and leaked it to the press.
So I ended up on the front page of the San Francisco Chronicle one morning, without even knowing about it, and as you know how things leapfrog, I ended up with people calling me saying that they also had symptoms from all over the world. And I did set up a hot line, and ran it for awhile with people calling in, mostly from the United States, and mostly from California, but basically from all over the United States.
So although I started with people in the clinic, my sample grew.
David: How did this lead up to the animal experiments that you were doing with Bill Kautz back in the seventies regarding earthquake prediction?
Marsha: Actually it didn’t lead up to it at all. These were totally different studies. He and I had known each other for quite some time through SRI, being that we both worked there, and he was interested in earthquakes. He was interested in exploring the Chinese legends. The fact that the Chinese reported that they had used animals to forecast earthquakes. He wanted to quantify that, and was able to get a grant from the United States Geological Survey to set up a hot line call-in situation, where he could compare the number of call-ins to subsequent earthquakes. I did some statistics for Bill Kautz. I did some of the data analysis very late in the study.
David: What did his work involve?
Marsha: He had a hot line, and a number of volunteers throughout California that observed their pets. And whenever they noticed anomalous behavior they would call into his hot line and describe it-give the date, time, and description of the anomalous behavior. Then he would look for subsequent earthquakes, and he did find a statistically significant change in the animal behavior reports prior to some earthquakes.
David: How many volunteers were involved in this?
Marsha: I would say it was over a hundred, but I’m really not certain of that number. The study ran for around a year or two, something like that, and he did get positive results. But the USGS decided not to fund it, and not to continue it, even though he had positive results.
David: Did they say why?
Marsha: They may have told him why. I think they just thought that they had better things to do I guess, in spite of the fact that they never have had any positive results.
David What do you think causes the unusual animal behavior, the headaches, and irritability that people report prior to earthquakes?
Marsha: I think they’re reactions to low-frequency electromagnetic signals. I think the electromagnetic fields are bio-active; that there is a biological effect to some frequencies, although maybe not all frequencies. If you look at the literature you can see that whether an organism or a biological process responds to electromagnetic energy, depends on the intensity and the frequency. It has to be right within a specific window in order to get a response. So I strongly suspect that it is a response to the electromagnetic energy.
David: Now, this is what you’re measuring. How do you measure Low Frequency Electromagnetic signals?
Marsha: This is a privately funded research project, so I’m not at liberty to divulge what we would call trade secrets at this point in time. I’m happy to answer many questions, but I can’t talk about the sensors, the technology, the range, how many sensors, that kind of thing. I can certainly talk about our performance, and the forecasts, and things like that.
David: Tell me about the performance and your success rate.
Marsha: Okay. We’ve been monitoring the m-field since 1981, and have a long data base. During that time we have received large signals prior to 93% of all of the earthquakes in California equal to or greater than magnitude 5.7, and since the Loma Prieta earthquake it’s been 100%.
David: Do you get false alarms?
Marsha: There have been some false alarms. There was one period when we had a series of false alarms that drove me nuts. It turned out that it was during a period when St. Helen’s was erupting. Evidently the system was picking up some of the e-m-energy that St. Helen’s was emitting. So that was our main period of false alarms. We have had from time to time a couple of others. Not long false alarms, but, you know, gee, here’s something that looks very suspicious, and that didn’t produce an earthquake. But for the most part the system has been pretty accurate.
David: What kind of reaction have you gotten from the USGS with regard to your work?
Marsha: It depends on who you talk to. There’s one person there who really knows about the system, and has actually seen some of the data, and he’s very impressed. There are other people who are there doing earthquake forecasting research, and I think that they feel very competitive with any outsider that comes in with a new and different idea. So they react in a way that one would expect a person who feels competitive to react.
David: Have you ever approached them in a cooperative manner, and asked them for funding?
Marsha: Yes. I’ve written two proposals that were turned down on related topics. I attempted to get one of the main researchers interested in the work by sending him letters, and saying, I can’t tell you about the technology, but let me share some of the impressions that are going on here with you. I wrote several letters. I found it was not a very fulfilling experience because the letters were misinterpreted.
David: With a success rate as high as the one you report, I have a very hard time understanding why they would just completely push it aside, when so much is at stake.
Marsha: Yeah, that is true. I find it difficult to believe too. I did this in about 1991, when I was just transitioning over to making my routine forecasts. It was at the end of the development period, and at the beginning of the actual production forecasting, if you will. It’s still experimental. But I don’t know, it’s just that every contact that I’ve had with them has been discouraging.
David: Did you have those success rate figures that you quoted me back in 91?
Marsha: I had the figures, but there were fewer earthquakes. So it was high, but it wasn’t as high. Because, you see, we’ve had thirty earthquakes in that time span, or a thirty earthquake series approximately, and at that time there had only been about maybe 15 earthquake series. So I basically missed one, and possibly two earthquakes. But one of the problems in the early development is-because I didn’t have enough sensors and still don’t– I can’t tell exactly where they’re going to be, but I can tell if they’re going to be in California.
You can calculate a statistical probability on whether a forecast will become true by accident, and you can tell if somebody’s got something or not. I mean, in the very early stages, you don’t expect a baby to jump out of the womb, and hit the floor running. It’s got to learn to breath, and crawl, and go through all those stages. It’s the same thing with any kind of early research. If it doesn’t come out in the final form, it comes out in bits and pieces. The first bit was identifying signals that preceded a large earthquake in California.
I chose that rather odd 5.7 figure because statistically California has about one of those a year. So even if we see a precursor coming for a month, and we make a forecast for a month’s time, the chances are only one in twelve that I would hit that particular month accurately. The odds are against my being able to successfully pick the right month in which the earthquake would occur. And, of course, if you repeatedly have successes the chances get smaller and smaller and smaller that you’re just doing this by throwing darts at a map and calendar.
You can very easily calculate the odds of whether or not this process that I’m doing of watching the signals is something that’s just random.
So this is the validation. But many scientists you find have a similar attitude to Galileo. This happened to Galileo. If you’re a commercial person, if you’ve had no other alternative, if you can’t get government funding to do a project, and you’ve gone and