A few days ago I blogged about "data correlation experiments" and ""non-obvious correlated systems" and so on. Well, this week, when going through all the emails and articles that people have sent me, I've noticed that some people were focused on earthquakes, and a few people sent along versions of this story, wondering what was going on:
Initially, some versions of this story were reporting that this quake was felt in Baltimore and regions of southeastern Pennsylvania. When I received these articles about this quake (or quakes), I was curious, but wasn't inclined to blog about it. To be sure, earthquakes in Delaware, Maryland, or Pennsylvania are not a very common phenomenon. One does not think of that region as being earthquake prone; if one asks "What regions of the USA are most associated with earthquakes?" one won't get "Baltimore" or "Trenton" or "Philadelphia" as the answer. Los Angeles, San Franciso, or even Portland or Seattle, yes; Baltimore, Trenton, Philadelphia, no.
If one thinks about it, however, there has been an increase in earthquake activity in regions of the country not normally associated with it, and even in regions where earthquakes are known - the lower plains states for example - this activity has been written off to the increased oil fracking. As a be-all and end-all model, however, the fracking explanation wouldn't seem to hold for Delaware!
Then, Mr. V.T. sent along this article, and things just became much more interesting:
Slowing rotation in the Earth caught my eye, as one might imagine! According to this Forbes article, this slowing rotation is part of a cycle:
Geophysicists are able to measure the rotational speed of Earth extremely precisely, calculating slight variations on the order of milliseconds. Now, scientists believe a slowdown of the Earth's rotation is the link to an observed cyclical increase in earthquakes.
To start, the research team of geologists analyzed every earthquake to occur since 1900 at a magnitude above 7.0. They were looking for trends in the occurrence of large earthquakes. What they found is that roughly every 32 years there was an uptick in the number of significant earthquakes worldwide.
The team was puzzled as to the root cause of this cyclicity in earthquake rate. They compared it with a number of global historical datasets and found only one that showed a strong correlation with the uptick in earthquakes. That correlation was to the slowing down of Earth's rotation. Specifically, the team noted that around every 25-30 years Earth's rotation began to slow down and that slowdown happened just before the uptick in earthquakes. The slowing rotation historically has lasted for 5 years, with the last year triggering an increase in earthquakes.
"OK... that seems sound," I thought. After all, every physical system one can think of has either a wave-form or a rotation as one of its components. And cycles of speeding up and slowing down rotation combines features of both, for a cycle is nothing but a wave form.
However, at this juncture, three important questions occur, and you've probably already thought of them: (1) is the amplitude of this rotational cycle itself declining over time, that is, is the Earth's rotation really gradually slowing down? and (2) in either case, what accounts for this slowing down-speeding up cycle, whether or not the amplitude is declining over time? and finally (3) what role, if any, might phase play in all of this?
Needless to say, the Forbes article asks these questions, or rather, conflates these questions into one, and gives a typically closed-system and, quite frankly, fumbling sort of answer:
What Is Causing Earth's Rotation To Slow Down?
As with many new findings in science, this story began with the data that supports the cyclical slowdown then speed up of Earth's rotation. The research team is then tasked with the "why" to explain this phenomenon. While scientists aren't exactly sure the mechanisms that produce this variation, there are a few hypotheses.
One hypothesis involves Earth's outer core, a liquid metal layer of the planet that circulates underneath the solid lower mantle. The thought is that the outer core can at times "stick" to the mantle, causing a disruption in its flow. This would alter Earth's magnetic field and produce a temporary hiccup in Earth's rotation.
Currently, the data only notes a striking correlation, but no causation.
Molten stuff "sticking" to the mantle and thus slowing down the rotation of molten metal that creates the Earth's magnetic field? Note that while this sounds like an explanation, it really isn't. "Sticking" implies "cooling", and "cooling" implies slowed motion. So we're simply thrown back on the fundamental question by a carefully-disguised bit of circular reasoning: what is causing this rotational slowdown to begin with? And why would it appear in historically correlated cycles (wave forms) of about 32 years? What other waves have a phase of 32 years? Well, for one thing, a 32 year phase is about three times the 11 year phase of the sunspot cycle. And that, I suspect, is a clue: the cycle one is looking at might be correlated to several other cycles of a fundamentally electromagnetic nature. Is there a relationship? If so, then it would show up as "modulated information" in that 32-year rotational cycle. And if it does, that's another indicator of the interrelated dynamics of open systems.
Which leads to the high octane speculation and the real question. When Mr. V.T. and others began sending this "slowdown" story to me, some people asked whether this meant an overall slowdown over time, and a fewer still asked if this "slowdown" was accelerating suddenly in the last few years. Certainly some versions of the story made it sound that way though there wasn't much in the various articles that I saw by way of any data, and that gave me pause. And perhaps, I thought, if there was such data, it may be being suppressed.
After all, what could cause some of that molten magma - whirling around beneath us in that gigantic electro-dynamo that is the rotation of planet Earth - to "slow down" and "stick" to the mantle? I had to throw out the "sticking-cooling-slowing" model implied by the Forbes article, and get back to basics: for that electrically dynamic magna to "stick" to the mantle means that the "sticking" isn't a general phenomenon but a localized one that has generalized effects.
So what could cause it to "stick" and thus slow down, and in slowing down, to cause a weakening in the magnetic field that it both produces and which, to some extent, contains it? If the sticking is localized, then it requires - here it comes - a very strong localized magnetic field somewhere above that rotating magma, either in the mantle...
...or on the crust.
Something like the hadron collider, with its big magnetic fields. And if that's the case, it might be changing the phase of that 32 cycle of rotational slowdowns, a cycle that might be correlated and couple to that sunspot cycle.
And of course, when one plays with rotations and cycles, one is playing with the very things that denote systems state changes, or time... and if one wants to play with time, it's best to do so - if one wants to observe results in the macrocosm - with a large open system...
Kardashev scale. "Farrell corollaries: the ability to engineer systems of a certain scale precedes the need for energy on that very same scale." Rotational cycles... rolling up the heavens like a curtain...
Class one: planets.
Class two: stars...
See you on the flips side...