The PJ Tatler

One born every minute

on the Today show today, Meredith Viera interviewed author and earthquake “expert” Simon Winchester, who (according to Mediaite):

[M]ade a disturbing connection between the epic earthquake and tsunami in Japan and recent devastating quakes in New Zealand and Chile, saying the three events were in three corners of a square in the Pacific some call the “Ring of Fire.” The fourth corner is California and the U.S. Pacific Northwest. Winchester told TODAY’s Meredith Vieira a massive event along the San Andreas Fault in California is “inevitable.”

Being a TV expert is a wonderful thing.  Think about this: first of all, Winchester, while an entertaining author, isn’t presenting a scientific theory at all.  In fact, about the only source I can find on this idea seem to be people who say the “super full moon” this month is causing the earthquake.

More than that, there’s this “three sides of a square” thing.  Yes, if you’re sufficiently flexible, the 2004 Indonesian earthquake, the Chilean earthquake last year, and last week’s Honshu earthquake, do form a rough square — but the “Ring of Fire” is anything but a square:

The "ring of fire"

The "ring of fire" (click for full size)

Those three earthquakes may form three sides of a rough square — but they also form a triangle.  Before this Honshu quake, Indonesia and Chile would have made a line — and if there’s another quake anywhere on the “ring of fire” then they will make a rough square, but also will be four sides of a rough pentagon, a hexagon, a heptagon — there’s a good one, seven sides, the American indians made a lot of heptagons.

But the best part of all is that he’s right: there will certainly be another major quake, and there will undoubtedly be another quake off the coast of Washington.  Someday.  By avoiding making a firm prediction, Winchester makes one that will eventually come true.

The lesson here: apparently, to a good publicist, there’ a network news booker born every minute.

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