Skeptophilia (skep-to-fil-i-a) (n.) - the love of logical thought, skepticism, and thinking critically. Being an exploration of the applications of skeptical thinking to the world at large, with periodic excursions into linguistics, music, politics, cryptozoology, and why people keep seeing the face of Jesus on grilled cheese sandwiches.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Pattern finding, the 188-day seismic cycle, and E8

I'm fascinated by patterns.  I remember the first time I heard about the Fibonacci sequence, in elementary school -- I felt like I'd touched something fundamental, something grand and beautiful and mysterious in how the universe worked.  And when I learned, in high school, the connection between the Fibonacci sequence and the Golden Section, I was dumbfounded.  Those sorts of elegant patterns still seem to me to be amongst the loveliest features of nature.

Maybe that's why the numerologists piss me off.  In trying to force everything -- even arbitrary human constructs like the alphabet -- to have a Deep Mathematical Significance, they cheapen the beauty of the patterns that actually exist and are relevant to our understanding of nature.

Consider, for example, the matter of the "188 day seismic cycle."  Don't consider it too long, however, because your cerebral cortex will turn to Play-Doh.  (If you are really desperate, you can watch this YouTube video -- I made it through nine minutes of fifteen before I couldn't bear it any more and had to turn it off.)  Here's a capsule summary:

The Earth revolves around the Sun, and therefore traces out a circular path against the apparent "dome of the sky."  This gives rise to the zodiac -- the set of constellations that the Earth's path crosses.  Whenever the Earth is in Leo or Aquarius, it lines up with a Heavy Mass Object that is currently heading toward the Earth, and this causes earthquakes.  The Chile earthquake (February 27, 2010), the New Zealand earthquake (September 4, 2010), the Japan earthquake (March 11, 2011), and the Fiji earthquake (September 15, 2011) are each 188 days from the ones adjacent, and represent the alignment between the Earth, the constellations, the galactic plane, the Heavy Mass Object, some "magnetic portals" in the Earth's orbit, the Comet Elenin, Atlantis, a supermassive black hole, and a Giant Radioactive Bunny From Outer Space.

Okay, I made a couple of those up, but other than the Bunny, I defy you to figure out which ones.  Honestly, I don't remember for sure myself, because I spent much of the video with my mouth hanging slightly open and my eyes glazing over.  The argument -- if I can dignify it with that term -- was such a hash of pseudoscience and confirmation bias that I was amazed that the narrator didn't break into guffaws.  (To take one simple objection, look at the seismic records of the last couple of years, and find a week in which an earthquake didn't occur.  I dare you.)

But the video is still a triumph of the scientific method, nearly Nobel-prize-winning research, as compared to this site.  This one throws in the Rapture, Numerology, and the Mayan calendar, as if the zodiac and the galactic plane weren't enough.  Starting with the fact that the first earthquake in the "sequence" was the Chile earthquake which was 8.8 on the Richter scale... omigod first = 1, and 8.8!  Get it???  Do you get it??? 188!

And that's only the beginning.  Then, we have the fact that according to Revelation 7, the four angels at the "four corners of the Earth" will stir up trouble, and northern California has an active fault, and if you draw lines connecting the epicenters of the Chile, New Zealand, and Japan quakes, and use northern California as the fourth point, you get a "perfect funny slanted square."  (This is a direct quote.  Even I couldn't make up something this ridiculous.)  Notwithstanding that I have no idea what a "perfect funny slanted square" is, and the fact that somehow Fiji is no longer in the mix here for some reason, these people think this "discovery" has some sort of predictive power, and that the folks in northern California should brace themselves for The Big One when the next 188 day interval comes around on March 22, 2012.

But this is still small potatoes as compared to one of the comments on the above site, which I reproduce here (nearly) intact, with only some of the "gee-whiz-golly-jeepers" intensifiers removed in the interest of brevity:
Scott, last night and this morning I crunched some numbers using our dear sister Lennie’s number of 11192. And for our purpose here, in one of the steps I did, I mirrored her number to 29111 and multiplied it by 3, for the 3 earthquakes you mentioned above.

29111 X 3 = 58222.

Put this 58222 on the back burner and slowly turn your oven setting to low heat.

Ok Scott….take your 188 days + 915, for the possible date 9-15 this year for another Great Earthquake + 974 for the numerical value in the Greek for “Great Earthquake” and add these together and we get 2077.

Then…take 2077 and multiply this by the number in the Scriptures for Departure…29 and we get a big number of 60233.

Now…remove the warmed up number from the back burner mentioned above…58222 (Lennie’s 11192 numbered mirrored to 29111 X 3 for the 3 earthquakes) and subtract this from the 60233 number and we get a very interesting number that we immediately recognize…2011! 
...I believe that March 29, 2010 is a very important "watcher mile marker."  This date, 3-29-2010 was a Passover Eve.

When I took the March 29 date and the September 15 date and converted it to numbers of 329 and 915 and added them together I got 1244.

1244 + 4421 = 5665 X 2 = 11330 minus Lennie’s 11192 = 138 + 831 = 969 X 2 = 1938 + 8391 = 10329.  A numerical connection to March 29, 2010 and September 15 with the numbers 329 and 915.

From Passover Eve, Thursday, March 29, 2010 to Thursday, September 15, 2011 is 536 days including 9-15-2011.

From the M8.8 Concepcion Chile earthquake February 27, 2010 until and including, Thursday, September 15, 2011 is 566 days.

When we add the 536 and 566 days we get 1102...the mirror of 2011!

One more…when we take the 566 days above and multiply it by our Lord’s number for judgment which is 11, we get 6226.

6226 X 2 = 12452 minus Lennie’s 11192 we get 1260...Echo…1260 days or 42 months (42 months X 30 day months = 1260) of the first half of the tribulation period.
If you're like me, at this point your brain has probably begun to resemble library paste, so I'll stop here, but suffices to say that this stuff goes on for pages.

I know that humans are pattern-finders.  We're amazingly good at it.  But imposing patterns on random events, to make them seem to have significance, is just intellectual masturbation -- it keeps your hands busy for a while, but doesn't really accomplish much.

I'll end on a hopeful note.  If the preceding has made you despair for the intelligence of humanity, watch this -- one of the TED talks, by Garrett Lisi, which was recommended to me by a student.  Lisi is a theoretical physicist who is working on finding striking patterns in the properties of subatomic particles, and is convinced that "the most beautiful mathematical pattern there is," an eight-dimensional Lie group called E8, underlies all of reality.  Lisi's work represents that pattern-finding component of human intelligence at its best -- and shows up the numerologists for the hacks that they are in a particularly subtle manner.


  1. Thank you for writing this.

    I don't know how people can believe in numerology because numbers and dates were created by HUMANS.

    Anyway, I confess that I have been a little worried about March 22nd. After learning that the New Madrid fault might go off soon, I have been very casually keeping track of earthquakes on the USGS site. Although there are well over a hundred earthquakes of greater than 1.0 magnitude each week, earthquakes of greater than5.0 magnitude are relatively unusual -- and the earthquakes have have followed the 188/9-day pattern have been at least 7.0 magnitude.

    Although there have been many big earthquakes have not followed any discernible pattern (so far as I know), I would be interestd in learning what the odds are that this pattern occurred, and that it will continue to March 22nd.

    Anyway, I look forward to having a big laugh on March 23rd!

    Thanks again for writing and for doing so in a humorous way!

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. People seriously practising numerology do not believe in it - they recognize it as the very first science before any other science. The 188 day cycle does have some significance but there is a much greater and much more important underlying pattern no one seems to be aware of. This is where real numerology comes in: