Mysterylights Group Message 0073

Subject: Fwd = Quaking lights
From: Frits Westra <fwestra@...>
Date: 22 Jan 2002 20:02

Forwarded by:     fwestra@... (Frits Westra)
Original Date:    Tue, 22 Jan 2002 05:35:09 -0800

========================== Forwarded message begins ======================

   Quaking lights
   Scientists drawn to legends of luminous displays that precede temblors

   By Alberto Enriquez
   Anchorage Daily News

   (Published: January 21, 2002)
   When it comes to earthquakes, the earth doesn't just move. It often
   roars. It broadcasts at radio frequencies. And if the conditions are
   right, it even produces a visible glow.
   So-called "earthquake lights" are nothing new. The Greek historian
   Thucydides wrote that "immense columns of flame" foretold the
   destruction of two ancient cities, Helice and Burls, by earthquake.
   Far across the ancient world, the author of a traditional Japanese
   haiku recorded:
   The earth speaks softly
   to the mountain,
   Which trembles
   And lights the sky.
   What's new is the possibility that scientists may be able to reliably
   duplicate these extraordinary effects, including earthquake lights or
   "coronal discharges," under artificial conditions in the lab. Because
   some earthquake-related effects occur hours and even weeks before the
   quakes themselves, further research into the nature of the earthquake
   precursors holds the promise of one day -- no one says this will be
   soon -- predicting quakes.
   In a recent issue of the Journal of Geophysical Research, physicist
   Friedemann Freund theorizes that positive charges can be generated
   when huge stresses are generated along faults in the Earth's crust.
   The rocks in the crust normally act as insulators that conduct
   electrical charges only poorly. But under the severe stress generated
   before an earthquake, these rocks may behave briefly like "p-type
   semiconductors" found in computer chips, capable of releasing large
   numbers of positive charges referred to as "holes."
   These charges speed upward toward the surface of the Earth at between
   220 and 660 mph.
   Freund, a professor at San Jose State University in California, thinks
   they ionize the atmosphere upon reaching the air, accounting for the
   bizarre effects -- radio interference and colored streamers, flashes
   and glows reported by thousands of observers. Among them:
   Radio interference reported in the days before the worst quake
   recorded (magnitude 9.5), in Chile in 1961, as well as Alaska's
   magnitude 9.2 Good Friday quake in 1964.
   Thirty-eight luminous displays seen by Quebec residents before, during
   and after the earthquakes of November 1988.
   The first photographs of earthquake lights during the Matsushiro
   "earthquake swarm" in Japan between 1965 and 1967, collected and
   published by Japanese researcher Yutaka Yasui during a period when
   thousands of seismic events were being recorded each day.
   Lights during a Chinese quake in 1976 that reportedly turned night
   into day near the epicenter and awakened people nearly 200 miles away.
   Freund's most recent publications detail how he has moved beyond
   theory and developed an experimental means to generate stresses in
   rocks, which "can account for earthquake-related electrical signals
   causing electric discharges and earthquake lights."
   Duplicating earthquake lights in the lab is important because science
   deals with reproducible events.
   Experiments that can't be repeated -- like the "cold fusion" craze a
   few years back -- soon drop into the dustbin of scientific history.
   As Freund says, it's tough to do basic research while waiting for the
   Earth "to repeat the experiment."
   Earthquake-light research remained beyond the pale of Western science
   throughout the 1970s, classed by some as largely anecdotal even after
   the publication of Yasui's extraordinary photo collection. U.S.
   research continued largely along conventional seismological lines.
   By 1986, however, seismologist John Derr described in the scientific
   journal Nature experiments by Brian Brady and Glen Rowell of the U.S.
   Bureau of Mines in which they broke rocks in darkness.
   As the rocks broke, the men detected light that did not have the
   characteristic spectrum of the minerals in the rock, but of the air.
   The observations suggested that something given off by the breaking of
   the rocks ionized the air.
   Derr, who has put forward an alternative theory of earthquake lights
   based on hydrological effects, also mentioned Freund's then-purely
   theoretical work based on semiconducting effects.
   Though science was slow to recognize earthquake lights for what they
   are, Derr thinks accounts of them are more common in history and
   prehistory than generally appreciated but often were interpreted as
   spiritual experiences, ghosts or unidentified flying objects.
   Among the candidates:
