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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401 comments

  1. extrinsecus says:

    Apr 27, 2010

    haven’t you ever wondered why there exists no disaster in the so-called divine heaven? There is no disaster in heaven cause its girls are extremely immodest. Keep it going and bring peace upon the earth

  2. Ben Zvan says:

    Apr 27, 2010

    We had rigorous peer review at dinner last night, if you know what I mean…

  3. Zandali says:

    Apr 27, 2010

    All of this is irrelevant, The true question is,What were all those bitches doing out of the kitchen

  4. Ifyouwanttogettechnical says:

    Apr 27, 2010

    Actually depending on the news source you read the earliest reports of the Taiwan earthquake came just before midnight on the 25th. Here are the times of the quake in North America according to their timezone. North America:Monday, April 26, 2010 at 12:29:52 AM (NDT) – Newfoundland Daylight (St. John’s)Sunday, April 25, 2010 at 11:59:52 PM (ADT) – Atlantic Daylight (Halifax)Sunday, April 25, 2010 at 10:59:52 PM (AST) – Atlantic Standard (San Juan)Sunday, April 25, 2010 at 10:59:52 PM (EDT) – Eastern Daylight (New York, Toronto)Sunday, April 25, 2010 at 09:59:52 PM (EST) – Eastern Standard (Jamaica)Sunday, April 25, 2010 at 09:59:52 PM (CDT) – Central Daylight (Winnipeg, Chicago, Mexico City)Sunday, April 25, 2010 at 08:59:52 PM (CST) – Central Standard (Regina, Costa Rica)Sunday, April 25, 2010 at 08:59:52 PM (MDT) – Mountain Daylight (Calgary, Denver Mazatlan)Sunday, April 25, 2010 at 07:59:52 PM (MST) – Mountain Standard (Phoenix)Sunday, April 25, 2010 at 07:59:52 PM (PDT) – Pacific Daylight (Vancouver, Los Angeles, Tijuana)Sunday, April 25, 2010 at 06:59:52 PM (AKDT) – Alaska Daylight (Anchorage)Sunday, April 25, 2010 at 05:59:52 PM (AHDT) – Aleutian Daylight (Adak)Sunday, April 25, 2010 at 04:59:52 PM (HST) – Hawaii Standard (Honolulu)As you can see this shows that in reference to “Boobquake” the Taiwan Earthquake occurred on April the 25th and not the 26th.

  5. Stephanie says:

    Apr 27, 2010

    Other than making my husband’s world move nothing happened here in BC.

  6. Mollie Christie says:

    Apr 27, 2010

    http://deepthoughtsfrommolliec…Viva la Boobquake!

  7. dejahT says:

    Apr 27, 2010

    Oooh, another righteous religionist posting anonymously. We all know where that leads.Please be sure and clean off the keyboard and screen before your mommy comes down to the basement to use the computer.

  8. dejahT says:

    Apr 27, 2010

    Don’t have the guts to post a name, eh?You clearly didn’t get the whole point. Also, either you don’t understand the principles of feminism, or you don’t care to. In either case, you’ve showed us your lack reading comprehension.

  9. rickbayside says:

    Apr 27, 2010

    I published a the same idea as Dr. Braile yestery at 4:25 PM EST., but in a shorter, simpler form. I added some extra info based on the USGS data as well: http://bit.ly/bOZ2Dn

  10. dejahT says:

    Apr 27, 2010

    And two points to the idiot who didn’t read the original posts or the updates. And yet, still wants to get all high and mighty. What’s your point? Can’t refute the idea that it was a consciousness-raising exercise and a JOKE!!! So you hid behind high-and-mighty whining masquerading as criticism. Get over it, douchebag. It was a JOKE. Get it? It was meant to be all in fun. If you don’t like was run, invent your own meme and go test it. That’s the beauty of science. Bleh. Why do I argue with idiots?

  11. arensb says:

    Apr 27, 2010

    One of the things I love about science is that you can, in fact, apply it to answer completely silly questions like “do immodestly-clad women cause earthquakes?”.I can think of a few other examples, like using theological arguments to “prove” the existence of the Invisible Pink Unicorn, or the tenured professor in Pratchett’s (?) book who came up with the Very Strong Anthropic Principle, that the universe exists to produce tenured philosophers, but those are few and far between, and rarely used by workers in a field to poke fun at their own field.

  12. Marli says:

    Apr 27, 2010

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/201…Yahoo claims that there was a 6.9 magnitude earthquake off of the coast of Taiwan…. but it looks like the Bookquake was still successful as there wasn’t an abundance of large earthquakes!

