Friday, November 6, 2009

The real fault line

They had a theory. What if the occasional small tremors along the New Madrid fault line aren't new seismic events at all? What if they're 200 year old echoes? That would be an entirely new way of looking at seismic systems. It would mean this: when a major earthquake happens, it sets up new secondary stresses all along the fault. In a fast moving fault, these stresses are "overwritten" by energy along the primary. But in slow moving faults, the secondary stresses remain intact, surfacing as aftershocks, even two centuries later.

An astoundingly original theory, but it required proof. Sometimes finding a way to prove a theory requires more genius than thinking up the theory. The team went all around the continent looking at fault systems of various speeds. In each case, their predictive data matched nearly perfect with small seismic events proportional to fault system speed. The math looks airtight. The team led by Professor Seth Stein seems to have hit upon a brand new way of thinking about seismic systems.

How about that? I can't believe anybody could do such a thing. Name a kid Seth Stein I mean. Don't take my word for it; try it yourself. Say it out loud, "Seth Stein."
OK, now stop spitting on me.

What you got there is classic example of a fault line between two names. If the surname starts with a soft sound, the given name should end in a hard sound. Seth Stein, not good. Only thing could be worse would be Chris Stein. Seriously, the ease of pronouncing a person's name in their native tongue is a predictor of success in business and politics. There's been a lot of research on it, and it's true all around the world.

Take that guy who ran for President in Afghanistan (everybody's dream job) Abdullah Abdullah? At first glance, one might think his parents are very unimaginative people, but it's not like that. He probably has six or seven names. That part of the world, people have so many names their driver's license folds out. He's just using the two he likes best, so it's Abdullah Abdullah. Easy to pronounce, even in english. What if it was Mustafah Abdullah? That just runs together too much. Same for his opponent in the election, Harmid Karzi (portrayed by actor Ben Kingsley) that's just a crisply pronounced name. Little known fact here, Harmid is actually Afghani for "Billy Ray." Lots of people don't know this.

Parents have a responsibility not to set up fault lines inside the names of children. And to be fair, it's not always the parents either. In Colonial America, it was common to refer to the new arrival as "the baby" until the child attained an age of four or five, and was allowed some input about their Christian name. Given the birthrate back then, that must've been confusing in some households, but that's how they did it. Also explains the name of one of our nation's lesser known founding fathers, Goo Goo Van Buren. He was a bit of a late bloomer, that guy.

Regardless of all that though, Professor Stein and his team have done good work, confirming what I've always suspected. Those people up in Missouri have some lazy rock formations.

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