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.

Is there going to be Boobquake 2?

Today is the one year anniversary of boobquake, an accidental internet meme that I created at this blog. I’m not going to retell the story since it already has a Wikipedia article, which is also evidence of how viral it went (that, and being mentioned on the Colbert Report).

I’ve heard the question hundreds of times by now. “Is there going be Boobquake 2?” This is almost always followed by a quip about “increasing sample size,” with the person grinning about how clever they think they are for thinking that one up. While I’ve answered the question hundreds of times by now, let me answer it one last time to make it crystal clear:

NO.

I’m tempted to leave it at that, but I’ll take the moment to explain why the streets are not being flooded with immodestly dressed women today (at least, not more than usual).

1. The hypothesis is no longer testable.

Sedighi, an Iranian cleric, originally claimed that immodestly dressed women cause earthquakes. The whole purpose of boobquake was to be a humorous lesson in skepticism – that when someone makes claims, we should test them. But Sedighi clarified his statement a month later:

“Some ask why (more) earthquakes and storms don’t occur in the Western world, which suffers from the slime of homosexuality, the slime of promiscuity and has plunged up to the neck” in immorality, he said.

“Who says they don’t occur? Storms take place in the U.S. and other parts of the world. We don’t say committing sin is the entire reason but it’s one of the reasons,” he said.

But, he said, “sometimes, God tests a nation. … (God says) if believers sin, We slap them because We love them and give them calamity in order to stop their bad deeds.”

“And those who have provoked God’s wrath, He allows them (to commit sins) so that they go to the bottom of hell,” Sedighi said.

So basically, sinning doesn’t actually correlate precisely with natural disasters, and God will hold off on striking sinful nations so he can send even more people to hell. There’s no longer any sort of cause and effect – God just willy nilly kills people. His claim is now unfalsifiable. Increasing the “sample size” would not matter.

2. There are plenty of other unskeptical things to poke fun at.

Sedighi isn’t the only person on the planet to make ludicrous claims. Why obsess over a stupid comment someone made a year ago, instead of keeping an eye out for new ridiculous superstitions? People are saying crazy stuff every day. So much more can be accomplished.

Not to mention, I think a lot of people liked boobquake because it happened to be poking fun at a Middle Eastern Muslim. White people and/or Christians have just as wacky of beliefs, and I don’t want this turning into something fueled by Islamophobia.

3. The joke is funny once.

Seriously, don’t beat a dead horse.

4. I don’t want to be forever just known as “boobquake girl.”

It’s sure to follow me around a bit – and that’s fine, it certainly was a cool experience. But I have so many more accomplishments. I’m pursuing my PhD in Genome Sciences at the University of Washington. I have published research papers, and more are sure to come. I’m speaking at dozens of groups and conferences across the country about atheism. I hope to write a book some day soon, which will hopefully be the first of many.

I’m not just a boob joke.

So please, I know you think you’re being witty when you ask me what I was wearing when Recent Earthquake X struck Location Z…but give it a rest. We have other skeptical battles to fight. Let’s not all turn into one trick ponies.

Oh, how things change

I rediscovered my old Xanga blog the other day. Most of my entries are from age 13 to 15*, so it’s both painful and hilarious to read. For example, I found a post where I was whining about fashion – nothing new there, I suppose, but I loved this line from 2003 (bolded):

None of the clothes I like fit me anyways. At least in the junior department, which is were all the nice stuff is. I’m not like, overweight, but everything there is just so tight that is looks crappy. Like, if I lost 10 pounds it would be perfect. All the jeans are too short even when they’re in the Long style (curse you, height!) and all the shirts seem to be built for girls who are like AA cups >_< I’m not even what you would consider busty and they don’t fit me. Stupid fashion.

…lolololol

God, how was I complaining about fitting into things when I was barely a B cup? If only Young Jen knew how much more annoying it would get to find well fitted shirts.

If you want to read more…well, don’t bother looking for it. I have it friends-locked. No one needs to be subjected to that many Japanese emoticons and personality quizzes.

*I later switched to Livejournal for most of high school and part of college, then finally set up Blag Hag publicly on Blogger. If my trend of upgrading blogging platform continues, I’ll switch to WordPress right when something more awesome surpasses it.

‘Tis the season for giving

Boobquake is still making an impact months later*. You may remember that I sold some boobquake t-shirts in my store promising the royalties would go to charity. The total royalities earned from boobquake shirts was $621.87, and my April volume bonus thanks to the shirts was $369.53. That’s a total of $991.40 raised from Boobquake! Well, the donations have finally been made.

$500 has been donated to the Red Cross for disaster relief, and

$500 has been donated to the James Randi Educational Foundation

The delay in donation paid off, since the JREF is having their Season of Reason right now. What does that mean? An anonymous donor is matching all donations, meaning Boobquake’s contribution to the JREF is effectively doubled to $1,000!

I know that’s still not much for a big organization, but it’s equivalent to one of my paychecks, so I feel like quite the philanthropist right now. But really, the money wasn’t mine – I should be thanking all of you who bought merchandise in order to support these organizations. So, thank you!

We may still debate if boobquake did any good in terms of politics, religion, or women’s rights, but it’s certainly not debateable that it raised money for two wonderful causes.

*The months later part is mostly due to me moving twice after April, first to my parent’s house and then to Seattle. This resulted in Zazzle checks (which are already notoriously delayed thanks to waits in processing) to get returned to sender for a while as they tried to find me. I then realized I could just get paid through PayPal, so that solved that issue. …But yeah, it’s also partially due to procrastination. Oh well, I guess it worked out, since we ended up having a matching donor!