  13. Hendel says:

    Apr 27, 2010

    I’m forty-something. And married. Got a great kid and everything. But damn, Jen – your combination of cute/geek/smart/funny… Me -20 would be outside your window with a boom-box on my shoulder. Just sayin’. :-)

  14. sarahbee says:

    Apr 27, 2010

    seconded!

  15. readourconstitution says:

    Apr 27, 2010

    As a native So. Cal gal (Christian, btw) who regularly displays her God-given 34Cs by way of cleavage baring clothing I was concerned I might somehow skew your results. Instead I figure my usual mode of “un”dress factors me in as a “control”. My manner of dress is more the stardard than the anomaly here so it has me pondering… could our constant display of our jiggly parts be the true cause of our quakes? Could it ?http://earthquake.usgs.gov/ear… First glance at the overwhelming number of California temblors would seem to bear out the possibility of a probability that the revealing of flesh really can rock your world. But this theory doesn’t play out when you realze that Alaska has a greater average frequency, magnitude and energy release with a lesser show of boobage or ass-cleave. For science, however, I will continue to test this by switching from SoCal winter skank-wear to even skimpier summer attire. All for science of course.

  16. Rae says:

    Apr 27, 2010

    I didn’t see this post until after Boobquake Day, but in a strange turn of events I not only wore a low cut shirt but also attended an erotica writers’ club! Strangely, no earthquakes hit Seattle. Too bad!

  17. dave_13 says:

    Apr 27, 2010

    clearly it succeeded. is it not painfully obvious that the trial was to see if any seismic activity OUT OF THE NORMAL occurred? If all tectonic movement had COMPLETELY COME TO A STANDSTILL, then THAT would have been a sign of some kind of supernatural occurrence. The whole point is that thousands of boobs were temporarily liberated, and nothing seismically out of the ordinary occurred. boobquake was a success. deal with it.

  18. Calladus says:

    Apr 27, 2010

    The overwhelming response to Boobquake was American and European, with some Australian and a little Japanese thrown in.Are you claiming that an earthquake in Taiwan is God’s response? If so, God’s ability to aim seriously sucks.And why a statistically insignificant quake placed over 160 miles offshore of Taiwan? How many plates did this quake rattle in Jen’s kitchen cabinet?This is pretty weak sauce, I’m sure you’ll agree.—added:However, I think you are probably right.It probably did fail to convince those people who are so blinded by religion that they will grasp at any straw, no matter how tenuous, to prop up their belief system.To those on the fence, and to those who embrace reason, the foolishness was amply demonstrated.

  19. Gwenny Todd says:

    Apr 27, 2010

    Maybe we went about this wrong. Maybe our test was invalidated because MEN didn’t do their part. After all the cleric said, “Many women who do not dress modestly… lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which (consequently) increases earthquakes.” So we have to develop a way to ensure men will be properly lead astray and corrupted.

  20. SM says:

    Apr 27, 2010

    Great study :). I used your blog for our Mizozo – http://www.mizozo.com/world/04

  21. Razzle says:

    Apr 27, 2010

    You used the wrong form of your. This renders your argument invalid. Feel free to try again next boobquake.

  22. Guest says:

    Apr 27, 2010

    oh, i had so much fun doing boobquake! i also went to my friends’ weekly monday Drinking Club (yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like), and got to explain WHY i had a shirt cut down to my sternum on, over and over! everyone else was so bummed they weren’t wearing low-cut shirts. we should do fun science experiments all the time!

  23. Jenna says:

    Apr 27, 2010

    I find it amazing that no one was injured/killed in the 6.9 magnitude quake…could this be the result of divine intervention? Do boobs actually save lives? I think we need more research on this.

  24. CricketOnTheWall says:

    Apr 27, 2010

    You and your methods are awesome! I thoroughly enjoy reading your scientific and theologic wit. Boobquake is the first reason I’ve had to read your blog, but I’m definitely subscribing! Boobquake went over like a fat kid with cake here at ETSU in East Tennessee, and I hope everyone had as much fun with it.

  25. Calladus says:

    Apr 27, 2010

    It really doesn’t matter, does it? Those who wish to believe in religion would count any tremblor this week as a “win” for their god.

  26. leikoi says:

    Apr 27, 2010

    I do believe breasts doesn’t cause earthquakes — in fact, I think it can feed and nourished people (e.g: haiti)

  27. SaintStephen says:

    Apr 27, 2010

    I dunno, Jen… the spellings of Taiwan and Tehran are pretty similar…LOLMagnificent job on Boobquake 2010!

