe, which killed more than 182 people. 

Mr Ring, a fishing critic, has become a source of heated debate in New Zealand in recent weeks due to his earthquake predictions, which are based on the belief that quakes are caused by the gravitational pull of the Moon on tectonic plates. 

Seismologists have send away the theory, but it has gained a following in the country as word has spread that Mr Ring, nicknamed "Moon Man", appeared to have properly predicted a quake in September and the disaster last month.
When Mr Ring warned that on the morning of 20 March, as the moon passed close to the Earth, another quake would hit some Christchurch residents believed him and decided to get out of town. But Mr Ring was brand by sections of the media, politicians, and the scientific world. 

Then on Sunday to prove their point a group of geologists, engineers, and a cabinet minister with a PhD in geotechnical engineering held a lunch in one of Christchurch's oldest, tallest buildings, at the time the "7 plus" doomsday quake was hypothetical to hit. 

Lunch was unchanged by any tremors but at 9.47pm the city was shaken by a 5.1 magnitude aftershock. Although it was less influential than Mr Ring had prophesied it to be and came 10 hours late, it was the biggest aftershock since February's disaster, leading some to claim that "Moon man" had been correct. 

Scientists, however, have continued to dismiss Mr Ring, who has gone to ground because of the media notice. Dr Mark Quigley, a lecturer in active tectonics and geomorphology, said: "Vague quotes about dates of 'increased' activity plus or minus several days, without magnitudes, locations, and exact times do not comprise prediction."