   On the Alaska Peninsula, a brilliant glow often seen in the mountains
   south of Lake Iliamna and visible up to
   45 miles away, described by Native peoples as the work of ghosts.
   Floating lights seen on the sacred mountain of Wu T'ai Shan in China,
   interpreted by Buddhists as a manifestation of a saint.
   Around A.D. 33, a report of luminous figures, at the time of an
   earthquake, in the crucifixion passage of the Gospel of Matthew,
   28:51-53: "The earth shook, and the rocks were split and the bodies of
   the saints who had fallen asleep were raised and seen coming out of
   Reports of an egg-cup- shaped thing chasing a car and of a UFO buzzing
   a fishing boat, both in Australia, two days before a series of
   Despite mounting documentation of luminous and electromagnetic
   phenomena associated with quakes, resistance to scientific study of
   these events as signs of impending earthquakes remained strong.
   As recently as 1998, prominent American seismologist Wallace Campbell
   editorialized against a United Nations grant to Chinese researchers
   who published a guide to forecasting earthquakes based on
   Thrashing numerous misunderstandings and errors in the Chinese
   researchers' work, Campbell concluded that the manual was
   "pseudoscientific nonsense" that raised false hopes in the public.
   In the gloves-off world of scientific debate, Freund fired back his
   own public riposte in the EOS Forum newsletter. While acknowledging
   the limitations of the Chinese researchers, Freund blasted Campbell
   for using "innuendoes to discredit the interdisciplinary search for
   the subtle signals by which the Earth may divulge an impending
   The entire blistering exchange can be found at
   http://EOS_98.htm and
   Such candor hasn't always brought Freund friends, but two years after
   the debate he says he remains more confident than ever. As he puts it,
   "I have told people that they have overlooked something fundamental,
   and people don't like to be told this!"
   Publication in the prestigious and rigorously peer-reviewed Journal of
   Geophysical Research may signal a pending scientific groundswell in
   Freund's favor.
   The Japanese and Taiwan-ese long ago committed millions to research,
   including the installation of sensor networks.
   Have Freund's ideas gone mainstream?
   "I wouldn't go that far, just looking at my success rate getting
   funding," he says. "In four years, I've had one small grant of $10,000
   out of NASA."
   Journal of Geophysical Research reviewer Malcom Heggie of the
   University of Sussex in England writes of Freund: "His work is
   adventurous and may or may not be correct, but the ideas he has, the
   concepts he explores and the careful work he puts into them deserve
   Derr, chief of the Global Seismograph Network, at the U.S. Geological
   Survey laboratory in Albuquerque, said Freund's proposed
   semiconducting theory "looks like an important paper."
   And among the converts to the newly emerging field of
   "seismoelectromagnetics" is professor Masashi Hayakawa, who heads one
   of two large research projects funded by the Japanese government.
   "I was also a newcomer in this field -- I am here 10 years," Hayakawa
   writes. "Because I thought this field was not a science the scientists
   who published papers on (seismoelectromagnetics) were not so
   Since that time, he says, Japanese researchers have confirmed seismic
   effects not only in the Earth's crust, but to the atmosphere's highest
   reaches, the ionosphere.
   Hayakawa thinks those "seismic effects" may be propagated by very
   low-frequency radio emissions from the Earth, consistent with Freund's
   theory of the emission of positive charges.
   He plans to invite Freund to Japan to address the International Union
   on Radio Science in August.
   Earthquake light effects are less pronounced at transverse faults like
   the San Andreas in California, where plates mainly rub alongside each
   Nevertheless, before the 1906 San Francisco quake, a "flickering haze"
   appeared over the ground.
   Earthquake lights are much more pronounced near the far more dangerous
   thrust faults, such as those that occur in Alaska -- where 51 percent
   of all U.S. quakes occur -- and in Japan.
   In May 1978, residents of Homer awoke to a "false sunrise" over the
   western side the Cook Inlet -- several hours before the real sunrise.
   About that time, Anchorage bush pilot Sumner Putnam reported to the
   Division of Geological and Geophysical Surveys that he saw
   greenish-white flashes in Nondalton that coincided with bursts of
   static on his plane's radio.
   State seismologists report no current research in Alaska on earthquake
   lights or the prediction of quakes.
   Daily News reporter Alberto Enriquez can be reached at
   aenriquez@... or at 1-907-257-4328.

   Copyright © 2002 The Anchorage Daily News

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