Boobquake is finally over across the world. It’s time to crunch some numbers – did women dressing immodestly really increase earthquakes? Can we find any data that supports Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi’s hypothesis?

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Photo by David Collins. Yes, that’s the biological hazard symbol. Yes, I found that funny. In case you didn’t notice, I’m a geek.

Many people seemed to misinterpret the planned analysis of this event. We’re not just trying to see if any earthquakes occurred, since dozens happen every day. What we want to see if we actually increased earthquakes in either number or severity. Let’s first look at the number of earthquakes that occurred on Monday, the 26th, and compare it to earthquakes in the past couple months. All data was taken from the USGS Earthquake website.

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Each data point represents the total number of earthquakes per day going back to February 5th (the extent of the online database). Days are measured in Coordinated Universal Time. That red square is boobquake. As you can see qualitatively, our provocative dress didn’t really seem to affect the frequency of earthquakes. There were 47 earthquakes on the 26th, which falls well within the 95% confidence interval for number of earthquakes (about 0 to 148).

So did our cleavage/thighs/ankles/hair increase the number of earthquakes? No.

“But Jen!” the internet cried, “what about the 6.5 magnitude earthquake in Taiwan? Surely that shows our bosoms have supernatural powers!”

Sorry to be a buzzkill – hey, I’d like magical control over plate tectonics too – but that single earthquake wasn’t significant. Earthquakes between 6.0 and 6.9 magnitude happen, on average, 134 times a year. That means we had about a 37% probability of an earthquake of that magnitude happening on boobquake just due to chance alone – hardly an improbable event that needs to be attributed to an angry deity.

But just to be safe, let’s look at the overall distribution of the magnitudes of earthquakes on boobquake. Did they differ from the types of earthquakes we’ve seen since February? These samples span from the entirety of the event – midnight at the earliest time zone to midnight at the last time zone – so the data encompasses more than 24 hours.

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The box indicates the first and third quartiles (within which 50% of the data points fall). Not only did all of the earthquakes on boobquake fall within the normal range of magnitudes, but the mean magnitude actually decreased slightly!

Now, this change isn’t statistically significant, but it certainly doesn’t support the cleric’s claim. In fact, I think it develops an even more interesting alternative hypothesis: Maybe immodest women actually decrease the amount of earthquakes! Man, that would certainly be a fun way to provide disaster relief. Of course, before we can make any claims about that, we’d have to greatly increase our sample size. You know, I have this gut feeling that a lot of people would like to do our boobquake experiment again…

Obviously this study had its flaws. We didn’t have a large sample size, and we didn’t have a control planet where women were only wearing burkas. We didn’t have a good way to quantify how much we increased immodesty (what’s the unit of immodesty anyway? Intensity of red on blushing nuns?). Maybe women did dress immodestly, but we didn’t lead men astray enough. Maybe God really was pissed, but he couldn’t increase earthquakes for us because that would provide proof for his existence (or maybe it’s his existence that’s the problem).

Or of course, maybe God is just biding his time. If you hear a news report in the next couple weeks saying a bizarre Indiana earthquake killed a science blogger, well, then maybe we’ll have to rethink our conclusions a bit.

But you know what? Boobquake was originally intended to be a humorous exercise in scientific and skeptical thinking – that we should test claims people make, especially when they’re ridiculous. And what could be a better way to do that than to question the methods of boobquake itself? That’s why science is such a wonderful tool for investigation – research must not only go through rigorous peer review, but it also must be able to be overturned in light of new data. I think it’s awesome reading all the scientific flaws people keep noticing – feel free to keep pointing them out!

I’m pretty sure our results aren’t going to change Sedighi’s mind. People tend to find any way possible to justify their superstitious beliefs, no matter how illogical. I’m sure the next time a big quake hits we’ll get a “See? Told you so!” even if the event wasn’t statistically significant – he didn’t care about science before, and he probably won’t now. Even if he says that, I think boobquake succeeded. We exposed these beliefs for their ridiculous nature, encouraged people to think skeptically, and of course, had some fun. What else could someone ask for? (Less creepy misogynistic guys who miss the point? Yeeeaah, agreed.)