  28. A-M says:

    Apr 27, 2010

    The part I find very strange about the cleric’s statement, is the area he lives in (Iran) has a lot of seismic activity. And yet the women there are among the most conservatively dressed in the world. However my particular corner of the UK is FULL of scantily-clad ladies nearly all the time, and we NEVER get earthquakes. The earthquake in Taiwan appears to confirm the idea that the sinners aren’t necessarily the targets of god’s wrath. From that I conclude that either god doesn’t care who he punishes for man’s sins (so he isn’t benevolent), or he has piss-poor aim (so he isn’t omnipotent), or he doesn’t know about it (so he isn’t omniscient), or assuming god even exists, there is no correlation between the two. That is from a linguist’s point of view, not a scientist. I don’t know enough about scientific method to question your analysis.

  29. Ifyouwanttogettechnical says:

    Apr 27, 2010

    Those who wish to believe in fanatical religion would count walking too close to a jackhammer and feeling it’s vibration’s as an earthquake and “win”for their god. If no earthquake had occurred they would claim it was god’s will to show mercy. Really there is no “winning” against religious fanatics as they treat every situation as a “win” and merely asign different excuses as to why, even when the results go against their original claims. We typically call it hypocrisy.

  30. Knockgoats says:

    Apr 27, 2010

    No, I think everyone understands just where you’re coming from – you’re a self-important, humourless religious nincompooop.

  31. Calladus says:

    Apr 27, 2010

    Agreed.And this is when ridicule becomes necessary.

  32. Knockgoats says:

    Apr 27, 2010

    I used to own a book, published in 1979, called “The ’80s: A Look Back”. One of my favourite events in it was the “International Year of the Simultaneous Orgasm” – at the, er, climax of which, the Earth did actually move!

  33. 36-D says:

    Apr 27, 2010

    I would like to volunteer for the International Natural Disaster Prevention Team, to travel the world in a push-up bra and spaghetti strap tank protecting communities from earthquakes, tornados, tsunamis, volcanos, etc. I think we could secure funding for this…

  34. Jay says:

    Apr 27, 2010

    The analysis is based on the assumption that any effect must be instantaneous, and we have no reason to assume that. Consider by analogy: “More people have sex on February 14, but there is no increase of births on February 14. Therefore, sex doesn’t cause childbirth.” Or “Nobody died at sea the day the Titanic struck an iceberg (it was just before midnight), so the iceberg collision caused no deaths.”All that boobquake has proven is that any effect it has takes longer than a day. If we want to prove more than that, we need to keep it up permanently, and see if it ever causes a permanent increase in seismic activity.All in favor, say, “Aye!”

  35. Coolwater says:

    Apr 27, 2010

    Your sample size is probably bigger than you realize. I know of four or five immodest women, myself included, who didn’t register, but we did flash cleavage.

  36. Nelson Cruz says:

    Apr 27, 2010

    I think comparing earthquake activity from summer months vs winter months (on the northern hemisphere where most people live) should be enough to disprove that cleric’s idea. If he believed in science at all, that is…

  37. Craig says:

    Apr 27, 2010

    Do manboobs count towards the boobquake?Or should there be a separate experiment to test this theory.Personally I’d like to test the theory that extended facial hair growth correlates with an increasing failure of cognition. Easier to test in males than females however.

  38. Michael says:

    Apr 27, 2010

    Thank you for your boyant spirit and firm support of a pair of really great causes: empiricism over supernatural thinking and women’s liberty over masculine theocratic control. I’m a believer myself, but empiricism trumps any interprretation of any faith. As one pseudoscience skeptic has it: if your religeon is in conflict with scientific observation, your religeon is wrong. Deal with it. Also, if you accept the miracles of the God of the Abrahamic faiths as in the Old Testament, He tends to be pretty definite with miraculous signs. Bush on fire without being consumed? No other possible explanation? O.K., Word from On High time. The plagues? Other possible explanations for each but not likely all together. Perfectly natural phenomena are, by definition poor God messages and you’d think he’d know that.

