Unusual Animal Behavior & Earthquake Prediction
by David Jay Brown
I began researching the strange
and mysterious behaviors of animals that are often reported prior to
earthquakes in 1996 as part of a collaboration with British biologist
Rupert Sheldrake. The initial research that I did became the backbone for
the section on this subject in Dr. Sheldrake's bestselling book on the
unexplained powers of animals, Dogs That Know When Their Owners are
Coming Home. (This information was updated, with a summary of the
earthquake data that has accumulated since Dogs That Know was published,
in Dr. Sheldrake's more recent book The Sense of Being Stared At.) Since
I compiled more material than Dr. Sheldrake could fit into the section in
his book on this subject, I summarized much of this material in an
earlier version of this essay, portions of which have been widely
reprinted in books, magazines, and numerous web sites on the Internet.
As a result of this
article--which presently comes up as the first item on Google's search
engine when one types in the phrase "unusual animal behavior"--I have
received many hundreds of reports from people all overthe world. Almost
every time there is a major earthquake somewhere on the planet, I receive
a number of reports, sometimes a dozen or more. The many anecdotes that I
have received have been carefully saved in an ever-growing database. To
follow is a revised and updated version of my earlier article, which
incorporates material from the many reports that I have received, as well
as a more thorough examination of the theories that have been proposed to
explain this phenomenon, and a look into someof the new research findings.
There is much
anecdotal evidence suggesting that some animals have the ability to
detect sensory stimuli which humans can not--even with our most sensitive
technological instruments. That many animals have access to a perceptual
range exceeding those of humans is scientifically well-established, but
it also appears that many animals have sensory abilities not currently
explained by traditional science. For example, homing pigeons have
remarkable abilities to navigate to their desired location using
abilities that are not fully understood.
significantly, Dr. Sheldrake and colleagues (such as myself) have
demonstrated how some pets appear to anticipate the arrivalof their owner.
Regardless of the time of day, some animals appear to sense when their
human companion is returning, without receiving any known physical
signals. The animals usually express this by waiting in the same spot
each time--such as by the door or window--shortly before their owner
arrives home. This research is documented In Dr. Sheldrake's book on the
unexplained powers of animals, Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are
unexplained powers of animals with Dr. Sheldrake turned out to be an
extremely fruitful endeavor. In the initial stages of our research, Dr.
Sheldrake brought to my attention the following fact, which made a great
impression on me. Animals have been very carefully studied In laboratory
settings, as well as In the wild; however, the unique bond that forms
between human and pet had never been carefully explored scientifically.
This glaringly obvious, empty niche in the history of science, which had
eluded me and many others, seemed to hold great promise.
When I began this
research I already knew that many pet owners believe that they have
powerful "psychic" bonds with their pets, and often describe their
connection with the animal as "telepathic". Dr. Dolittle isn't the only
person who claims to be able to communicate with animals;
many people say that
they can do this, and, in fact, numerous books have been written on the
subject. Some people claim that their pets have precognitive abilities,
and, of course, others have noticed that some animals act in peculiar
ways just before an earthquake strikes.
experienced the latter phenomenon myself prior to a Los Angeles
earthquake In 1990. I was in graduate school at the time, working in the
learning and memory lab on the fifth floor of the University of Southern
California's Neuroscience Building. I was working with three other
graduate students and three calm rabbits. Suddenly the rabbits became
noticeably agitated. They started hopping around in their cages wildly for
around five minutes. Then a 5.2 earthquake sent the whole building
rolling and swaying.