So, sorry Sedighi. To quote something that was floating around twitter – women can move mountains, but they don’t cause earthquakes.

Don’t forget that boobquake shirts are on sale here. All profits will be donated to the Red Cross and James Randi Educational Foundation.

EDIT: If you want a more scientific explanation of earthquakes and boobquake, there’s an excellent article here by Dr. Lawrence Braile, professor and earthquake expert at my own Purdue University.

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380 comments

  1. arseholozone says:

    Apr 30, 2010

    Part of an earlier email. – June 25 – 27 G8/G20 is in Canada. A good time for round two? …To keep things genuine and filter out the dozens of spamers you might consider putting together a BoobQuaker’s page of links. Assemble a group of bright minded ladies from each country or region. Canada – I nominate Elizabeth May. Alaska USA – Jeanne Devon. Continue to attract, involve all kinds. Please don’t leave me out.

  2. Knockgoats says:

    Apr 30, 2010

    In islam woman have given more respect and rights than a manLiar. Examples:1) A man can divorce a woman at will, the same is not true in reverse.2) A man can marry up to four women, the same is not true in reverse.3) A woman’s testimony is worth half that of a man in sharia.4) After divorce, the man has the right to keep the children, not the woman.Tell me, ZaC, what is the point of telling such an obvious lie?

  3. Hugo Grinebiter says:

    Apr 30, 2010

    I have also translated the term “boobquake” into an Italian neologism “tetterremoto” which can’t be back-translatedHuh? Anything that can be translated can be back-translated, that’s the whole point. If the back-translation by a second translator does not give you more or less what you started with, then either the back-translation or the original translation was incompetent. This is used to check translations of international questionnaires in particular. At any rate, those are the only back-translation assignments I ever see. Sometimes you find that the first translator has indeed misunderstood something. You give “tetterremoto” to someone who has never heard of BQ and it will be translated as “Tit Earthquake” or similar, depending on the favourite demotic term for mammaries. That’s good enough for government work, as they say; the back-translation would be adjudged a success since it ends up with the same meaning as the original; it’s not required to yield identical wording, since English has so many synonyms. (I don’t speak Italian, but your term is transparent enough to someone with a little Spanish. I see that the Swedes and Germans have also created their own neologisms. As I said earlier, I would bet folding money that Boobquake makes at least the shortlists for 2010 neologisms.)

  4. Knockgoats says:

    Apr 30, 2010

    You’re a sexist moron. Take a look at figures for pay levels and domestic violence, scumbag.

  5. Ugo Bardi says:

    Apr 30, 2010

    Well, of course “tetterremoto” can be back-translated into “tit quake”, but it won’t maintain the same flavor of combining two words “tette” and “terremoto” into a single one, “tetterremoto”, cutting out a piece of each. Oh, well, it is just for fun, anyway…..

  6. Brian says:

    Apr 30, 2010

    Arrogance? Wow, son!! You are just so full of yourself aren’t you? Listen to you talking. You’re saying she’s arrogant because she questions religion? No/ What arrogance is is making a statement such as “Immodesty causes earthquakes” and not even have any proof to back it up. All she did was put this idea to the test…and did it in the spirit of fun. And oh BTW, genius (note the sarcasm, in case I have to spell it out for you) she already KNOWS that earthquakes happen on a daily basis!! Her poi t of this was experiment was to prove that thousands of women wearing bikinis or low cut tops aren’t gonna have any drastic changes on the earth’s plate tectonics. So you wanna sit there and try to tell somebody off so you can feel good about yourself…well yaaaayyy good for you. Here’s a cookie! In all seriousness I’ve read your so-called evidence as to why you think she failed and I hate to piss on your parade, son, but you’ve proven nothing!! All you have is a bunch of whiny, self-righteous arguments as to why you think her immodesty is immoral and unjust, based on your own personal religious beliefs. And in doing so, you’ve ironically done nothing but prove YOUR OWN ARROGANCE. Now, how you feel about immodesty or whatever you call it is up to you, but before you decide to go on your little soapbox and start preaching hellfire and brimstone, I suggest YOU get your facts straight before running off at the mouth… or in your case, talking outta your ass.

