A Past Letter to The Editor of LA Weekly (4/10~5/9/1999 )

-4/9/2000 -

Dear Editor

On reading "The Myth of Solid Ground" by David Ulin in your paper on Apr. 9, 1999, I would like to thank both you and Mr. Ulin for propagating my nondescript story, and advertising for my unpublished book < Earthquake Clouds and Short Term Prediction >. But I would like to mention some issues I hold on his report.

1 He misrepresented facts

1.1 He wrote," 'How do you know it's not just a regular cloud ?' I ask him. 'Experience tells difference,' he says." (P32), but I did not say that. The fact is that during the interview, my daughter, a Ph.D. student at Caltech, explained my earthquake prediction model to answer his question. Meanwhile, I gave him my unpublished manuscript which he even cited as follows, "Through a gap, the vapor rises up and floats following the surface wind. Meeting the cold air, it forms a cloud. The shape of the gap and surface current may endow the cloud with a special configuration like a snake, a wave, a feather or a lantern etc., which will be able to be distinguished from weather clouds." (P33 Col. 1). Then, I showed him photographs of earthquake clouds, and told him that a meteorologist from UCLA, whose field was special clouds, had told me those clouds on the photos and the satellite image (1) "are not weather clouds." After that, his only concern was whether earthquake clouds appeared alone.

Mr. Ulin might be aware to publish neigher those cloud photos, nor what the meteorologist commented on probably because they would expose that "Experience tells difference" is not my response, but unaware to cite the model that also tells that response is not mine, but his.

Toward the end of the interview, he asked me another question, "How do you know the distance between you and the clouds?" At that time, I responded, "Experience, because I do not have the necessary equipment."

I am surprised that he confused those two unrelated questions from different issues, and why he would rather repeat the cartoon of the cover thrice on pages 23, 24 and 35 than save one page to expose those allegedly "confusing" cloud photographs that might be solid evidence of his so-called "lunatic logic" (P1) ?

1.2 He wrote, "for a 4.5 or larger ...but the magnitude is way off" (P34 Col. 1) to discredit my prediction on Nov. 23, 1998 which is not true either. The following comparison depicts the prediction and its corresponding earthquake:

  Date Latitude (N) Longitude (W) Size (ML)
Prediction 11/24~12/18 35~37.7 116~119 >=4.5
Earthquake 12/12 1:41 37.46 116.29 4.5

so, the magnitude is not "way off".

You may think that this prediction is good, but it is wrong. During the interview, I told Mr. Ulin that this prediction belonged in the 40% mistake category because of my miswriting (I paid more attention to the above most likely statements, but not to the general statement, in which I was not aware to write Nevada. According to my law, the general statement should be correct, so even its most likely statements are right and good, and its probability is only 23.5%, I put it in the mistake category). I also told him that there were 15% or 5 mistakes similar to it in my predictions, and Mr. Ulin even emotionally told us that in his opinion, those were not mistakes, so I am surprised about how he made the magnitude to be "way off" ?

2 His science avoids touching on the essence of his so-called "pseudoscience"

2.1 Mr. Ulin wrote, "I stumble ... like one dated December 6, 1996, calling for a 6.0-7.0 along the west coast of Mexico within a month (a 6.8 hit just off the coast of Michoacan on January 11, 1997, only six days late)" (P27 Col. 1). I understand him because this unsuccessful prediction I had made was reported as "the largest earthquake in this general area since a magnitude 7.0 event on Apr. 30, 1986." by the USGS. Comparing 6 days with the 10-year period, the error is negligible. But I do not understand why he did not stumble on my successful predictions, for example, the 6.1 Afghanistan earthquake (on Feb. 4, 1998) prediction (2) that has a probability 13 %, and a "not weather cloud" (according to the meteorologist) as its precursor in the satellite image (1). If Mr. Ulin stumbled on my unsuccessful prediction, he should stumble more on this successful prediction, so he should recommend it and its precursor as two powerful positive examples to support his title word "science"; on the other hand, if he did not stumble on this successful prediction, he should expose the both as undoubted negative examples to explain what the meteorologist does not know, and to prove why it belongs to his so-called "lunatic logic of earthquake prediction" to support his other title word "pseudoscience". Mr. Ulin neighter put the both as positive examples, nor negative examples, which makes me confused.

2.2 He did report how successful a headache as a precursor was probably due to the lack of scientific evidence, but neglected to show my successful work: 60% correct and low probabilities. The following two examples and a comparison between the two examples and the Parkfield Prediction of the U. S. Geological Survey were in my manuscript. This work was available to him. Certainly, he was aware of them.

