Interview with Dr. Motoji Ikeya
By David Jay Brown
Dr. Motoji Ikeya is a Japanese interdisciplinary researcher, using electron spin resonance (ESR) in geosciences and radiation dopsimetry, with a research interest in the cause of unusual animal behavior prior to earthquakes. His laboratory experiments at Osaka University have shed an enormous amount of light on the possible mechanisms that may be operating during this unexplained phenomenon.
Dr. Ikeya majored in Electronics and then Nuclear Engineering at Osaka University. He worked at Nagoya and Yamaguchi Universities, was a research associate at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and a fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation at the University of Stuttgart, Germany. He is a recipient of the Asahi Newspaper Grant for Encouragement of Science (1981) and the 4th Osaka Science Prize in 1986.
Dr. Ikeya’s major field of specialization has been in quantum geophysics. He has researched Electron Sin Resonance (ESR), which is used for dating geological and archaeological materials, and in the future these techniques may be used for dating materials on icy planetary bodies. He has also researched radiation dosimetry and assessment of the paleo-environment. Dr. Ikeya began his earthquake precursor studies after the Kobe Earthquake in 1995.
At Osaka University Dr. Ikeya was chair of the Quantum Geophysics Laboratory, and is the author of more than three hundred scientific papers. He was Professor of Graduate School of Science at Osaka University’s Department of of Physics since 1987, and of Earth Space Science since its foundation in 1991. Dr. Ikeya retired from Osaka University in 2004, and is now helping young people in ESR on a part-time basis.
Dr. Ikeya is also the author of *Earthquakes and Animals: From Folk Legends to Science* (World Scientific, 2004), which is the most important book on the subject of unusual animal behavior and earthquakes since Helmut TrIbutsch’s classic work on the subject *When the Snakes Awake*. This meticulously researched work is an interdisciplinary treasure trove of folk legends, historical anecdotes, interview surveys and subjective reports, geophysical science facts, and most importantly, a fascinating summary of Dr. Ikeya’s own laboratory research. (To order a copy of Dr. Ikeya’s book click here.)
Ikeya’s laboratory experiments were conducted to see if exposure to an electrical field or electromagnetic pulses could elicit animal behavior similar to what has been reported prior to earthquakes. Ikeya’s experiments produced very interesting results. For example, fish showed panic reactions, and earthworms moved out of the soil and swarmed when current was applied. These are very similar to the behaviors that are reported before earthquakes. Dr. Ikeya’s work also sheds light on other mysterious pre-earthquake phenomena–which he was able to recreate in the laboratory–such as strange plant growth, earth-lights, fogs, atmospheric distortions, and unusual phenomena with electric appliances, such as televisions and cell phones.
I interviewed Dr. Ikeya on October 12, 2004. Dr. Ikeya has a great deal of curiosity, open-mindedness, and the rare ability to bridge scientific disciplines. We discussed how his laboratory experiments help us to understand the causes of unusual animal behavior prior to earthquakes, why so many scientists are resistant to this idea, and whether or not a reliable earthquake forecasting system is possible.
David: What motivated you to start studying the relationship between unusual animal behavior and earthquakes?
Dr. Ikeya: The Kobe earthquake in 1995. I live 30 km from the epicenter and thought it strange that many earthworms dug themselves up in my small garden. At the time, I did not know the legend that a number of emerging earthworms is a sign of a large earthquake. Many people noticed this, including my neighbors.
David: How have your laboratory experiments with electric fields and electromagnetic pulses helped to shed some light on what may cause unusual animal behavior prior to earthquakes?
Dr. Ikeya: First, theoretical calculation of EQ light, which was seen by my graduate students and associate professor. EQ clouds and fogs in legends may naturally be produced in super-cooled atmosphere. Then, it dawned on me that animals might be sensing such atmospheric discharge and electric field as electric field effects.
David: How do you think animals detect electromagnetic waves, and why do you think this cause them to behave in peculiar ways?
Dr. Ikeya: Electric fields may be sensed by the force on the animal’s hair. Induced current in the body may cause changes with some neurotransmitters.
David: Your research provides strong evidence for the theory that electromagnetic changes are causing the unusual animal behavior and other unexplained phenomena that are sometimes reported to occur prior to earthquakes. Do you think that this is just one possible explanation or the only one?
Dr. Ikeya: Probably most of the unexplained phenomena (80 – 90%) reported by lay citizens would have electromagnetic causes. Old legends of bent flames, and rice cooking anomaly, as well as animal and plant anomalies, are definitely electromagnetic in origin. However, the Moses’
phenomenon [reports that great bodies of water will suddenly and temporarily split apart, creating a valley to the ocean floor, and two massive walls of water] is due to natural hydrodynamic causes.
David: Why do you think so many scientists are resistant to the idea that unusual animal behavior prior to earthquakes is a real phenomenon?
Dr. Ikeya: Because there are people who link trivial events to large earthquakes, and afterthoughts are inevitably involved in the statements by lay citizens, especially at a distance larger than 100 – 200 km for a
M7 earthquake. I explain this in Chapter 5 of my book *Earthquakes and Animals*.
For countries like New Zealand, the focal depth is 50 km or so.
Electromagnetic (EM) intensity would be less, and so there would be less unusual phenomena. Granite bedrock in Japan might play a role due to the involvement of piezoelectric quartz grains, while basalt may generate less intense EM waves. Fluid movement in the boundary of granite might be responsible for the generation of EM waves, rather than the piezoelectricity.
David: What do you think are the most important experiments that still need to be done in order to shed more light on the nature of mysterious earthquake precursors?
Dr. Ikeya: Experiments of less intense EM exposure to human being, which is not allowed since we are not medical doctors. Some people might be very sensitive.
David: Do you think that it is possible for observations of animal behavior to ever be part of a reliable earthquake forecasting system?
Dr. Ikeya: No! Once we know that EM pulses are responsible, electronic detection will be better at forecasting earthquakes than observations of animal behavior. However, additional information about unusual phenomena–collected by an automatic observation system, rather than a collection of reports from lay citizens–would increase the reliability of a forecast of a disastrous earthquake. Collected data on cattle healthcare from farms in different areas, which are transmitted over the Internet, may be useful for studying the cattle’s response to weather changes, including an impending earthquake. They may provide additional information.
David: What are you currently working on?
Dr. Ikeya: I am a visiting professor of nano-science at the Institute of Scientific and Industrial Research on a part-time basis since my retirement. There is no job at the university if a professor is behaving unusually. However, I am developing my theory on generation and propagation of seismo-electromagnetic signals (SEMS) since my book, *Earthquakes and Animals*, is for the general public. Scientists need some mathematical equations that explain the phenomena quantitatively.
It is a bit tough for an old professor to work on two entirely different subjects, though both