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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480 comments

  1. QuifMaster says:

    Apr 27, 2010

    This project was inherently flawed to begin with. Boobs cause tornadoes, no earthquakes. It’s miniskirts that cause earthquakes!

  2. islandbrewer says:

    Apr 27, 2010

    I call POE. (the smiley gives it away)

  3. Steeev says:

    Apr 27, 2010

    Lots of earthquakes occur in the “Ring of Fire” around the Pacific Ocean. The Pacific Ocean is surrounded by… beaches! Coincidence?

  4. islandbrewer says:

    Apr 27, 2010

    “Secondly, how many of the earthquakes that you pulled from the web data were actually felt by human beings? Or does an earthquake not felt by anybody still count as an earthquake to you?”So, you’re proposing that, in response to women showing cleavage, God shows his disdain by sending insignificant earthquakes to places where no one will ever notice them?Wow! Beware his wrath! You might just miss it if you don’t monitor it closely!

  5. DobyGS says:

    Apr 27, 2010

    This experiment was so much better than the post-hoc claims that Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell usually make after natural disasters occur blaming homosexuality and deals with the devil.

  6. blackrose0 says:

    Apr 27, 2010

    lol… reading your blog kind of reminded me of the Dr. Cox character in scrubs…

  7. Noofies says:

    Apr 27, 2010

    “you manage to keep your own circle of fans”I suspect she increased her circle of fans, probably by quite a few. This middle-aged feminist is a new fan, as are at least a dozen of MY circle of fans – all of whom bared as much skin yesterday as was possible without causing traffic accidents all over the country.

  8. islandbrewer says:

    Apr 27, 2010

    I’m wondering when people will start demanding that we “teach the controversy” in public schools.Will Geology and Earth Science classes include copies of “Juggs” and “Bigguns” with their textbooks? Will the educational filmstrip industry move to the San Fernando Valley?

  9. ethanol says:

    Apr 27, 2010

    I hadn’t actually noticed the whole mean/median mix up. It is true that the median value wouldn’t be changed by not converting from logarithmic scale, but its also not the value you would want to use in this comparison. If the Taiwan quake had been a magnitude 10, the median value for the day would have been unchanged, so it really tells you more about the the low-magnitude quakes. Of course I’m not sure how I would go about making these comparisons, so I greatly appreciate the link in Jen’s edit. While Dr. Braile doesn’t average the previous earthquakes, he certainly puts yesterday’s quakes in context shows that they don’t stand out at all against the activity of last month.

  10. Philip Pangrac says:

    Apr 27, 2010

    Just saw your article on The Daily Beast, and something you brought up touched upon what had occured to me earlier today but didn’t want to mention because I was afraid of sounding like a dick.You mention that you don’t want to go to Seattle work known as “the Boobquake girl.” I don’t think you have to worry about this. I think Boobquake is one of those “twice as bright, twice as fast” things. This is the type of viral meme that just explodes and is forgotten about as quickly as it spread. Unless you plan a series of follow-ups (and accept turning into a one-hit wonder), this will just be remembered as one of those “news of the weird” things that can pad a few minutes of airtime and which people forget about in a week or two.Not to take away from your success or write-off all the attention you’ve gotten…but getting people to spread a sex-related joke online isn’t quite the same as fundamentally altering their view of the world or how they challenge preconceptions.Hopefully you’re not going to lose the thousands of new followers and ‘friends’ you’ve gotten. Well, the bandwagon people, sure, the people who just wanted to show that they’re ‘with it.’ But your stock in the atheist community has certainly gone up and, best case scenario, the people who actually were in on the joke (as in, understood the real science and satire of it) will stick around and you’ve gotten a lot more, actually thinking, followers.

  11. Susan says:

    Apr 28, 2010

    Boobquake was an excellent idea. Congrats, Jen, on blending science, feminism, and cleavage in a thought-provoking way. As an ecologist, I have often wished for a control planet. But I must say, I hope not all the women there have to wear burkas!

  12. Claire says:

    Apr 28, 2010

    CAN THERE BE ANOTHER BOOBQUAKE NEXT YEAR?I found out about it the day after, and I would have loved to participate. (Also, because I am taking statistics right now, im actually understanding all your graphs and stuff. Weird.)

  13. Anodesu says:

    Apr 28, 2010

    I am SOOO down for boobquake 2011!I shall be buying a tshirt this summer once I obtain some money!

  14. geraldcummings says:

    Apr 28, 2010

    You are a ASSHOLE! Because of people like you I got to remove my shoes before I get on an airplane. Take your rug and go to Mecca.

  15. efrique says:

    Apr 28, 2010

    Kudos on showing stupidity up for what it is.[This reduction effect in your graph – the anti-boobquake effect, if you like – is interesting. Maybe it only falls short of significance because of the small sample size. Replication appears to be called for]I support the call for a submission to the Annals of Improbable Research – this looks like a strong candidate for it.