  39. Sunburn Sarah says:

    Apr 27, 2010

    You are my hero, and I loved participating, all the way in tiny Santa Maria, CA

  40. Ficer67 says:

    Apr 27, 2010

    I liked the Boobquake event. Just goes to show what millions of women are willing to get on board with.Is it possible that the event may need to be extended? I mean, one day of provocative dress is hardly enough to reach a conclusion, even if all the women in the world participate. It would be a more thorough experiment if the ladies dressed this way for a longer period of time.If that does not create an earthquake, then we might want to consider that something was lost in translation between Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi and us. Just a thought.Ficer67

  41. Michael Makovi says:

    Apr 27, 2010

    Okay, so the Iranian cleric hasn’t been proven correct.On the other hand, Gnostics everywhere can celebrate proof that G-d is evil. I mean, when I think of how many interviews of boobquake participates there out there, and when I think of how I’m forbidden by my religion to watch any of them, the first think I want to do is shake my fist at G-d. So at least you’ve furthered somebody‘s religious views!:P

  42. Daemon says:

    Apr 27, 2010

    What a stupid idea….. if you think this will work, why not just go on a shooting spree? Seismic activity kills people. My guess is you’re just a guy that wants to see scantily clad women. If you really want to prove something, dress modestly to see if you can DECREASE seismic activity. If you still want to try and increase it, I can only hope you buried in a landslide caused by your own increased activity.

  43. Michael Makovi says:

    Apr 27, 2010

    A friend of mine just pointed out that absent the proof of the existence of G-d, one cannot prove that the Gnostics were correct regarding G-d.So how about this instead: this experiment shows that given the hypothetical assumption of a G-d whose laws are those of the Bible, then this G-d’s characteristics conform to those postulated by the Gnostics.

  44. But what if... says:

    Apr 27, 2010

    How do you know there’s not a delay between the immodest event and the resulting earthquake? What if your assumption that the result would be instantaneous is wrong? After all, we are talking about an immortal god who holds grudges against puny immortals here… I mean, I guess just because he has nothing else better to do with infinity (plus one).

  45. Jennifer says:

    Apr 27, 2010

    I thought plate techtonics caused earthquakes? Silly me. Love the boobquake thing. I missed it this time, but I’m always showing some cleavage. God made me that way. :)

  46. Crux Australis says:

    Apr 27, 2010

    Jen, I think I love you. For your brain. Definitely your brain. But you have nice jugs too. But mostly for your brain.

  47. John says:

    Apr 27, 2010

    Science and clevage, what more could we want?

  48. eg says:

    Apr 27, 2010

    I think you’re really missing the point. How could any scientific study be done in this way? Yes it’s ad hoc. This action and it’s statement was simply an absurd response to an absurd statement. It wasn’t saying anything about “Islam is wrong” or anything, it was simply saying “someone says earthquakes are caused by immodesty.” That’s the same as saying “a sunrise is caused by the rooster’s cock-a-doodle-doo.” So, in turn, boobquake (another absurd statement) was made in response. If you can’t see the absurdity of both the statement and the response, then you you are simply taking the absurd and turning into the obscene. This is what creates conflict, which, I feel, we just need less of.

  49. Robyn says:

    Apr 27, 2010

    Boobquake was fabulous, and I think it would be awesome if it became an annual thing! To bring awareness to the ridiculous excuses people make to suppress women, and general breast health.

  50. Benito says:

    Apr 27, 2010

    THIS MOMENTOUS DAY!Not one day in anyone’s life is an uneventful day, no day without profound meaning, no matter how dull and boring it might seem, no matter whether you are a seamstress or a queen, a shoeshine boy or a movie star, a renowned philosopher or a Down’s syndrome child.Because in every day of your life, there are opportunities to perform little kindnesses for others, both by conscious acts of will and unconscious example.Each smallest act of kindness – even just words of hope when they are needed, the remembrance of a birthday, a compliment that engenders a smile – reverberates across great distances and spans of time, affecting lives unknown to the one whose generous spirit was the source of this good echo, because kindness is passed on and grows each time it’s passed, until a simple courtesy becomes an act of selfless courage years later and far away.Likewise, each small meanness, each thoughtless expression of hatred, each envious and bitter act, regardless of how petty, can inspire others, and is therefore the seed that ultimately produces evil fruit, poisoning people whom you have never met and never will.All human lives are so profoundly and intricately entwined – those dead, those living, those generations yet to come – that the fate of all is the fate of each, and the hope of humanity rests in every heart and in every pair of hands.Therefore, after every failure, we are obliged to strive again for success, and when faced with the end of one thing, we must build something new and better in the ashes, just as from pain and grief, we must weave hope, for each of us is a thread critical to the strength – the very survival – of the human tapestry.Every hour in every life contains such often-unrecognized potential to affect the world that the great days for which we, in our dissatisfaction, so often yearn are already with us; all great days and thrilling possibilities are combined always in THIS MOMENTOUS DAY! – Rev. H.R. WhiteExcerpt from Dean Koontz’s book, “From the Corner of His Eye”.It embodies the idea of how the smallest of acts can have such a profound effect on each of our lives.

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