(A) The 4.1 ML San Fernando Earthquake Prediction (3)

On Jun. 3, 1994, I predicted to the USGS that from Jun. 8 to 25 (an 18-day time window), there would be an earthquake of 4 ~ 5 ML in San Fernando, California (an area of 5,500 km2), 10o~80o northwest of and 30~100 km away from Pasadena (34.138 N, 118.143 W). A 4.1 ML earthquake indeed occurred in this area (34.310 N, 118.398 W) on Jun. 14. The following is a comparison:

  Date Degrees (northwest ) Distance(km) Size (ML)
Prediction 6/8~6/25 10~80o 30~100 4~5
Earthquake 6/14 50.6o 30.3 4.1

The Southern California Earthquake Database shows that this earthquake was the only one greater than 3.9 ML in the 5,500 km2 predicted area from May 26, 1994 to Jun. 25, 1995 (396 days).

(B) The 6.3 ML Mexico Earthquake Prediction (4)

On Mar. 5, 1994, I predicted to the USGS that from Mar. 10 to 24 (a 15-day time window), there would be an earthquake of 5.5 ~ 6.8 ML in Mexico or Southern California. On Mar. 14, a 6.3 ML earthquake occurred in Mexico (15.99 N, 92.43 W).

  Date Location Size (ML)
Prediction 3/10~3/24 Mexico or Southern California 5.5~6.8
Earthquake 3/14 Mexico 6.3

The World Earthquake Database shows that from Mexico to Alaska (which has a fault area three times as big as that of Mexico and Southern California), this earthquake was the only one greater than 5.9 ML from Jan. 18 to May 22, 1994 (125 days), or greater than 5.4 mb from Feb. 24 to May 22, 1994 (88 days).

(C) In contrast to both examples, the Parkfield Prediction of the USUS on Nov. 15, 1993 had neither a size greater than 5.5 in North America (a fault area 3 times as big as the area window of B) within 63 days (4 times more than the time window of B), nor than 3.9 within a radius of 400 km area (90 times more than the area window of A) within 46 days (2.5 times more than the time window of A). This fact that coincidences even do not work for big windows further proves my predictions are reliable.

It is difficult to understand that his science avoids touching on the essence of his so-called "pseudoscience".

3. He did not use the normal scientific method

3.1 He used cartoons to argue a scientific debate that is unprecedented.

3.2 He used opinions to distort facts. For example, he wrote, "relying on a 'seismic window' of several weeks hedged with a probability of 70 and 80 percent was a reasonable gamble" form Thurston Clarke (P34 Col. 2). Obviously, it was his opinion.

If Mr. Clarke were right, a 3.9 earthquake would have been in the Parkfield and its big adjacency within 46 days since Nov. 15, 1993, and so would a 5.5 earthquake in the North America within 63 days at least. Moreover, Li Cunti, a senior Chinese research professor, proposed a world "target" for short-term predictions, "the magnitude being +/-1, the time span <1 year, the coverage area <50,000 km2 , and the rate of accuracy 50%" (5). So, if Mr. Clarke were 70~ 80 % sure to make the time span within several weeks, he would be the best predictor in the world. So, it is better for Mr. Clarke to show whether his "reasonable gamble" is as good as mine, otherwise one may think him as the fox in Aesop Fable.

For such a "target", Japan spends $185 million a year (6), China spent $45 million in 1996 (7), and the USA spent $8 million in 1995 (8) etc., but no reliable (true with a low probability and a high accuracy) prediction was shown. By contrast, using a compass, a camera, and a computer, I have predicted 34 earthquakes to the USGS, and two successful examples were already presented above, and the best magnitude being +/- 0.3, and the smallest coverage area = 5,500 km2, and the shortest time span = 15 days, and the rate of accuracy > 60 %. .

Counting on the standard statistics, my probability calculation is undebatable. During the interview, my daughter explained it to Mr. Ulin, and it was in the manuscript. Relying on the databases of the USGS, all probabilities of my predictions are objective. To avoid misunderstanding, I gave him two probabilities with detailed data, 3.6% for the 4.1 San Fernando Earthquake Prediction (9) and 18.5% for the 6.3 Mexico Earthquake Prediction (10). I also gave him a list of all my predictions with their probabilities, in which 50% of them are smaller than 20%, and only 12% of them are bigger than 50%. Despite my countless attempts to clarify any confusion, Mr. Ulin would rather believe opinions than the facts, which is probably attributed to his so-called "science".

In my manuscript, I told Mr. Ulin, "If an opinion could be evidence, Galileo would have failed at the Leaning Tower of Pisa because all authorities within 19 centuries following Aristotle had a different opinion" (11).