  16. yessri says:

    Apr 28, 2010

    Jen, Congratulations on a splendid skeptical response to an Imam with Issues! Like others, this has brightened an otherwise dreary day – thanks!

  17. chuck_c says:

    Apr 28, 2010

    There’d have to be some sort of thigh-to-boob conversion ratio.

  18. velvetsiren says:

    Apr 28, 2010

    Actually, it was an unseasonably warm and sunny day here in California. There were an awful lot of cute little sundresses bouncing around for so early in the season, including the one I was wearing. Just sayin’….

  19. AussieSkeptic says:

    Apr 28, 2010

    I can’t believe how many people just don’t get it.What Jen did was mockery, and if just one fanatic feels mocked then more power to her.No it’s not real science, nor does it tow the current feminist line; but it’s clever, funny and makes a point.Well done to all the women who took part, unfortunately I couldn’t (it’s a chromosome thing).

  20. The weasel says:

    Apr 28, 2010

    I’m sorry to be the advocatus diaboli here but for the sake of scientific method: your experimental setup is bollucks! The chain of cause and effect proposed by Sedighi involves young men being led astray and subsequent moral decay resulting in god’s wrath. Both are processes that require years to take place. To properly test the imam’s hypothesis it would require women of a certain area to dress immodestly over a period of (my guess) 10 to 20 years. Since god is supposed to be fair (in a really odd and indirect way) this should increase the number of earthquakes IN THAT AREA. This experimental setup is quite time intensive and requires a lot of effort so luckily for us, we can test it by analysing empirical data. Has aboriginal populations getting in contact with western civilisation and subsequent spread of t-shirts and short instead of for example penis gourds and nothing decreased the number of earthquakes in the respective areas? Has the inreasingly immodest fashion in the western world over the last 10 centuries lead to an increase of earthquakes in europe and north america? Now go and redeem yourself, I’m eager to see your results.

  21. Belamocity says:

    Apr 28, 2010

    God doesn’t make natural disasters. Nature does. F’n n00b.

  22. hoozardere says:

    Apr 28, 2010

    But maybe y’all just need to keep trying?? Could be, if you keep the cleavage on display for long enough, one or more easily distractable deities who had been attending to other issues elsewhere will finally notice and give you the spike (so to speak) in earth moving activities (so to speak) that you’re looking to test. Science demands a sustained and longitudinal (um) study!!And this is not just because I’m a guy. Not at all. It’s all for the science!

  23. Belamocity says:

    Apr 28, 2010

    I lol at you frustrated cry for attention. :-D

  24. Belamocity says:

    Apr 28, 2010

    Yes. Yes it is a coincidence.

  25. Belamocity says:

    Apr 28, 2010

    Sympathizing with a Muslim, no less! Since this Christian and a few other tards like her can agree with a Muslim on this, maybe they will next concede that they are naively worshiping the same god under different names! :O

  26. Belamocity says:

    Apr 28, 2010

    You dress modestly because you are afraid that if you show your body, you’ll get raped or called a whore and such. Your fear is irrational. Do you wear a sweater and jeans on the beach? Also, what you call modesty is shameless sexual advertisement compared to what others, Muslims, for example, consider modest. Stop being so self-centered and try to see the world from other perspectives.

  27. Belamocity says:

    Apr 28, 2010

    Jen, you’re friends with a friend of mine, she and I had art classes at Purdue together.Anyway, you’re brilliant, and witty. Don’t listen to these haters and religious nuts and bible-thumpers. If they don’t get a joke, don’t get upset about it. I especially lol at the fools stressing that your “experiment” was a failure and then proceeding to give you tips and instructions. They are just helping to make you famous, any way.

  28. Belamocity says:

    Apr 28, 2010

    You’re an idiot.

  29. sfsfsdggsdfg says:

    Apr 28, 2010

    fuck u all bastards

  30. flitandersen says:

    Apr 28, 2010

    If “Slick” was still in the WH you wouldn’t have to smell it – you’d be drowning in it…

  31. EdenBunny says:

    Apr 28, 2010

    From the end ofhttp://www.blaghag.com/2010/04… which was posted on April 21, well in advance of boobquake day and the continuation of :”And to the scientists … I know many earthquakes happen on a daily basis, so we’re looking to see if Boobquake significantly increases the number or severity of earthquakes. Or if an earthquake strikes West Lafayette, IN and only kills me, that may be good evidence of God’s wrath as well (I’m not too concerned). And yes, I know I need a larger sample size to make this good science. Maybe I’ll include Mardi gras in my calculations. “In any event, there seems to be some confusion regarding the Taiwan earthquake as to exactly what time it happened. Although in Taiwan, it happened around 11 AM on April 26th, in Indiana the time (EDT or CDT) was about 11 PM or 10 PM on April 25. Want proof? Go to:http://neic.usgs.gov/neis/eq_d…This means that these women’s mammaric seismological abilities were so potent that the result happened even faster than instantaneously! As it can thus be seen that the effects of female immodesty transcend even the limits of normal time flow, it is very likely that the Taiwan quake was just a warning. Looking at Jen’s graph of recent earthquake frequency, it is impossible to miss that peak near the end of February. Certainly that peak cannot have been caused by anything other than the boobquake event.

