the "big picture" (follow up)

back in january i posted a blog about this photo

however, today i read a fantastic article that paints a much better "big picture" than i could before.  some of the things in here were real "eye openers" for me.  i think it is profound and worth your time.  read it here.

as a side note, recently i was chatting with dan and lorraine over dinner.  i admitted to them that i did not understand how an earthquake could have such an exact epicenter.  if earthquakes were caused by the shifting of massive tectonic plates across fault lines that are enormous.. how does a single point epicenter make any sense?

detonating electrical double layers?  now that makes a lot more sense to me.  

i love science.


  1. I think ideas of underground lightning have been around since Benjamin Franklin, and are pretty rad. But I dont think they are the main contributor.

    While earthquakes do sometimes involve shifting tectonic plates, it doesnt all slip at the exact time. There is a point (focus) at which it starts, or where the shear stresses overcome the the rock and either create or re-fracture a fault line, and then it spreads from there.

    Much like a guitar string has to be plucked at some point, and then it travels down the string with diminishing energy. Imagine a guitar string without ends (bear with me). As you pluck it, right before you release the guitar string, there is potential energy (PE) stored all along the string, but it is greatest where your finger is holding it back. As that wave travels down the string, more PE is being released, but in a diminishing fashion.

    Other examples of this happening in 3 dimensions instead of 1 is superheating / supercooling water without pressuring it. Once it is supercooled (we'll use that), there is a lot of potential energy (PE), but not enough that it can spontaneously release. But if you shake it, and give it a point of nucleation (like the focus of an earthquake), then a release of PE radiates spherically from the focus.


    That being said, there is a whole lot of electric phenomena occuring in the earth that can only guess about, so I'm not saying electricity has nothing to do with it. I am just saying that a focus is a very real thing that occurs in almost everything concerning wave mechanics.

  2. Did you read the article I posted?

  3. Yeah, I read the article. And it has a few really cool ideas, but a few that I dont think are valid.

    For example: Quartz does generate electricity when under pressure, along with a lot of other crystalline structures, called the piezoelectric effect. It is wildly inefficient, though, and the force generating it is of a much greater magnitude than the resulting force, so this is generally ignored when looking at the "bigger picture". It is speculated that the generation of, or changes in piezo fields can be sensed by a lot of fish, whales, etc. and could be an explanation of why there are a lot of beached whales or fish kills preceding an earthquake. But birds, cats, dogs, and other animals seem to sense it as well, which makes some think it is the earth's magnetic shif.... oh crap. I am monologuing on a tangent. Suffice it to say that piezo effects are negligible on the energy scale of an earthquake.

    The other problem I see in this article is that the author refers to capacitors first, how that elegantly explains lightning in air (a non-conductive medium), and then how the molten core is magma, and completely conductive. The only explanation he gives is that there is an charge generated by solar winds in the ionosphere (true), and it generates a countercharge in the earth's mantle (very unlikely). When the two come in close contact, i.e. a volcanic caldera, lightning can occur between the magma and the atmosphere.

    This is a far cry from earthquakes, however. The earth is conductive, and would interrupt this theoretical capacitor between the ionosphere and molten earth. Also - the density of the ionosphere and that of magma is wildly different, both in terms of mass and charge, making this a very weak force, and an unlikely cause of earthquakes.

    And the nail in the coffin, in my mind, is that there is no known correlation between fluctuations in the ionosphere and earthquake occurance. There is, however, so great a correlation between earthquakes and tectonic plate boundaries that people have stopped looking for any other explanation.

    That being said - the occurance of increased lighting (may I say ball lightning here?) in volcanic activity almost PROVES that there are electric phenomena occuring in the earth that we know nothing about. And with our current ability to monitor subterranean electrical activity (or complete lack thereof), who's to say what's going on? It'd be awesome to find out, document it, and see what effect it has on earthquakes, weather, geothermal activity, the earth's magnetic field, etc.

  4. brad we need to hang out and chat. I think we could have some exciting conversations. I've got a bag of question waiting for you


  5. Agreed. I hang out with music & art majors, for the most part, so sorry I seemed to jump on this. I got really excited, and geekgasmed a little. I miss technical intelligence..


Thanks for the comments.