Friday, January 07, 2005

On Compassion and Science

The Great Christmas Sumatran Earthquake of 2004

*Note that it occurred at the beginning of the Full Moon (12/26/2004 @10:26AM EST).

Tens of thousands of people simply erased from the face of the Earth without warning and equally devoid of compassion. This was quite the harvest for the afterlife; how wondrous for them to have so many companions to join them on their journey. The constant struggle of life goes on for both the planet and its inhabitants. But look, first, on the earthquake itself.

The sheer power of a 9.0 earthquake is quite unimaginable; even for anyone who lived through one, I would think it would be impossible to describe or, perhaps even to remember exactly. That is, if a survivor were to ever again experience a quake of that magnitude it would be just as surprising and unpredictable as it happened. That is just an assumption on my part, of course, but I don’t think that anything so horrible could be contained in our memory as such.

I have experienced a 5.2 magnitude quake and I wouldn’t want to again; nor do I think I remember it in all of its terror. This recent quake was nearly 10,000 times stronger!!!

The Richter scale is logarithmic and set so that every unit is ten times as powerful as the preceding one. So a 6 is 10x a 5; a 7 is 100x; an 8 is 1000x; and a 9 is 10, 000 time more powerful than a 5! Well, that’s how I understand it anyway. How much power does it take to move an entire tectonic plate over 100 feet in an instant anyway?

[From the Encyclopedia Britannica:

The magnitude of an earthquake is usually expressed in terms of a logarithmic scale based on seismograph recordings of seismic-wave amplitudes. The numerical scale is so arranged that each increase in magnitude of one unit represents a 10-fold increase in earthquake size—i.e., an earthquake of magnitude 8 is 10,000 times as large as one of magnitude 4. Whereas the latter would be capable of causing only slight damage, the former constitutes a devastating seismic event. The scales that are commonly used are derivations of the Richter scale, which was introduced in southern California in 1935 and which, with successive refinements, held currency among seismologists for more than 40 years.]

The quake I experienced was from the fourth floor (of a four story building) and had a good view of the street going away from us. The telephone poles were swaying out of sync with each other, with the first swaying left, the second swaying right, and so on whereby they were all undulating down the road and I wondered, at the time, whether they would actually fall.

The (round) coffee carafe on the nearby shelf was half full, yet the contents were sloshing such that coffee was spilling out of the top.

What would a trembler ten thousand times more powerful be like? I hope to never have first hand knowledge of that phenomena.

It is noteworthy to mention that a tsunami is not a tidal wave. Great disturbances in the oceans cause the former and the later by, as the name implies, tides. There are two tidal waves daily in the Bay of Fundy for example, but the cause of tsunamis, although somewhat rare, is predominately earthquakes. There were several major tsunamis as a result of the Great Christmas Earthquake of 2004.

An island in Sumatra moved over 100 feet as a result of this 9.0earthquake! That was within a matter of seconds or less! Considering that water does not compress (nor expand – anti-compress) then what happens is that the water is forced to fill in (and back out) instantaneously, or nearly so. This causes a compression wave that can move at nearly the speed of sound (in water) in all directions.

That this quake occurred at the start of a full moon is no coincidence either. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica:

[An Earth Tide is: deformation of the solid Earth as it rotates within the gravitational fields of the Sun and Moon. Earth tides are similar to ocean tides. The Earth deforms because it has a certain degree of elasticity; were it perfectly rigid, there would be no Earth tides. Several tidal components mathematically can be shown to exist, but only four are large enough to be generally measurable; these are the lunar diurnal, the lunar semidiurnal, the solar diurnal, and the solar semidiurnal tides. Diurnal tides have a period of approximately 24 hours (1 day), and semidiurnal tides have a period of approximately 12 hours (1/2 day). The actual amplitudes of these tides in terms of vertical movement of the surface of the solid Earth are about one foot or less.]

The Full Moon (and the New) affords the highest degree of tidal force as it works in tandem with the sun. Therein lays the strongest tidal effect. Coupled as it is now, at the perihelion of the Earth’s orbit (closest to the sun) the tide was the very strongest, or nearly so, that it ever gets.

Not that a strong tide, in and of itself, causes earthquakes, it isn’t nearly strong enough to do that, at any number on the Richter scale, it just is the ‘last straw’ as it were. Earthquakes are a natural phenomenon of the Earth that may well happen without the moon, but the moon’s effect simply triggers the event that has been piling up in anticipation of release! After all, the Earth’s crust flexes in response to the sun and moon just as the oceans do, just not as much; so, if a tectonic plate is ready to give, that final flex is what lets it loose.

People are heard asking things like ‘why does God allow such things to happen’ and ‘why does God let bad things happen to good people’ and other such rhetorical questions. These questions also say, indirectly, that there mustn’t be a God if these things happen. What nonsense! I could just as easily say that the existence of charity proves the existence of God; but neither is case is valid. This is simply an attempt at humanizing God; bringing Him down to our level and holding Him accountable.

Jesus told us that His is not a Kingdom of this earth. He also said that we should render unto God what is god’s and to Caesar (men) what is Caesar’s. That is, we are all part and parcel of the earth and while we live here our physical lives are part of what happens around us, whether what happens is man-made or a natural phenomenon. Let’s face it, all those people who died in the tsunami would have died eventually anyway, it is just a matter of time, after all. That they all died at the same time is simply because they were where the tsunami hit, period. They were is the wrong place at the wrong time.

God’s part in all this is passive; it is we who show who we are by what we do about this natural calamity. What God did was give us his Words and Commandments to guide us in these, and all, troubled times. It is not how any of us die so much as how we lived that should be our concern insofar as God is concerned. Blaming Him will not advance our case with Him; moving on and living within His Law and Guidance will. Good things happen to bad people and bad things happens to good people; it is in how we deal with these things that is the point of existence. This life isn’t important in the overall scheme of things, except in how we live it. We are told that our reward and justice is in the next life.

What the tsunami’s tell us, oh so clearly, is that we never know when our time is up. How are you going to act with the time you have left? That is the only question of importance.

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