Fault-Finding

Every now and then I am reminded of just how exotic the most ordinary scientific notions seem even to the average “educated” American. For example: in Thursday’s New York Times, there was a story about some feeble little earthquakes along the Ramapo Fault.

Dr. Kim, of Lamont-Doherty, said the second quake, which hit on Feb. 14, was “a small earthquake” of magnitude 2.4. It was about nine miles from the Wednesday aftershock, between Kinnelon and Boonton and seemed to be have been separate from the Feb. 2 tremor and its aftershock on Wednesday.

They all rattled along what geologists call the Ramapo Fault, which runs between two areas geologists call the highlands and the New York basin. The basin is 200 million years old, he said. The highlands are older.

“I don’t think people should worry,” he said. “Earthquakes are not unexpected here. It’s just an indication that Planet Earth is evolving.”

And it has been evolving for a long time. Thousands of years? Millions? Maybe. But consider this: The earthquake on Feb. 2 and the aftershock on Wednesday were just south of the area he said had been rattled by a strong-for-New-Jersey tremor in 1783. In geologic time, that is almost recent.

Hello? We have just been told that the basin in question is 200 million years old. The author then informs us that it “has been evolving for a long time. Thousands of years? Millions? Maybe.”

What??

Next we have a reference to an earthquake in 1783. The author wants us to know that “In geologic time, that is almost recent.”

“Almost” recent?? The Earth is 4.5 billion years old. The Morton Gneiss in southwestern Minnesota is believed to be about 3.6 billion years old. In geological time, then, something that happened in 1763 is not “almost recent”; it belongs to the current geological instant. It is more recent than the last beat of your heart.

Forgive me for spluttering here, but this sort of thing drives me nuts. Who’s editing this stuff?

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5 Comments

  1. JK says

    http://earthquake.usgs.gov/eqcenter/recenteqsww/

    Posted February 21, 2009 at 10:10 pm | Permalink
  2. JK says

    http://earthquake.usgs.gov/eqcenter/recenteqsww/Quakes/us2009dibp.php

    http://earthquake.usgs.gov/eqcenter/recenteqsww/Quakes/ld1023365.php

    Ring our churchbells on the New Madrid, please?

    Posted February 21, 2009 at 10:18 pm | Permalink
  3. JK says

    http://www.agiweb.org/environment/publications/mapping/graphics/newyork2.pdf

    Welcome to the New Madrid Malcolm.

    Posted February 21, 2009 at 10:29 pm | Permalink
  4. JK says

    Of course all of this is human fun. Hell why don’t we build more nukes?

    click on, “Start Animation”

    http://earthquake.usgs.gov/eqcenter/recenteqsanim/us.php

    Posted February 21, 2009 at 10:43 pm | Permalink
  5. Malcolm says

    Thanks, JK. You certainly found us some faults.

    Posted February 21, 2009 at 10:54 pm | Permalink