Phil Plait: No, The “Super-Moon” Didn’t Cause the Japanese Earthquake

Moon's Apogee and Perigee.

Moon's Apogee and Perigee.

The ever lucid Phil Plait writes on Bad Astronomy:

Japan suffered a massive earthquake last night, measuring nearly magnitude 9. This is one of the largest quakes in its history, causing widespread and severe damage. Before I say anything else, I’m greatly saddened by the loss of life in Japan, and I’ll be donating to disaster relief organizations to help them get in there and do what they can to give aid to those in need.

While there isn’t much I can do to directly help the situation in Japan, I do hope I can help mitigate the panic and worry that can happen due to people blaming this earthquake on the so-called “supermoon” — a date when the Moon is especially close to the Earth at the same time it’s full. So let me be extremely clear:

Despite what a lot of people are saying, there is no way this earthquake was caused by the Moon.

The idea of the Moon affecting us on Earth isn’t total nonsense, but it cannot be behind this earthquake, and almost certainly won’t have any actual, measurable affect on us on March 19, when the full Moon is at its closest.

So, how can I be so sure?

Read More from Phil Plait writes on Bad Astronomy

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  • MoralDrift

    Phil Plait = Buzz Killington……..

    No offense to quake victims, not trying to make light of a tragedy, but this guy just loves to deflate anything remotely being outside mainstream science….boy is he gonna be busy next year

    • Haystack

      I’d say he just thinks that real science is more exciting than the made-up kind.

      His major point in the article was simply that, on the day of the earthquake, the Moon was actually further away from the Earth than average. Is that the oppression of mainstream science, or is that just common-sense fact-checking?

      I’m sure he’ll be busy next year, as every single natural disaster and historical event is attributed to 2012. The one thing we can be sure of is that, on any given year, many monumental events will take place somewhere in the world. When the world doesn’t and end no extra-dimensional beings arrive, however, I predict that the next generation of 2012 books will talk about how 2012 was the beginning of some new age or paradigm shift, of which we are only just witnessing the beginning.

      • MoralDrift

        His actual point on this subject I wasn’t arguing. I just wanted to point out that Phil Plait is a prolific debunker and his zeal for debunking rubs me the wrong way sometimes.

        That was a quick turn-around on his article, its like he just couldn’t wait to tell people how dumb and wrong they are for linking these two phenomena. But who am I to complain? He is factually correct in this case and I enjoy wild speculation now and then, he prefers to pop holes. Good discussion has both types

        • Haystack

          I don’t think his purpose is to “debunk” or make people feel stupid as much as to promote science and critical thinking. The tone of his article wasn’t “look how stupid these people are.” He basically just laid out the facts for the benefit of those who wanted to dig a little deeper on this story. What I think Plait and those like him really want people to see is that the truth is stranger than fiction–the real mysteries of nature are more compelling than those we create to grab headlines, and the process of uncovering them is fun and exciting.

          I like wild speculation, too. Otherwise I wouldn’t be reading disinfo. *g* I just don’t like that so much of the culture has taken on such a bitter, anti-science tone.

      • http://www.facebook.com/winterisoverrated Fabian_Ramos

        I agree.

  • Anonymous

    Phil Plait = Buzz Killington……..

    No offense to quake victims, not trying to make light of a tragedy, but this guy just loves to deflate anything remotely being outside mainstream science….boy is he gonna be busy next year

  • Bud Bundy

    Everyone knows Obama, King of the Space Lizards did it with his psychic powers.

  • Bud Bundy

    Everyone knows Obama, King of the Space Lizards did it with his psychic powers.

  • Jordan

    Yeah, I doubt it had anything to do with the super-moon, but I’m no expert. I’m sure some of you probably were aware of the few solar flares we have had in the past few weeks: an M-class, X-class, then another M-class. I may or may not be stating the obvious, but an increase in solar activity = increase in seismic activity. If you’re remotely interested in this kind of thing, check out spaceweather.com and n3kl.org.

  • Jordan

    Yeah, I doubt it had anything to do with the super-moon, but I’m no expert. I’m sure some of you probably were aware of the few solar flares we have had in the past few weeks: an M-class, X-class, then another M-class. I may or may not be stating the obvious, but an increase in solar activity = increase in seismic activity. If you’re remotely interested in this kind of thing, check out spaceweather.com and n3kl.org.

  • WhiteRose

    Once that “Ring of Fire” starts spinning… I predict Hawaii, then Cali. I think it started with the 2004 tsunami. The recent activity on the Big Island I think was more an indicator than the moon. Pele is very very angry….

