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Aug 23 2011

Gawker asks: “Was today’s earthquake another Boobquake?”

Jen responds: No.

I know I said that I didn’t want to talk about Boobquake anymore, but I can’t help myself when data crunching is involved. Well, it’s also hard to ignore when dozens and dozens of people are tweeting at me asking if I’m wearing anything revealing. For the rest of my life I’m going to know when every major earthquake occurs via a very strange alert system.

But when a huge blog like Gawker decides to comment, I feel compelled to reply. Especially when they throw out all knowledge of statistics for the sake of giggling at boobs:

Remember when an Iranian cleric said earthquakes were God’s punishment for scantily-clad women, and then a bunch of scantily-clad women organized a naked protest to disprove the cleric, but then an earthquake actually occurred at the moment they bared their breasts? Well, there is a chance that today’s East Coast earthquake was a boobquake, too, because it’s National Go Topless Day, and there are all kinds of naked boobs in Central Park right now.

I already established that the earthquakes on Boobquake were not statistically significant – that is, they occurred at the same frequency and magnitude that you would expect at random chance. But one of the main criticisms of my “study” was that there was only one data point. I never realized I had National Go Topless Day to add to my data!

So, does bearing some boobage actually cause earthquakes?

Being the giant nerd I am, I’ve spent the last couple of hours looking up earthquake data at USGS, writing simple Python scripts, and plotting things in R. I’m pretty sure this isn’t how my graduate program envisioned me using the skills I’ve learned, but oh well.

I found the dates for the 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011 National Go Topless Day. Today actually wasn’t National Go Topless Day – that was the 21st. New York was doing their own thing today, so I counted both the 21st and 23rd of days of decreased modesty. I downloaded the worldwide earthquake data for those 5 days plus boobquake, for a total of 6 samples. Now, we want to compare those especially lascivious days to “regular” days to see if earthquakes actually increase. For controls, I got the data for the three days before and the three days after any event. I picked neighboring days to control for any temporal changes that have nothing to do with boobs, but may reflect overall trends.

(As an aside, apparently National Go Topless Day is run by the Raelian cult. WTF? Allah may not support boobs, but aliens apparently do.)

Do boobs increase the number of earthquakes?

Nope (t test, p value = 0.65)

Do boobs increase the magnitude of earthquakes?

Nope (t test, p value = 0.26)

Sorry to disappoint all of you, but yet again, we have shown that boobs do not have the ability to manipulate plate tectonics. Alas, it seems this is another example confirmation bias – remembering the “hits” and ignoring the “misses.”

But if you’re still skeptical, I wasn’t bearing any cleavage when the earthquakes hit Colorado and Virginia today. Hmmm, though I was pantless. My butt isn’t anything to write home about, so many that’s why both of these earthquakes weren’t exactly devastating.

46 comments

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  1. 1
    JoeBuddha

    I think SOMEONE needs more homework… ;)

  2. 2
    KeevaS

    Science is so 2000′s.

  3. 3
    Peripheralnerves

    This is getting dangerously close to a proper paper….

  4. 4
    Kris Preusker

    Ignobel Prize, here you come!

  5. 5
    Jen

    http://improbable.com/ig/misce… :P

  6. 6
    Luda Kristen

    This is actually the best use of an education I’ve ever seen.

  7. 7
    WingedBeast

    I was kind of hoping some religious idiot would blame the earthquake on Immoral Activity X so there could be a test to do.I don’t know what they would blame.  Could be homosexuality, which would mean the test would be for people to come from all over for a gay-marriage-marathon.  Could be premarital sex, but it’s not like that test isn’t being done all over.  Could be acceptance of other religions, so the activity could be a convention of invocations of all faiths with educational discussions.It should only be a matter of time before somebody blames it on something stupid.

  8. 8
    Michael Carroll

    I am sure you were still ‘bearing’ cleavage, just not ‘baring’ cleavage…

  9. 9
    Jacques

    Okay, really. Firstly, I’d bet that your butt is something to write home about, but I’m old enough to be your father. In Tennessee, I’m old enough to be your grandfather. But Markos, at the Great Orange Satan already posted the Truth…  http://www.dailykos.com/story/

  10. 10
    Azkyroth

    Although if she was in bed she might have had a bear in her cleavage.(More likely a stuffed caterpie, I suppose. >.>)

  11. 11
    Azkyroth

    I would think butts, in general, would be as likely to cause volcanoes as earthquakes. :P

  12. 12
    Azkyroth

    (Or mudslides, come to think of it O.o)

  13. 13
    Jen

    Aaannnndd we have devolved to poop jokes :P

  14. 14
    Azkyroth

    Would you prefer sixty pages of smitten fans insisting they would love to write home about your butt? ;/

  15. 15
    Izzy Leonard

    If toplessness is now hypothosised to cause earthquakes (I thought the cleric posited women dressing immodestly, not undressing, but hey, boobies) you should add Mardi Gras to increase the number of data points.

  16. 16
    J. Mark

    Clearly, we need to continue doing research….

  17. 17
    Michel Ricart

    Jen, Going to the opposite direction, could you find some dataset statistically proving that earthquakes are in fact caused by religious activities?

  18. 18
    Andrew G.

    Fortunately for mankind, [the personal God] faded out of the picture, more or less gracefully, in the early 2000s. It was killed by a fascinating development called statistical theology.

    – Arthur C. Clarke, Songs of Distant Earth

  19. 19
    ANuRa

    Someone propose Jen for the IgNobels, please!!!