3.3 He used a funny doctrine

He wrote, "since he's the one mainstream seismologist" (P34 Col. 4). Mainstream seems to be a standard to divide truth and error. If it were a standard, the Parkfield Prediction of the USGS, a big group of mainstream seismologists, would have been successful, whereas the Wright Brothers would have failed because both were bicycle makers, and no one of the mainstream scientists supported them.

What is the standard scientific way? In my manuscripts, I told him, "Scientific history tells us that a successful scientific conclusion must be founded on axioms, definitions, theorems, inferences, scientific laws and experiments, not on anything else." (11) which is concluded from the entire body of scientific history and widely propagated in Chinese high schools.

Whether or not an earthquake can be predicted has been debated for centuries. Dr. Geller et al. wanted to make a conclusion by publishing < Earthquake Cannot Be Predicted > in March, 1977 (12). However, thousands of opposite articles were published after it: one of which is < Cannot Earthquake Be Predicted ? > in October, 1977 (13). Apparently, after only five months, Mr. Ulin arrived at his conclusion, "science, pseudoscience and lunatic logic of earthquake prediction" that should be a real "myth of solid ground".

Mr. Ulin wanted to sell his opinion by distorting opposite facts and hiding contrary evidences. That is not fair! In history, the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church wanted to suppress the Heliocentricity by killing Copernicus, but failed. Nicolai Kruschev, the former chairman of the Russian Communist Party, caused a big political argument with the Chinese Communist Party in the early 1960s. He hid the Chinese view, however he was wiped out from the political stage. In contrast, the Chinese Party told Chinese people both views completely, and won finally. Those facts tell us that a truth has unimaginable energy, and no one can hide, suppress, or kill it.

Remembering those long lines around the press all over the country about the debate between China and Russia, I suggest that your paper offer an equal chance to the public by publishing different views about earthquake prediction, i.e. to make a debate, which will help your journal to be news in great demand, bring the truth to the public, and lastly and most importantly provide people with adequate time to avoid potential earthquake damage. The last has been my dream since my first successful prediction in 1990 about the 7.7 Iran earthquake, in which 370,000 people were killed or injured.

I correctly predicted the 6.1 Afghanistan earthquake to both the USGS and the L. A Times. Unfortunately, the tragedy was not avoided. On Feb. 7, 1998, L. A Times reported that the earthquake killed 4,000, injured 16,000, and caused 40,000 homeless people. From this fact, I realize that those who choose to deny the validity of these findings are as potentially damaging as are the earthquakes they ignore.

To persuade the opponents, I spoke to some seismologists and people. I found that they were active while they asked me questions, but silent when I asked them a "Yes or No" question regarding their ability to make predictions as good as mine. One would think that they should do much better since they are authorities on the subject and have the best equipment.

Now I wish Mr. Ulin, Mr. Clarke and any other opponents to answer the above "Yes or No" question, and to explain how the arrowed cloud in Image 9801010732.jpg. formed. If none of them can, I hope that they would like to support or cooperate with me in completing this honorable, historic task.

Dear Editor, I hope that you will publish this letter! Furthermore, if you enjoy debate, I would like to contribute to it. I have a lot of titles to write, such as the Northridge earthquake and its cloud, why the Parkfield Prediction failed, and so on. All of them are interesting and contain many details. Thank you for your time. If you have questions, please feel free call me or my daughter.


Zhonghao Shou

P.S. Dear Editor, Mr. Ulin borrowed half a dozen photographs of earthquake clouds from me, but has not returned them. I have since tried to contact him on several occasions, but have not received response. Could you please assist me in retrieving them. Thanks for receiving your paper.

Evidences and References

  1. Image 9801010732.jpg for the earthquake cloud of the 6.1 Afghanistan earthquake on Feb. 4, 1998.
  2. The 6.1 ML Afghanistan earthquake prediction On Jan. 5, 1998.
  3. The 4.1 ML San Fernando earthquake prediction on Jun. 3, 1994.
  4. The 6.3 ML Mexico earthquake prediction on Mar. 5, 1994.
  5. Li Cunti. Earthquake Research in China, Vol. 4, No. 3, 217-225 (1990).
  6. David Swinbanks Nature 388. 4 (1997).
  7. Li Hui. Science 273. 1484-1486 (1996).
  8. The USGS. National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (FY 1995).
  9. Table 1 The probability for the 4.1 San Fernando earthquake prediction on Jun. 3, 1994
  10. Table 2 The probability for the 6.3 Mexico earthquake prediction on Mar. 5, 1994.
  11. My unpublished manuscript..
  12. Geller, R.J. et al. Science 275, 1616-1617. (1997)
  13. Wyss, M. Science 278, 487. (1997)

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