After my experience
with the anxious rabbits I have learned that, since the beginning of
recorded history, virtually every culture In the world has reported
observations of unusual animal behavior prior to earthquakes (and--to a
lesser extent--volcanic eruptions), but conventional science has never
been able to adequately explain the phenomenon. Nonetheless, the Chinese
have employed such sightings for hundreds of years as an important part
of a nationally-orchestrated earthquake warning systems, with some
significantly, on February 4, 1975 the Chinese successfully evacuated the
city of Haicheng several hours before a 7.3 magnitude earthquake--based
primarily on observations of unusual animal behavior. 90% of the city's
structures were destroyed in the quake, but the entire city had been
evacuated before it struck. Nearly 90,000 lives were saved. Since then
China has been hit by a number of major quakes that they were not as
prepared for, and they have also had some false alarms, so their system is
certainly not fool-proof. But never-the-less, they have made a remarkable
achievement by demonstrating that earthquakes do not always strike
classic work on the subject of earthquakes and unusual animal
behavior--When the Snakes Awake--details numerous consistent accounts of
the phenomenon from all over the world. Although these behavior patterns
are well-documented, most geologists that I have spoken with at the United
States Geological Survey (USGS) don't take it very seriously. The
official word from the USGS is that there aren't any earthquake prediction
techniques--unusual animal behavior observations included--which perform
any better than chance.
This is ironic and
unfortunate, because the USGS itself funded a Stanford Research Institute
(SRI) study for several years, back in the early eighties, which showed
promising results. inspired by China's success. In 1975 William Kautz
(Click here to read an interview with Kautz) and Leon Otis created
"Project Earthquake Watch". They recruited hundreds of volunteers from
all over California to observe their animals for any unusual behavior, and
call a toll-free hotline number to record their observations. Kautz and
Otis got significant results--that is, before some earthquakes more
people reported unusual animal behavior--but the USGS stopped funding the
study for reasons that no on that I've spoken to so far seems to know.
Even harder to understand is why today the official word from the USGS,
and the National Earthquake Prediction Evaluation Council, is that no
form of earthquake prediction performs better than chance.
In fact, the notion
that odd animal behavior can help people predict earthquakes is perceived
by most traditional geologists in the West as folklore, or an old wives
tale, and is often cast into the same boat as sightings of poltergeists,
Elvis, and the Loch Ness Monster. The ancient Greeks, on the other hand,
considered an understanding of the relationship between unusual animal
behavior and earthquakes to be an esoteric form of Secret Knowledge. In
ancient Persia (what is now Iran) there were wise men who predicted
earthquakes using a forecasting process that included digging wells,
looking at the moon/stars, and observing animal behavior. That such
strong support for the application of this knowledge still exists in the
East--in long-lived civilizations like China and Japan--is testimony to
the reality of the phenomenon, as they have witnessed many more
earthquakes in their long histories than has a comparatively young
country like the United States.
But not all Western
geologists are close-minded with regard to the phenomenon. James Berkland--a
retired USGS geologist from Santa Clara County, California--claims to be
able to predict earthquakes with greater than 75% accuracy rate simply by
counting the number of lost pet ads in the daily newspaper classifieds,
and correlating this relationship to lunar-tide cycles. This maverick
geologist has been meticulously saving and counting lost pet ads for many
years. Berkland says that the number of missing dogs and cats goes up
significantly for as long as two weeks prior to an earthquake. I
Interviewed Berkland (Click here to read the interview with Berkland),
and spent many hours in the local library, rolling through microfilm
collections of the San Jose Mercury News, counting lost pet ads in an
attempt to check out Berkland's claims. (Click here to read the
scientific paper on this topic, written by Rupert Sheldrake and myself.)
variations due to the lunar cycles, he says, create "seismic windows" of
greater earthquake probability. When the number of missing pets also
suddenly rises, then--bingo--a quake is likely to happen. Berkland said
he thinks the USGS won't accept unusual animal data because it doesn't
jive with their current scientific paradigm and hypotheses. (Researchers
who attempt earthquake prediction are often lumped into the same category
as fortune tellers and scam artists by traditional geologists.) It is not
surprising then to hear that Berkland was suspended from his position as
Santa Clara county geologist for claiming to predict earthquakes--such as
the 1989 Loma Prieta quake in Northern California, which was preceded by
numerous reports of odd animal behavior.