    • Andrew

      The Ring of Fire is always… Well, it expands, not spins.

  • WhiteRose

    Once that “Ring of Fire” starts spinning… I predict Hawaii, then Cali. I think it started with the 2004 tsunami. The recent activity on the Big Island I think was more an indicator than the moon. Pele is very very angry….

  • Haystack

    I’d say he just thinks that real science is more exciting than the made-up kind.

    His major point in the article was simply that, on the day of the earthquake, the Moon was actually further away from the Earth than average. Is that the oppression of mainstream science, or is that just common-sense fact-checking?

    I’m sure he’ll be busy next year, as every single natural disaster and historical event is attributed to 2012. The one thing we can be sure of is that, on any given year, many monumental events will take place somewhere in the world. When the world doesn’t and end no extra-dimensional beings arrive, however, I predict that the next generation of 2012 books will talk about how 2012 was the beginning of some new age or paradigm shift, of which we are only just witnessing the beginning.

  • Tom

    You should probably be a little more precise. The moon DOES effect the earth, (e.g., the tides) but the fact that the moon was a “supermoon” doesn’t mean that it effected the earth even measurably more than if the moon was at it’s “regular” distance.

  • Tom

    You should probably be a little more precise. The moon DOES effect the earth, (e.g., the tides) but the fact that the moon was a “supermoon” doesn’t mean that it effected the earth even measurably more than if the moon was at it’s “regular” distance.

  • Anonymous

    His actual point on this subject I wasn’t arguing. I just wanted to point out that Phil Plait is a prolific debunker and his zeal for debunking rubs me the wrong way sometimes.

    That was a quick turn-around on his article, its like he just couldn’t wait to tell people how dumb and wrong they are for linking these two phenomena. But who am I to complain? He is factually correct in this case and I enjoy wild speculation now and then, he prefers to pop holes. Good discussion has both types

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Bruce-Miller/100000952005408 Bruce Miller

    Nawww! The moon only affects the 29 day menstrual cycle of the human female, right? Nurses tales from the asylums claiming higher activity on a full moon are just that – tales, right! Tidal ebbs and flows, just mother nature slaushing around in the oceans, right? The weight of this tidal movement of water, simply not of consequence, right? Exactly which forces on the earths crust cause natural phenomenon are impossible to determine at present levels of technology. Even the uneven heating of the crust as the earth rotates through day and night make some difference, and how about geomagnetic forces shifting as we speak? I don’t think definitive, Yes-No answers belong in this logic.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Bruce-Miller/100000952005408 Bruce Miller

    Nawww! The moon only affects the 29 day menstrual cycle of the human female, right? Nurses tales from the asylums claiming higher activity on a full moon are just that – tales, right! Tidal ebbs and flows, just mother nature slaushing around in the oceans, right? The weight of this tidal movement of water, simply not of consequence, right? Exactly which forces on the earths crust cause natural phenomenon are impossible to determine at present levels of technology. Even the uneven heating of the crust as the earth rotates through day and night make some difference, and how about geomagnetic forces shifting as we speak? I don’t think definitive, Yes-No answers belong in this logic.

    • Haystack

      “Nurses tales from the asylums claiming higher activity on a full moon are just that – tales, right!”

      Actually yeah: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lunar_effect

      “I don’t think definitive, Yes-No answers belong in this logic.”

      Not if you aren’t willing to look for them.

  • Haystack

    “Nurses tales from the asylums claiming higher activity on a full moon are just that – tales, right!”

    Actually yeah: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lunar_effect

    “I don’t think definitive, Yes-No answers belong in this logic.”

    Not if you aren’t willing to look for them.

  • Andrew

    The Ring of Fire is always… Well, it expands, not spins.

  • Haystack

    I don’t think his purpose is to “debunk” or make people feel stupid as much as to promote science and critical thinking. The tone of his article wasn’t “look how stupid these people are.” He basically just laid out the facts for the benefit of those who wanted to dig a little deeper on this story. What I think Plait and those like him really want people to see is that the truth is stranger than fiction–the real mysteries of nature are more compelling than those we create to grab headlines, and the process of uncovering them is fun and exciting.

    I like wild speculation, too. Otherwise I wouldn’t be reading disinfo. *g* I just don’t like that so much of the culture has taken on such a bitter, anti-science tone.

  • http://www.facebook.com/winterisoverrated Fabian_Ramos

    I agree.

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