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Saturday, March 12, 2011

A Reminder From the Principle of Imminent Collapse

Japan survived it latest brush with the Principle of Imminent Collapse on March 11, 2011 when the earth's crust ruptured sending an 8.9 Richter jolt through the crust and moved a mountain of seawater a few meters. The movement of that water propagated as a tsunami wave across the Pacific Ocean splashing the Northern Marianas Islands, Hawaii then the West Coast of the Continental US. The wave moved at the velocity of about 600 MPH taking upwards of 10 hours to reach our distant shore.

Here the wave of water tossed boats in the marinas about and killed a handful of people who were sightseeing the awesome forces of nature. One man was swept to sea while taking photographs. A friend of mine emailed a video clip of a three foot wave sweeping into the bay at San Francisco and into the normally calm waters of Sausalito where he lives on a houseboat. Everybody in the continental US had many hours of advance warning about an event that could be as bad as the doomsday messages of recent disaster movies or as innocuous as a the wave it turned out to be.

The people of the northern islands of Japan were not as fortunate. First they endured the few minutes of massive shaking when the earth moved. Then many of them were subject to the tsunami waves that followed within minutes. Although the epicenter of the quake was about 240 miles off shore the velocity of the wave being upwards of 600 MPH it did not take long for the devastation to begin.

Japan is the most well prepared nation in the world for dealing with earthquakes. They are no strangers to tsunamis either. Their national policies have required that all new construction be as quake resistant as is practicable. Most urban areas have been 'hardened' against the forces of the earth but the outlying regions have not received that same level of attention.

When the plans are made and the construction complete, there is a general improvement in resistance to the quakes and floods. When the warning systems are all in place and operational, there is still only a modicum of additional protection that can be derived with the technology. When a person lives near sea level and near the sea, a tsunami warning that can provide only 15 minute of advance notice is not going to be very effective for a large portion of the population.

The US was fortunate that such an earthquake event happened 5000 miles away and not in our backyard just off the west coast where there the underwater geography is very much the same at it is in Japan on their eastern side. This begs the question of what would have happened to LA, San Diego, and all the other southern California communities had this type of seismic event happened here. There are no tsunami sirens here. There are no transportation systems that could transport millions of people inland to escape the wall of water that would sweep across the cities.

The Principle of Imminent Collapse assures us that the event will ultimately happen. It assures us that we are arrogant to think we will not be home when the event happens. We can only be lucky to be away somewhere to avoid the catastrophe when it takes place. Planners say plan for the big event. Fiscal conservatives say wait for the event to happen then fix what is destroyed. There are even those factions that advocate doing nothing so we can start over and build from scratch. Still others estimate that the timeframe will be such that they will be long dead and buried from other causes before such an event comes to pass and they have to deal with it.

Although the interrelation between far flung events such as the Japanese Islands and the West Coast of the US may be infinitesimal, there remains a small relationship. The Japanese Islands moved about 8 feet eastward during the quake. This means the earth has changed shape, even if negligibly. The tilt of the axis of the earth has also been modified. We have no idea what long term effect this will create, or whether the outcome will be positive, negative or neutral. We noticed the movement of the islands which made the circumference of the earth at that latitude 8 feet smaller. This would act to increase the internal pressures in the earth. What we haven't seen is whether somewhere else a bulge developed that relieved the pressure. If the pressure has not equalized somehow, we can expect it to be released somewhere. I hope it is not in my backyard.