Unusual behavior is
difficult to define, and determining if there is a characteristic
behavior is not a simple, clear-cut process, although there are some
distinct patterns which have emerged. For example, an intense fear that
appears to make some animals cry and bark for hours, and others flee in
panic has been reported often. Equally characteristic is the apparent
opposite effect of wild animals appearing confused, disoriented, and
losing their usual fear of people. Some other common observations are
that animals appear agitated, excited, nervous, overly aggressive, or
seem to be trying to burrow or hide.
For example, after a
6.8 magnitude earthquake that struck the Pacific North-West in 2001, a
woman from Washington state wrote me saying that her goats were "running
around frantically in circles. One goat was simply running in a tight
circle, as tightly as he could...which I have never seen a goat do
before. Then our indoor dog began barreling up and down the stairs and
barking wildly. As I stood to go out and see what was going on, the
In 1996 I conducted
a telephone survey of Santa Cruz County households to find out how many
people have observed unusual animal behavior prior to earthquakes. Out of
the 200 people randomly selected from the phone book, 15% told me they
had observed an animal acting oddly before an earthquake. When I
conducted a telephone survey of Los Angeles County the following year I
found precisely the same figure, 15% out of 200. Some common observations
were animals appearing frightened, agitated, panic-stricken, excited, or
A number of people
found their ordinarily mellow cats suddenly darted off and hid, or paced
around crying for a few minutes before the quake. I was told of goats and
horses leaping around wildly, noisy birds suddenly becoming silent, or a
whole flock of seagulls taking off all at once just before an earthquake.
A few people told me that they noticed the number of roadkill increasing
for several days before a quake. A lot of people mentioned dogs vanishing
or barking uncontrollably.
One Santa Cruz woman
told me their neighbor's dog jumped a fence just before the 1989 Loma
Prieta quake in Northern California, then the dog sat on her daughter
through the quake, as though trying to protect her. Other stories are
just plain bizarre. One woman said that her cat did a back-flip off her
balcony. Another woman reported that her cat leaped out of a two-story
window shortly before a quake.
majority of accounts pertain to dogs and cats, there are also many
stories about other types of animals In the wild, on farms, and in zoos;
including horses, cows, deer, goats, possums, rats, chickens, and other
birds. The behavior has been reported in many other animal species as
well, including fish, jellyfish, reptiles, and even Insects. Deep sea
fish, for example, have been caught close to the surface of the ocean on
numerous occasions around Japan prior to earthquakes. (Tributsch, 1982)
in particular--are reputed to become agitated before earthquakes, and at
times have been reported to actually leap out of the water onto dry land.
Snakes have been known to leave their underground places of hibernation
In the middle of the winter prior to quakes, only to be found frozen on
the surface of the snow. Mice are commonly reported to appear dazed
before quakes, and allow themselves to easily be captured by hand. Homing
pigeons are said to take much longer to navigate to their destination
prior to earthquakes.
Hens have been
reported laying fewer eggs, or no eggs at all, and pigs have been
observed aggressively trying to bite one another before earthquakes (Tributsch,
1982). Someone in Northern Iran, close to the epicenter of a 6.2
magnitude earthquake that occurred on May 28, 2004, wrote me to report
that, "The Hens started to become extremely noisy about a week before the
earthquake and stayed extremely quiet on the day of the earthquake. They
also laid no eggs that day."
Bees have been seen
evacuating their hive in a panic, minutes before an earthquake, and then
not returning until fifteen minutes after the quake ended. Even creatures
such as millipedes, leeches, squid, and ants have been reported to
exhibit abnormal behavior prior to earthquakes (Miller, 1996).
behaviors generally occur anywhere from moments to weeks in advance of a
quake. Most of the people I have spoken with who have witnessed this
phenomenon, observed the strange behavior within twenty-four hours of a
quake, although some observations occurred more than a week before the
quake struck. Berkland has suggested that there are possibly two primary
precursory earthquake signals--one several weeks before, and the other
one just moments before the quake. A lot of reports appear to confirm
A number of theories
have been proposed to explain why animals sometimes act in peculiar ways
prior to earthquakes, and what the precursory signals that the animals
are picking up on might be. One of the earliest ideas on the subject comes
from an ancient Japanese legend. During the Middle Ages it was believed
that earthquakes were caused by the rustling of giant catfish that lived
underground. This mythological idea, which has found artistic expression
in numerous Japanese wood-print blocks, probably arose from observations
of catfish behaving in strange ways prior to earthquakes.
lead a rather sluggish life. They live In muddy river and lake bottoms,
and usually don't move around all that much. However, catfish have been
observed becoming so wildly excited and agitated prior to earthquakes,
that they will sometimes actually leap out of the water onto dry land.
