gotten private funding there are scientists that will not look at your data, unless you tell them exactly what the mechanisms are– which nobody knows- and what the technology is.
David: So if you can’t reveal the technology, then you can’t have the results published in a scientific journal.
Marsha: That’s right. So it’s a Catch-22 situation. It’s something that many of the scientists are quite well aware of. They say if someone won’t publish it in a journal then we won’t look at it.
David: But you can get around that by just publishing the data on the prediction.
Marsha: Yeah, and I have done that. I gave a talk at Stanford back in 1991, and I did publish my statistical methodology. I published the results to date, and that publication’s essentially been ignored.
David: Where was it published?
Marsha: In The Journal for Scientific Exploration.
David: Have insurance companies expressed any interest in your work?
Marsha: Well, I have not done marketing per say. I find that because this is such a small organization that I’m just always pressed for time, and I have chosen to spend my time doing research and development rather than marketing. It’s always a very difficult choice to make, because you’re constantly balancing not having enough funding to get the equipment-computers and things like that– versus analyzing the incoming data. For instance, keeping up with that, and doing the statistics that you need to do in order to do marketing. I mean, it’s a humungous job for a small organization, and you’re just always behind the power curve is what happens. So rather than going to the media, which I think you can understand if you do that, you end up spending an awful lot of time doing media things.
David: Sitting on the telephone and doing interviews, like we’re doing now.
Marsha: Well, I don’t mind it. Occasionally that’s fine. But there are some people who have a success, and they run out to the media, and people get pretty tired of them first of all.
David: So, I guess you’re saying that no insurance company ever found out about your research, and called you out of the blue?
Marsha: Well, I don’t think they know about me. I have had publicity, but I have not promoted publicity. I’ve chosen to just do the work, and get to the place where I feel in a good and comfortable position. I think I’m very close to that now, where I have the statistics all nice and tied up in a package. But it’s just a humungous effort to get to that place. To keep all the plates spinning at the same time is a real challenge.
David: I would think that the insurance companies would be the first to express an interest. They don’t have any ego involvement; they’re just concerned with the bottom line.
Marsha: Yeah. Well, insurance companies too, I think, are more interested in longer-term forecasting than short-term forecasting.
There’s also a little bit of difficulty with a mindset, you might call it. People have been so convinced that earthquake forecasting is not possible, that they don’t dare to even dream about what they could do if they had earthquake forecasting. So, when I talk to people I repeatedly hear them say, well, okay, if I had a forecast, so what? You know, what can I do with it? Of course, having given a lot of thought to this myself, I’m always a little incredulous with response. But it’s a very normal and natural response.
David: What are the people who are funding your research doing with your predictions?
Marsha: They use them for their businesses and personally.
David: So, if there’s a high percentage chance that this month there’s going to be an earthquake, on a practical level, what would I really do differently?
Marsha: Okay, the system works this way. We get a long term warning, and then we get a short-term warning. So we can see it’s coming. It’s kind of like an ocean wave, like a huge tidal wave, or a tsunami. When you see it off shore, you can see maybe that there’s a real big wave out there, but you can’t tell how far away it is, because it’s not close enough for your binocular vision to kick in. But you can see it, and so that would be the equivalent of the first warning. Then you watch it, and you watch it, and you watch it. And finally it gets close enough that you can start getting some triangulations, and getting some good data points.
Then you can start calculating about when it might hit the beach. It’s the same kind of thing with the earthquake. We see the signals, and we watch, and we watch, and we watch, until we begin to see some changes that are consistent with eminent activity. So how people use this is that they use the long-term warning to get basically prepared. We give out to all the people who support the research a list of things to do at different stages. So for the long-term warning, we never know how long we have. We just know that it’s not going to be in the next few days.
People can check their battery supply. They can check to see that their cans goods are still okay. They can be sure and keep gasoline in their cars.
There’s just a number of things that people and businesses can do.
Businesses, for instance, can hold disaster drills during this time period to refresh people’s memories. Then when the earthquake gets imminent, within a few days, sometimes we have some false alarms for this time period. We always warn people because the system isn’t quite perfected, but it does almost always happen on one of these periods. We might go through a couple practice ones. At the end of the period, when we see it imminent, we start picking dates, and saying okay, we believe its going to be this date. We’re still watching the data, but this is the target date, and sometimes we’ll get maybe within a day of that target date, and push it up a little bit farther until we finally settle on a date, like we did with Northridge.
So during that time you behave a little bit differently. You might want to avoid freeways. Depending on your situation at work, if you work in high-rise, you might not want to be in a high-rise in the location that’s earthquake prone. Some high-rises are better than others.
David: What area of California has the very highest frequency of earthquakes?
Marsha: That’s a very good question. You know, I can tell you it changes over time. Certainly, the Mojave desert has been very very active lately. Of course, with the desert hot springs and the landers aftershocks series Mammoth lakes and the geysers are probably some of the most active areas, but they don’t seem to have large earthquakes there.
David: What are some of the heavily populated areas that are especially prone?
Marsha: All of Los Angeles, and the Hayward Fault is of great concern. I think that those are the probably the two biggest concerns. There’s so many faults underlying Los Angeles. They’ve recently found thrust faults right under the city that they didn’t know about before. So the whole LA basin and surrounding area, I think, is of probably the most concern in California. The Hayward Fault is also great concern. There are hospitals that are built right on the fault. The San Andreas on the peninsula is also of pretty strong concern. So, I think those are the key areas.
David: What do you think is causing the electromagnetic signals that you’re measuring?
Marsha: Well, nobody really knows. There have been several theories proposed. Water flowing, the dilitentsy theory. The one I like the best is based on the experiments done in laboratories. At the Colorado division of mines and geology Bran Brady did some experiments putting crystalline rock under hydraulic pressure. And just before the rock fractures it emits a burst of electromagnetic activity, a very broad spectrum, including light. And they have seen peruses of light around the core samples at the time that it fractures. So the theory that I’m partial to is that you’re seeing the evidence of crystalline rock fracturing deep in the earth along the fault lines. But there are other theories that other people also like.