Still feeling aftershocks from boobquake

On Friday I was interviewed by Definitely Not the Opera on the CBC, which I’m told is sort of the Canadian equivalent to This American Life on NPR. I was for their episode “What happens when you make your ‘private parts’ public,” and of course I talked about boobquake. It was a fun interview, and you can listen here. This interview was especially nifty because I actually got to go into NPR’s Seattle studio to record it. Happens to be a couple blocks from my lab, and I got to feel all officially with the fancy mikes and headphones instead of a shoddy webcam and Skype.

Oh, and boobquake made PC World’s top 8 Facebook memes. Woo.

And I just got a lovely email from a college student who’s on a Forensics team (not CSI forensics, the speech and debate type). She’s used boobquake as her topic for four competitions, and placed first in the last three! Congrats, Kait!

Some of my classmates joked that I should talk about boobquake for my end of the quarter research presentation on Friday, but I don’t think the department would appreciate that much. Sigh, guess I’ll go back to finishing my actual science then…

I like it to actually have a point

There’s been a new meme running around Facebook recently. If you haven’t heard about it, or if you’ve been confused by it, allow me to post the original message to explain what it is:

Remember the game last year about what colour bra you were wearing at the moment? The purpose was to increase awareness of October Breast Cancer Awareness month. It was a tremendous success and we had men wondering for days what was with the colors and it made it to the news. This year’s game has to do with your handbag/purse, where we put our handbag the moment we get home for example “I like it on the couch”, “I like it on the kitchen counter”, “I like it on the dresser” well u get the idea. Just put your answer as your status with nothing more than that and cut n paste this message and forward to all your FB female friends to their inbox. The bra game made it to the news. Let’s see how powerful we women really are!!! REMEMBER – DO NOT PUT YOUR ANSWER AS A REPLY TO THIS MESSAGE- PUT IT IN YOUR STATUS!!! PASS THIS TO EVERY WOMAN YOU KNOW

How is this raising awareness? Or more importantly, who the fuck isn’t aware of breast cancer by now? We don’t need to be raising awareness that it exists. We need to raise awareness about self examinations, mammograms, or places where we can donate money. That will actually save lives. How is posting a cryptic facebook status update that’s purposefully meant to confuse people saving the lives of people who suffer from breast cancer?

Because it isn’t meant to raise awareness or save lives. The point of this is to titillate. Now, I’m not going to pretend I’m above juvenile humor – I just made a post giggling at naughty sounding scientific words. But this is even bellow all of the “I Heart Boobies” t-shirts – even though those reduce survivors to their breasts, at least they actually raise money for research, treatment, and prevention.

But this is just sad. I think this redditor sums up how I feel quite nicely:

I’m a dude. I thought some of my facebook friends were just horny and proud of it, so when I read things like “I like it on the table / couch / car,” I thought, “Good for you! You’re owning your sexuality, even if it’s some awkward public declaration of it! Go do your thing!” To find out it’s about breast cancer ruins both the campaign and my friends’ false sexual declarations.

Our society needs to stop treating women’s sexuality like it’s only acceptable when used as a tool or in jest. It’s just as sad that women are perpetuating it. They’re effectively saying “This is funny because I would never actually talk openly about my sexual preferences, or even admit to being sexual, and I like confusing guys so they’ll give me attention by posting a bunch of comments to my status!” Cut it out, ladies.

I like my purse on my floor. And I like having sex wherever I goddamn want.

Now go here to actually do something worthwhile – one click has a sponsor fund a free mammogram.

A new boobquake song?

It’s called Boys Love Earthquakes by Nichole Alden. I think it has to be about boobquake, but it’s not explicitly clarified anywhere. Here are some of the lyrics:

Cover your head
Beauty must hide
Silence your lips
Keeping Inside
Far too tempting to uncover what they might
Beautiful girl, this submission isn’t right

Lower your head
Body must bow
Purity gives excuse to disavow
Your defiance will devour and deny
Beautiful girl, there’s no reason to comply

Don’t shake, shake, shake
They don’t allow
Don’t shake, shake, shake
It’s all your fault now

It’s not exactly my type of music, but I like the lyrics. If it’s not officially about boobquake, I think it definitely could be.

Boys Love Earthquakes by Nichole ALDEN

(Via Common Sense Atheism)

Boobquake: The Game

I can now add “Having a game made out of it” to my boobquake meme’s growing list of accomplishments. I’m not sure where it fits in with appearing on the Colbert Report and having a Wikipedia article, but it’s up there.

Here’s the trailer:
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P6y0G_u8gz0&fs=1&hl=en_US]
I admit I felt about every emotion possible while watching that.

  • Awe that I did something that inspired a game
  • Amusement at the juvenile humor
  • Annoyance at the fact that it’s only juvenile humor. Couldn’t put her in a lab coat? Have earthquake facts thrown in? I know it’s hard to believe, but boobquake was about skepticism, not boobs.
  • Happiness that it’s at least well done – the art is wonderful
  • Disgruntledness that someone’s making a game off of my idea without ever asking for my permission, and potentially making money from it
  • Disappointment that you run over women in burkas
  • Guilty glee that you get to run over angry feminists
  • …More disappointment that I actually look more like the angry feminist, not society’s stereotypical view of beauty (skinny, boobs hanging out, and blonde)

Hm. Mixed feelings indeed.

Though I have a hard time staying disgruntled when I know the creators are two punk-rock looking Germans who are my age and have great art skills, great bright red hair, and great Mario wallpaper.

(Via PahuPahu)