  32. Darryl says:

    Apr 28, 2010

    Mock.. Mock… Mock…Jen ROCKS, eh?Darryl – From Canada

  33. Darryl says:

    Apr 28, 2010

    Control Planet 1 – no humansControl Planet 2 – Burka!Control Planet 3 – no clothes

  34. Darryl says:

    Apr 28, 2010

    … Or Silicon Valley…?

  35. Cheese N. Quakers says:

    Apr 28, 2010

    Really? Why isn’t the sample size 24, with each hour separating out a different 15 degree portion of the earth? You could even argue such a sampling strategy helps counteract any rotational angle bias. Really, it is still an open question as to how you slice up the data to the point where calling in statistical tests is reasonable.And I don’t know much about earthquake intensity and frequency distributions but I have doubts on assuming they are Gaussian, which calls into question the posted confidence intervals. Or, at least, I’m pretty sure the underlying distribution is an important question to look at before one starts defining the analysis and criterion for rejecting the null hypothesis. Maybe the observed distribution should be the dependent variable?It’s all good. I just love science that starts out with an immodest proposal.

  36. AussieSkeptic says:

    Apr 28, 2010

    I think he or she feels mockedHeee Heee

  37. Darryl says:

    Apr 28, 2010

    Tee Hee Daemon…You so Funneeee…

  38. Cheese N. Quaker says:

    Apr 28, 2010

    I don’t see how it makes a huge difference to the main point of the experiment. The cleric claimed immodesty of females CAUSES immoral acts in men, and these in turn cause earthquakes. Measuring the earthquakes is just a proxy measure for direct measurement of immorality of men, which might be harder to objectively measure, and is less sexy since it does not start measuring the interference of God/Quetzalcoatl on plate tectonics. Even if you can only conclude the increased immodesty did not yield an increase in men behaving badly, its a win for the experimenter. If you can’t rule out men behaved worse but can conclude it did not affect earthquakes, the cleric is still a boob and it is a win for the experimenter.

  39. Darryl says:

    Apr 28, 2010

    You can tell if it’s a he or a she?I raise a pint to your vision!

  40. justanothermommyblog says:

    Apr 28, 2010

    I thought that this was absolutely hilarious and brilliant. Congrats on such a huge exposure on the net. Question now is, What are you going to do with it now?

  41. Laraesque says:

    Apr 28, 2010

    Our scientist hostess did already suggest that in various interviews. Now to get funding.

  42. Laraesque says:

    Apr 28, 2010

    Your arguments do not hold up. There are hundreds of tremors every day. There are often temblors that are felt. Only analysis of the total activity is really valid. We could have had “the big one” in California, and still wouldn’t have proven a connection. It could all be coincidence unless we can repeatedly cause earthquakes. Besides, you are getting emotional over something that started out as a joke. There are no counts of total participants, no measure of relative amount of immodesty, no correlation of modesty density to distance from epicenters. So cool down and let her run the numbers. The results were very preliminary. In the mean time, check out the USGS site to get a good cross-section of seismic activity, at least in the U.S.

  43. Phillippe MK says:

    Apr 28, 2010

    *brilliant*

  44. sam says:

    Apr 28, 2010

    What about Guatemala vulcano sudden strong eruption?

  45. Tiffany Patterson says:

    Apr 28, 2010

    I like to think that mother Earth quelled a bit in her appreciation of female liberation. :)

  46. Johno says:

    Apr 28, 2010

    I think what the cleric was saying, is if all women who don’t wear bra’s jumped up and down at the same time then it would cause an earthquake by their immoral dress code.

  47. Nabeshin says:

    Apr 28, 2010

    Barring that, a few facial and/or adominal contusions. Of course, this is highly on cup size and the effects of gravity over time.For those playing along at home, we’re talking perky/kneeshooters.

  48. Pangolin says:

    Apr 28, 2010

    I think scientific rigor demands an annual repeat of the experiment until we get it right. More immodest dress, more cleavage, more men witnessing in order to be properly led morally astray……I wasn’t led nearly morally astray enough on monday and therefore believe the experimental design had flaws. Repeat!

  49. Jon says:

    Apr 28, 2010

    Don’t give up now… we need to keep trying. Less clothes each time, more women. Do it every Monday until we destroy the world. Maybe we blokes were too restrained, could it have been our fault? Maybe we needed to be more influenced by the boobs? If that’s the case I apologise. Next time I promise to look more, have more wicked thoughts and stray from my wife as a result.

  50. Alazarin says:

    Apr 28, 2010

    It was interesting to discover that Boobquake Day coincided with Charles Richter’s birthday. I had a quick peek over at Wikipedia to do a bit of fact-checking and sure enough, there it was. Judging by the look on his face in his portrait photo, he’s enjoying the sight of all the extra boobage on display.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C…Way to go!

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