It is a hypothesis, but it has a scientific basis. It is raised by the team led by seismologist Yuxuan Chen from the University of Missouri (Columbia). Earthquakes could follow a mathematical pattern. It's called "Devil's Ladder". This implies that seismic events are separated by long but irregular intervals of silence. The research was published in the "Bulletin of the Seismological Society".
The finding differs from the pattern predicted by the classic earthquake model. This indicates that earthquakes (series of earth vibrations) would occur periodically or quasi-periodically, depending on the cycles of accumulation and release of tectonic stress. In other words, earthquakes would occur at more or less predictable time intervals. This corresponds to the activity of plate tectonics. However, Chen and his colleagues claim the opposite. Periodic sequences are relatively rare.
Complete the catalog
The researchers point out that their results could have an impact on the assessment of the earthquake risk. For example, they discovered something about these large earthquake sequences (those with events of magnitude 6.0 or higher). Because they are "more explosive" than expected, it is more likely that similar events will be repeated soon after when earthquakes are grouped. But there is one detail. If earthquakes repeat over days or months, which of all should we consider as a key when creating the pattern?
Seismologists have created seismic catalogs to predict disasters. You have compiled all available earthquake records by zone throughout history to discover a possible repeat pattern. However, Chen's team points out that geological times are much longer than humans. As a result, these catalogs may contain events that are too short to cover the entire pattern of the ladder. This makes it "difficult to know whether the few events in a catalog occurred within the same earthquake group or not". What if you were already part of another group of earthquakes? "For the same reason, we have to be careful when evaluating past events using an incomplete catalog."
The devil's ladder is also called the cantor function. It is a fractal that is demonstrated by nonlinear dynamic systems. In this case, a change anywhere can affect the behavior of the entire system. In nature, for example, the pattern can be found in various examples. Sedimentation sequences, changes in altitude, reversals in the earth's magnetic field …
Earthquakes could follow a mathematical pattern … that occurred with a murderer
Chen had an unexpected encounter with this mathematical pattern. “I came across this topic a few years ago. I read about a study by two UCLA researchers on the pattern of a notorious serial killer, Andrei Chikatilo. He killed at least 52 people in the former Soviet Union from 1979 to 1990, "he explains. The pattern of their killings was the devil's ladder. Investigators were trying to understand how the criminal's thoughts worked. They wanted to know how neurons function in the Stimulating each other's brains. I was intrigued because I realized that earthquakes work in a similar way. Exploding one fault could stimulate activity in other faults by transmitting stress. "
In the case of Chikatilo, every murder coincided with a psychotic outbreak. This was due to the simultaneous activation of several neurons in the brain. When one of these neurons fires, the same thing happens to others. The result was an uncontrollable psychotic outbreak and the need to kill. Afterwards, the neurons calm down until it happens again. So there is usually a period of calm between one murder and another.
The factors that control the grouped seismic events are complex. For example, they can include stress that stimulates an earthquake and the transfer of stress between mistakes. He notes that the intervals appear to be inversely related to the background tectonic stretch rate for a region or zone.
Earthquakes could follow a mathematical pattern that already exists in nature. The information this provides opens a window into the future.