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Scientists Say Toads Can Predict Earthquakes 66

reillymj writes "Researchers claim toads sensed a severe earthquake last year five days before it hit. Last spring's L'Aquila earthquake devastated the medieval city of the same name in Italy. Five days earlier, a group of biologists noticed some toads behaving strangely in a pond nearby that would later be the quake's epicenter."


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Scientists Say Toads Can Predict Earthquakes

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  • by ctrl-alt-canc ( 977108 ) on Thursday April 01, 2010 @07:02AM (#31698950)
    Whenever I read a piece of news like this, I remeber what happened at a scientific congress many years ago.
    A well known seismologist (I will omit his name...) published a paper claiming that he found a way to predict earthquakes. Some time later at a conference a young and brilliant mathematician showed, using the very same equations and methods described by the seismologist, that not only it happened that every time the seismologist did a prediction an earthquake happened, but that the reverse was true, i.e. after an earthquake the seismologist would announce an earthquake prediction. A very inconvenient problem....the conference room was filled with laughs.
    The mathematician then continued by demonstrating a well-posed method for earthquake prediction that was properly honouring the cause-effect relationship, but the predictor was pretty useless, since it could forecast only a small fraction of all earthquakes happening in the area under study (I think about 15% or so).
    I believe that this anecdote suggests that whenever the newspaper (or Slashdot) talks about exotic methods for earthquake prediction, one can safely jump to the following piece of news. Making earthquakes forecasts is a very thought topic, and it is very unlikely toads will ever be of some help...
  • Re:Don't RTFA (Score:3, Interesting)

    by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <eldavojohn AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday April 01, 2010 @07:45AM (#31699100) Journal

    No, I heard the researcher on the radio yesterday; the toads unexpectedly left the area for a few days & whilst they were gone, the quake hit; the toads returned after the quake, she had a couple of hypotheses about how the toads could detect the coming quake, but freely admitted she had no strong evidence for them.

    More anecdotes if you want them. I was on Grand Cayman a week after Haiti was struck with an earthquake. Anyway, offshore a large earthquake happened [allheadlinenews.com]. Coincidentally I was at the turtle farm (a massive sea turtle farm on the island). Now, all we felt was a bit of a brief shaking but the sea turtles were flipping out during it and for about ten minutes afterward. They were trying to crawl out of their cement tanks and looked like they didn't care what was getting scratched up, they just wanted up and out. I asked one of the workers what was going on with the turtles and he said he'd never seen it. Then we were told that an earthquake had just hit offshore (I was extremely intoxicated on some variant of rum so I 'missed' the earthquake).

    I'm not saying they predicted it but they sure exhibited a crazy amount of sensitivity and acted like it was the end of the world when it happened. More so than my drunk ass could conjure anyway. I remember hearing that animals left for higher ground during tsunamis [msureporter.com] but never gave it much credibility but who knows? Sounds far fetched but it's a difficult if not impossible thing to prove or disprove I suppose.

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