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The San Andreas fault's nick name is "SAF".

Earthquake Myths


Earthquake lore: The catfish Namazu (Japan), Neptune (Roman) and Saint Emygdius (Catholic)

There are two kinds of myths: (1) those of a widely-held factual nature that are wrong, and (2) those of a cultural nature based on deities or other animating forces. We have included a few examples of the latter as a matter of interest.

Why do people believe things that are just not so? Two reasons. 1) They want to believe them because they fit that person's view of a situation, and 2) they have repeatedly heard the myth and been told it was true.

People will believe what they want to believe. Hair and fingernails continue growing after death. Edison invented the light bulb. George Washington was the first US president and he had wooden teeth. Feed a cold but starve a fever. Earthquakes happen during certain kinds of weather and the best place to be during an earthquake is in a door frame. All wrong. But people believe them anyway.

Politicians and advertisers know that repetition creates belief. By stating something over and over again, people will come to believe it, without actually having to investigate it for themselves. As Adolph Hitler once mused, "How fortunate for leaders that men do not think." Virtually everyone thought that Iraq had WMD because we were told it so often by so many people. By associating with people who have similar beliefs to their own, the former's assertions become reinforced and become "fact" in the latter's mind.

We all believe some things that are not true. The trick is to figure out which ones they are and correct our thinking. This is not easy. If we think something is true, we don't question it.

Correcting wrong information is a noble goal. But beware. Studies have shown that even when presented with proof that they are wrong, some people continue to believe a myth and in fact become even more convinced of it!

USGS discussions of Facts and Fiction about earthquakes.
California Geological Survey (CGS) list of myths
Southern California Earthquake Center (SCEC) list of myths
OpenHazard.com's list of earthquake myths
Interesting discussion of medical myths associated with earthquakes and other disasters
Interesting discussion of earthquake myths
Cultural earthquake myths

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Copyright � 2009, 2010 David K. Lynch. All Rights Reserved.