Monday, February 28, 2011
The very error of the Moon Man
I've been very impressed with the New Zealand media's reporting of the Christchurch earthquake. They've managed to balance the need so many of us have felt to understand the terrible tragedy of the 22nd with the victims of that tragedy's right to privacy in such an awful time. Up untill today, they'd also shown great restraint in not indulging in the story Ken Ring, the astrological weather forecaster who claims to have predicted Tuedsday's quake. It seems Campbell live has given in to the temptation, and will feature Ring's 'forecast' today. I have a draft of a post dealing with Ring's claims on the way, but I won't have time to finish that today, so let's make one thing clear.
On his website, Ken Ring has predicted earthquakes for, at least, the 24th of September, the 1st and 7th of October the first week in November, the 20th to the 27th of January, the 1st to the 5th and 19th to the 25th of March and the 17th of April. In fact, in one post, giving him the +/- one day he needs in order to claim he predicted the February 22nd quake , he paints more than half of the year as a time of increased earthquake risk (those are the red circles):
He also predicted a particular pattern of aftershocks on the day following the quake, and, when that failed to happen deleted the failed prediction from his twitter stream (stay classy Ken). And he missed the boxing day aftershock. [note: it's possible Ken didn't delete his prediction for aftershocks on the 23rd, that particular tweet does show up sometimes for some people]
No matter how hard we try, our brains come pre-built to be emphasise "hits" like Ring's prediction and discount the more plentiful "misses". The real question we should ask ourselves when we hear that Ken Ring predicted the Christchurch earthquake is "how likely is that he 'predicted' this event, even if his method doesn't work". By my count, for any earthquake there's about a 50% chance Ring will claim to have predicted it no matter what. I don't think we should be amazed he got this one.
Hopefully I'll have a complete post expanding on this reasoning up by tomorrow.
update: The Campbell Live has just aired, and, boy did they do a good job! Very clearly set Ring apart from the science, but his failures to him and presented the real science of earthquakes. Nice one.