  20. 20
    Molly Rene

    At the time the earthquake, I was, all the way over in the Netherlands, totally naked. So perhaps there is a relationship.

  21. 21
    Pseudomorph

    There’s always a lot of women sunbathing topless during the summer months in France and Spain (and possibly elsewhere in Europe). You could see if there’s a correlation between increased seismic activity and amount of boobage on show in Europe during summer. I don’t know how many women went topless for National Go Topless Day, but I’m willing to bet it was a very small number compared to all the boobage on show in France and Spain over the summer months!

  22. 22
    Svlad Cjelli

  23. 23
    Pepijn

    There’s a typo in the last sentence. There’s a “many” there which probably should have been a “maybe”.

  24. 24
    warner

    I’m old enough to be her grandfather but I fully agree with your truth.

  25. 25
    Avicenna

    No no no… this current one is obviously caused by the legalisation of Gay Marriage. Obviously I need to do some research on this but I am working on the hypothesis that Sodomy Causes Earthquakes. With this in mind I am thinking of the following Craigslist advert…Homosexuals and fornicators! Are you sick and tired of the man demanding you stop sodomy? Are you constantly being blamed for earthquakes? Are you sick of being pushed around? Want a stable job where you are not judged for your race, religion, colour, sexuality or gender?Then I have the job offer for you! Yes you can now be part of Avicenna’s Legion of Doom in our latest project… The Earthquake Cannon. We are also accepting women in improperly fitting tops that inspire improper thoughts (whatever those are). We are an equal opportunity employer and offer full benefits and on site creches. Pay is scaled over time and performance related bonuses are available. In addition project bonuses are awarded so join now and be part of the fastest growing evil overlord enterprise! Remember A Happy Legion of Doom is an efficient Legion of Doom

  26. 26
    Gregory Marshall

    Earthquakes cause by boobs? No. Knees quaked by boobs? Often.

  27. 27
    JediPsychologist

    You crack me up. I can’t believe you took the time to crunch the numbers. You’re absolutely hilarious.

  28. 28
    enuma

    The earthquakes are happening because God is mad that NY state has redefined marriage.Since marriage has been redefined countless times throughout history, there are no control days for your evidence-obsessed leftist number crunching.  Browse USGS data all you want.  You can’t prove me wrong.

  29. 29
    Corruptingheresies

    From one stats geek to another, I have to applaud your analysis. I actually felt the quake, but sadly, there were no boobs near me at the time.

  30. 30
    nathan lee

    I’m suprised at you jen. Not devolved, simply mutated. They’ll eventually die out by selective pressure :)it just might take a few 1000 years.

  31. 31
    Tom

    I heard someone blame the earthquake on NY legalizing gay marriage BUT the earthquake wasn’t in NY!  Do the actions of NY cause destruction in other parts of the country like Mineral, VA?  If VA legalized gay marriage would that cause earthquakes in NY?  Is god just a lousy shot?

  32. 32
    Elise Duvall

    Now if you could just crunch some numbers to help all the ‘ACK EARTHQUAKE AND HURRICANE AT THE SAME TIME! … 1111 … JEEBUS IS COMING AGAIN! SOOOOON!’ Rapture tradition religious people that post on Facebook about such.

  33. 33
    Ratshag

    Is a solid analysis. Unfortunatelies, yer lookin’ in the wrong place.Me friend Steph is ta earthquakes what Typhoid Mary were ta smallpox. In ’89, we wuz in Palo Alto fer the Pretty Big One. Then she moved ta LA in time fer the ’92 quake.  Seious shakin’ in Seattle in 2001? Yup, she were there fer a conference. And now she be livin’ in New Jersey, which anybodies can plainly see is only this far from DC on the map.So, yeah, it don’t matter what hordes of immoral wimmenz be up to. I figger is mebbe half a dozen or so folks, innocently travelin’ the world and settin’ off tectonifications, most likelies oblivious ta the havok they’s creatin’.

  34. 34
    J. Mark

    Okay then, would you please keep us in the loop as to exactly where Steph is on a daily basis….

  35. 35
    Azkyroth

    Which part is confusing?

  36. 36
    Svlad Cjelli

    (Nothing confusing. I am merely marking my presence because vacant expressions and silence don’t travel well over typing.)

  37. 37
    Farganger

    But earthquakes + boobs…now we’re talkin’!!!

  38. 38
    wzrd1

    It COULD be because of “immodesty” of those with man boobs. I’m betting I can find equal correlation.

  39. 39
    JM

    Perhaps it’s belly buttons that cause earthquakes.  Just how specific was that Iranian cleric?  How can anyone do real science if people don’t properly define their terms?

  40. 40
    Hans

    Don’t forget to correct for multiple comparisons!

  41. 41
    Der Cat

    Cool,what’s the pay?

  42. 42
    Avicenna

    I am half tempted to spoof a “rapture” to see how quickly people would believe us just to see how many people would make the mistake of thinking we are serious prophets.

  43. 43
    Tom Zombie

    Boobs don’t cause earthquakes any more than my dick causes tsunami’s.

  44. 44
    Paddy

    All winners of previous prizes actually published papers on their work.  Want a co-author for something short in PLoS ONE?

  45. 45
    Paddy

    (By “previous”, I strictly mean “all winners of prizes awarded last year” – I haven’t checked previous years).

  46. 46
    lpetrich

    Good job with your statistical analysis, Jen. I’ve done a lot of a lot of statistical analyses myself, though mostly on an amateur basis. Mainly on posting on messageboards and political quizzes. And yes, I also use Python.

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