  7. rickbob says:

    Apr 30, 2010

    Thanks, but you missed the earthquake in my pants.

  8. gamoonbat says:

    Apr 30, 2010

    I would not trust the guy with his hand in his pocket. He looks like he is hiding something to me.

  9. ndg says:

    May 1, 2010

    I hope this hasn’t already been said but I think this result needs to be reproduced before we can take it seriously. At least weekly, and hopefully near my place :)

  10. barb6984 says:

    May 1, 2010

    Since I am a person who is about 110 lbs. overweight, and it was too cold to go to the beach, I had to limit my participation to a T-shirt and capris. Any less would have been an assault on the eyes!I am a religious person who happens to believe that God and science are not incompatible. I also happen to love science, especially biology, though I am quite familiar with basic plate tectonics. I also happen to believe that God has better things to do than cause calamities simply to prove a point, Old Testament stories non-withstanding. While I know that this particular “study” was somewhat tongue-in-cheek, I would love to see a more rigorous study done, if only to demonstrate that you can’t blame women for the ills of the world. People can point to Sodom and Gomorrah as “proof” that God does such things, but they conveniently forget that God was willing to spare an entire city of sinners if even only 5 just men could be found. The point of that story was that God does not punish the innocent just to make sure the guilty are punished. Anyone who claims otherwise had better hope that God is willing to temper justice with mercy; for as they judged, so will they be judged. In the meantime, continue on with science. It’s fascinating, and fun!

  11. Hugh Grinebiter says:

    May 1, 2010

    If that is what you meant, and I do take your point, I think I overreacted to the term “back-translation”, sorry. That does have a specific technical meaning, you see, whereas the loss of flavour is another thing. I’m a pedantic nerd, so sue me :-)

  12. Sam says:

    May 1, 2010

    O.k. Showing the boobs didn’t cause any quakes. But I am sure if Jen and her friends around the world take off their pants in public and open their legs (wide open), that certainly cause a strong quake. I am sure all men would be present to scientifically document the event. Jen would you please give this a try?

  13. Saeed says:

    May 1, 2010

    Liar. Examples:1) A man can divorce a woman at will, the same is not true in reverse.2) A man can marry up to four women, the same is not true in reverse.3) A woman’s testimony is worth half that of a man in sharia.4) After divorce, the man has the right to keep the children, not the woman.Tell me, ZaC, what is the point of telling such an obvious lieKnockgoats, you are wrong:1-Women can divorce man if they mention it as a provision to the marriage.2-Yes men can marry up to 4 women because they physically need more sex than women. Taking this away from men was a reason that men fall for prostitution. On the other hand, In islam, women can be with different men but only one at a time.3-This is not the case for all testimonals, but only in the case of criminal acts and that is because women are more sensetive than men.4-That’s again depends on the situation of the man. If he is not suitable (mentally, financially etc) the children go to the woman.So before considering something as a lie, you better investigate more about it.

  14. Pullyourboobsin says:

    May 3, 2010

    There was another small earthquake here in Haiti today.Thanks a bunch.

  15. sandyvc says:

    May 4, 2010

    All changes have to start with people being aware that a change is needed. People have short memories and need to be reminded. Apparently in this time period, they go out of their way to forget. Street theatre and rabble rousing have stood the test of time. Things are different now than in genuinely revolutionary times; people in general do not care about anything beyond their small circle. This ignorant woman did a damn fine job with this and producing amazing LOL statistics. Great fun and international. There is never anything wrong with giving your best shot nor with trying new things. The Widow’s Mite story tells it all.

  16. sandyvc says:

    May 4, 2010

    I hope it chokes you. A gag is not good enough for bullies like you though a gag might do the trick. I have no idea what “weap” means but I will not weep for you.

  17. sandyvc says:

    May 4, 2010

    I know lots of wonderful men who can use their whole brain and I would not wish this fate on them. It should only be on men who have openly spit on feminism on this topic. :)

  18. sandyvc says:

    May 4, 2010

    I don’t think most people do it out of superstition. I think it is a cultural habit. I only do it to be polite. If it were superstition, maybe people would say it when they are alone to themselves.

