It’s said that all roads lead to Rome, but on May 11, the opposite was true as thousands of Romans fled the Eternal City for fear of a massive earthquake. The mass exodus was spurred by internet rumors that said an Italian pseudoscientist predicted a devastating quake on this date over thirty years ago. It goes without saying, but here’s why you probably shouldn’t trust the seismic predictions of someone who thought earthquakes were caused by planetary alignments:
Meet Raffaele Bendandi, a “scientist” who believed that aligned planets could change Earth’s gravitational force and trigger earthquakes. He’s thought to have correctly predicted a 1915 earthquake in Avezzano, Italy, but he didn’t become famous until he “correctly” predicted a January 4, 1923 earthquake in Le Marche. (He was actually two days off.) It was close enough for Benito Mussolini, though, who later granted Bendandi a knighthood.
Some in the city of L’Aquila, Italy answered that odd question with a resounding yes. An April 6, 2009 earthquake that was predicted by Giampaolo Giuliani killed 308 people. Now the city’s prosecutors are considering charging seven researchers at the National Geophysics and Vulcanology Institute (INGV) and members of the city’s Major Risks Committee with manslaughter.
The prosecutors say the committee could be considered criminally negligent for telling the townspeople that there was no need to evacuate. A formal investigation has been opened, but charges haven’t yet been filed.
As reported in Life in Italy:
“Those involved were highly qualified individuals who should have provided the public with different answers,” said L’Aquila’s chief prosecutor, Alfredo Rossini. “It was not the case that we received no warning, because there had already been tremors. However, the advice given was that there was no need for people to leave their homes”.
Giuliani, the man who predicted the quake, works at the National Laboratories at Gran Sasso, though he has been misreported in both Italian and American media outlets as a physicist, seismologist, and a collaborator with the National Institute of Nuclear Physics. According to Science Insider, Giuliani’s work on earthquakes is a “hobby” and seismologists do not use the radon tests he cited, since statistically they have failed to accurately predict quakes.
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Image: United States Geological Survey
Thousands of onlookers gathered on Sunday to watch and film the planned implosion of the Texas Stadium in Dallas. The 65,000-seat-stadium was home to the Dallas Cowboys for 38 years and was witness to some thrilling football moments–but all good things must come to an end. The stadium was demolished because the team moved to the new billion-dollar, state-of-the-art Cowboys Stadium last season.
An 11-year-old named Casey Rogers, the winner of a local essay-writing contest, pushed the button that triggered the implosion, and thus set off 1.5 tons of explosives that brought down the stadium in a systematic manner. In the end, just three pillars stood leaning, leading Herbert Gears, mayor of the Dallas suburb of Irving where the stadium was located, to joke to AFP: “Now we’ve got Stonehenge.”
Not only were curious onlookers on hand to observe the implosion, but so were a group of seismologists. In a project nicknamed “Demolicious,” a team led by Jay Pulliam of Baylor University in Waco, Texas used seismometers around the stadium to try and get a clearer picture of the region’s geological features.
The devastating earthquake in Chile that killed almost 700 people probably also shifted the Earth’s axis, say NASA scientists, permanently making days shorter by 1.26 microseconds. But since a microsecond is one-millionth of a second, you may not have noticed.
Richard Gross, a geophysicist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, says he has done the calculations. Gross says the earthquake, which measured 8.8 on the Richter scale, moved large amounts of rock, altered the distribution of mass on the planet, and moved the Earth’s axis by about 2.7 milliarcseconds (about 8 centimeters or 3 inches). The change in axis directly impacts Earth’s rotation, and the rate of the planet’s rotation determines the length of a day.
To explain this phenomenon, scientists used an ice skating analogy: When a skater spins on ice, he draws his arms closer in to his body to spin faster, because the speed of his rotation is dependent on the way mass is distributed across his body.