Monday, April 26, 2010

Testing the earthquake-modesty connection

The blogosphere is abuzz with the news that an Iranian cleric has recently hypothesized that immodest dress causes earthquakes. One aspect of this proclamation has been ignored by the commentariat, however. As a scientific hypothesis, this prediction is very well formulated. More so, in fact, than many of the statements made by professional scientists.

The reason that it is well formulkated is simple: As stated, the hypothesis is easily tested. Furthermore, it can be tested via a variety of independent methods, thus reducing the possibility that selection or methodological bias is clouding the results. Professor Jefferson over at Highly Allochthonous has already described one experimental method of verifying the cleric’s statements, the results of which will hopefully be revealed later this week. But because of the sweeping nature of the statement, historical data should also be able to be mined to determine its accuracy.

The USGS maps the earthquake density for the entire world.

Using this map, we should be able to predict the relative modesty of various parts of the planet. One would expect more quakes in immodest places. A close look at the Mediterranean region shows that the Eastern Mediterranean (from Italy East) has a higher earthquake density than the Western Mediterranean; similarly, the north coast has more quakes than the south. Thus, we would expect the attire in somewhere like Lebanon to be less modest than, say, Morrocco. Thanks to the wonders of the internet, we can instantly acquire completely unbiased and accurate data relating to this subject simply by doing a Google image seach of “X beach” where X is either Lebanon or Morocco. And here are the results:

A Lebanon beach:

A Moroccan beach:

These results are broadly in line with the cleric’s prediction; the dress on the Moroccan beach is substantially more modest than that found in Lebanon. So the Iranians might be right about this.

However, a central tenet of science is that results should be repeatable; repeating this test for other regions should yield similar results most of the time. So let us try again.

Looking at the world map outside of the Mediterranean region, one of the largest earthquake-free continental areas is Brazil, in eastern South America. Therefore, we would expect Brazilians to have the planet’s most modest clothing. If we contrast their attire to that worn in an earthquake-prone region, such as the cleric’s native Iran, we should be able to confirm his beliefs.
Brazilian beachware generally looks like this:

And already, you can see that we have a problem. In theory, this should be less revealing than both Morocco and Lebanon, but that’s not what I’m picking up here. Still, if the swimwear of Iran is very, very revealing, then there may be a point to be had.

So let’s have a look.

Pardon the frequent carriage returns.


If this next picture is as...

Immodest as the clerics predict,


It is probably a good idea to keep the reader’s hand on their computer controls, if you know what I mean.

So without further delay,

The infallible Google image seach informs us that

An Iranian beach looks like this:

Oh dear.

I see only two possible explanations. The first is that the clerics are wrong, and immodesty has nothing to do with earthquakes. However, there is another possibility.

If God is from New Zealand, then the Iranian picture is far more risqué than the Brazilian one (by traditional New Zealand standards), and the hypothesis is still intact.

I don’t believe the cyber commentariat has considered this possibility. Thus further analysis is required, and I encourage all of you to search for location-specific images of scanty attire. After all, this is why the internet was invented. If anyone asks why you have twenty browser windows full of bikinis, tell them it's for science.


Anne Jefferson said...

Dear Dr. Lemming,

I applaud your creativity in the proposed test of the earthquake-modesty hypothesis, but I think your methods have are significantly flawed. In the earthquake-modesty hypothesis, as with all other wackaloon blame-the-innocents for natural disasters hypotheses, there need be no spatial correlation between the moral transgression and the natural disaster (cf. Rush Limbaugh, US healthcare reform, the Icelandic eruption that inconvenienced Europe). Following this train of logic, it is quite possible that the immodesty of Brazillian beaches is responsible for the seismic hazard in Japan and the modesty of Iranian women is serving to protect the good people of Miami.

Given this problem, I kindly suggest your revisit your methods and collect new data to account for the possible low spatial (and temporal?) correlation between modesty and seismic activity. I therefore recommend major revisions before publication of this manuscript.


Reviewer #3

eddie said...

:-D :-D :-D :-D :-D

OTOH, my google image search on iceland beach brought up a pic with horses...

JerryM said...

As you write, the Iranian beach shot points to another possibility, and I understand your hesitation to go there.

Clearly the cleric has misinterpreted the available data. To account for all variables, after #boobquake passes, we should all make an effort to find goats to wash. What happens after #goatwash is up to the goatwashers themselves. I will point out that certain laws have changed here in The Netherlands recently...

Anonymous said...

Notice of subpoena.

Dear Dr. Lemming,

This comment is to inform you of your responsibilities as key witness in the case of THE PEOPLE OF IRAN vs. THE APOSTATES OF BRAZIL.

WHEREAS the citizens of Brazil have a duty not to bring death and destruction upon other nations of the world,

WHEREAS the people of Brazil have been shown to be insufficiently covered.

WHEREAS the research of 4/26/10 shall show, inconclusively, the relationship between the one and the other

We hereby complain that Brazil has been negligent in bringing destruction upon Iran et al.

If you need me, I'll be on my way to Brazil to collect some evidence.

C W Magee said...

Dear Editor:
In response to the comments by reviewer #3, Lot et al. (-2300) and Abraham (-2295) both demonstrate that retributive natural disaster happen on the city-to-watershed scale and are not global in effect. The contradictory data of Noah & Jalpeth (-3300) have been refuted by various studies from the Gomorrah State University group and by Ryan et al. (1997) (pdf here.

Schlupp said...

Dear Editor,

I have reviewed Dr. Lemming's resubmitted manuscript. In his resubmission letter, Dr. Lemming provides convincing arguments why the caveats of Reviewer 3 might not apply here.

However, there is a substantial flaw withe the research that has not been pointed out before: While Dr. Lemming's work is certainly valuable in the context of the hypothesis that immodest clothing causes earth quakes, this question is highly academic and of very limited interest to the general readership of a high-profile blog like this; the manuscript is thus perhaps more suitable for the specialized readership of a lower-impact blog.

The pressing question as posed by the Iranian clerical community, which might well be important enough for this blog, is not whether immodest clothing causes earth quakes, it is whether the corruption of the male mind and purity through immodest clothing causes earth quakes. The present manuscript addresses this aspect only in passing in the context of sheep, but not in relation to female beach wear. I thus suggest that the author provide additional data before the manuscript can be accepted.


Reviewer 4

C W Magee said...

Obviously in the future I need to bribe more than two reviewers...