  19. sandyvc says:

    May 4, 2010

    I am pedant but, hay zeus, that was way over the top for a bit of fun. Do you trash everyone who plays with words?

  20. sandyvc says:

    May 4, 2010

    She put the need for control groups and planets in her summary.

  21. sandyvc says:

    May 4, 2010

    Good grief. Ignorance is hilarious. No one thought it was science. No one thought it was about earthquakes. The upshot was that it went global and it had Muslim men letting us know they were for women’s rights. It allowed Muslim women to have a bit of naughty fun responding. Of course, it brought out the jerks and bigots of all kinds. That, in turn, led folks all over the world join together to stick it to the bullies.

  22. sandyvc says:

    May 4, 2010

    My son works in a college and is trying to learn more about Islam. He talked to an Imam at an information event who gave him a Koran. The translation was hard core and very bigotted. Then he bought one with a different translation and it was much milder. He is disturbed by how many times the book orders the death of all none Muslims. He has not read any other “holy” books so it is not through comparison he finds the Koran violent and filled with hatred. Compared to the holy books of other faiths; which I have read it seems to be more of a guide to day to day life and war than a spiritual manual as is, say, the Diamond Sutra or the Psalms in the Jewish Books. On the other hand, the Koran is very decent about women and their place and roles. I see no veils or burkas or hiding behind a screen to worship. Which is it?

  23. sandyvc says:

    May 4, 2010

    Now that is rhetoric..

  24. Paul D'Aura says:

    May 5, 2010

    Study the records on earthquake frequency where women dress scantily ( Miami Beach) vs where they don’t (Iceland or Japan)

  25. lozerette says:

    May 6, 2010

    2-Yes men can marry up to 4 women because they physically need more sex than women. Taking this away from men was a reason that men fall for prostitution. On the other hand, In islam, women can be with different men but only one at a time.Pardon me while I finish laughing… Must not be talking about the women I know. Once a woman has discovered what really pleases her and accepts her desires, they tend to be as insatiable (if not more so) as men in my experience.Instead of more wives to make up for their current wife’s (perceived) failure, how about a little willpower? Even better, take the time to find out what makes her tick and let good times be had by all?To your other points:1 – Do men also have to mention it as a provision? Or is it just their right? ‘Cause that still seems a bit unfair to me, considering that most people don’t go into a marriage intending to need a divorce.3 – What a sexist outlook. There are no sensitive men and all women burst into tears at the drop of a hat?4 – Personally, I think the Western tradition of awarding custody to the mother in almost all cases is sexist. The children should go to the best parent. Period.

  26. Skeptic says:

    May 6, 2010

    Two points. You did not measure the level of immodesty before and after to control it such that any changes in the earthquakes – frequency and/or magnitude – correlates with the level of immodesty. For all we know, people who turned up may already be dressing “immodestly” every other day. Secondly, what the cleric said was that dressing immodestly leads to lost of chastity and adultery, which leads to earthquake. You jumped his hypothesis by only measuring the relationship between immodesty and earthquakes. Earthquakes, to him, are caused by adultery and lost of chastity.I propose to redo the experiment, and this time round with greater scientific rigor. Don’t want any pseudo-science do we?

  27. Asdfg says:

    Jun 10, 2010

    You atheist baby did not prove anything. In the meantime you couldn’t disprove Iranian guy’s words. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/new… If I were your science teacher I would fail you.

  28. Treme says:

    Jun 16, 2010

    Eeeow, girl you’re ugly.

  29. Normal_Anomaly says:

    May 7, 2011

    But cleavage in the tropics doesn’t just cause earthquakes in the tropics. Don’t you remember that God has horrible aim? Otherwise, why would all the tornadoes be in the religious parts of America?

  30. Normal_Anomaly says:

    May 7, 2011

    “No right-minded person, no religious person, would change his/her mind because of ‘experiment.'” Do you mean THIS “experiment,” or did you just admit that evidence does not cause religious people to change their minds?

What do you think?

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