Numerous reports suggest that fish seem to be particularly sensitive to
whatever the precursory earthquake signals might be.
theories that have been proposed to explain this phenomenon generally
fall into six major categories--ultrasound vibrations, magnetic field
fluctuations, electric field variations, piezoelectric airborne Ions,
brain changes, and precognition--which I discuss in detail below.
Because many animals
possess auditory capacities beyond the human range,
it has been
suggested that some animals may be reacting to ultrasound emitted as
microseisms from fracturing rock, or other subtle sounds, vibrations, or
movements of the earth. (Armstrong, 1969) Humans hear within a frequency
range between 16 and 20,000 Hz, while dogs and cats can hear at least up
to 60,000 Hz. However, one of the primary problems with the ultrasound
theory is that some of the animals that respond in advance to earthquakes
have hearing that is no more sensitive than our own. For example, pigeons
and songbirds hear less well than humans, or, at best, only as well, so
their unusual behavior prior to earthquakes can not be traced to
arises from the fact that small earth tremors and minor earthquakes are
common in seismically active areas. For example, In California there are
generally hundreds of small earthquakes (magnitude 3 or less) every year.
If animals were so sensitive to weak vibrations then they would
frequently give false alarms in these areas. Most importantly, if so many
species of animals can pick up characteristic vibrations before major
earthquakes, then seismologists should be able to identify them with
their sensitive instruments, yet they have failed to do so, despite years
of intensive research.
have suggested that animals may be responding to radon or other gases
released by the earth prior to an earthquake. It Is well-known that in
the rhythm of lunar tides, and under certain geological conditions, the
above-ground concentration of swamp gases, such as methane, can change
slightly. The gases are also sometimes released from the ground during
earth tremors. Since almost all animals (apes and most birds excluded)
have a keener sense of smell than humans do, it seems reasonable to
suggest than some animals may be reacting to the smell of unpleasant
gases released from the bowels of the earth prior to earthquakes. Animals
have also been reported to act frightened before volcanic eruptions,
which provides further evidence for this notion.
We know that the
nose of a dog Is about a million times more sensitive than that of a
human, and some insects (such as the silk moth) have extraordinary
sensing abilities. For example, at mating time the female silk moth
produces less than a millionth of a gram of sex attractant, which Is
distributed by the wind. A male, with its hypersensitive antenna, can
receive the mating signal from as far as seven miles away. A single
attractant molecule is enough to arouse his attention. A few sexy
molecules are all it takes to move the insect into purposeful action,
and-off he goes In hot pursuit of the female.
some species are far more sensitive to olfactory stimuli than we are,
others, like songbirds, are less sensitive, and there doesn't seem to be
a correlation between an animals' sense of smell and their sensitivity to
earthquakes. There also isn't any evidence that earthquakes are generally
preceded by the leaking of gases out of the earth. Even If such gases are
released through tiny, newly-created cracks in the earth's surface before
earthquakes, then why do animals not respond with fear when when they
burrow through the ground? Likewise, why don't animals panic when people
dig holes, or stumble upon gas-filled cavities? Why do songbirds--who are
otherwise so indifferent to odors--sometimes become so excited prior to
an earthquake? And how could dogs possibly tolerate the air pollution of
cities without panicking as they often do before earthquakes?
It seems unlikely
that the smell of unpleasant gases Is a primary factor In what causes the
unusual pre-earthquake behaviors. However, since some organisms respond to
changes in the polarity and concentration of atmospheric ions, it has
been suggested that this sensitivity enables certain animals to detect
the air-Ionizing effects of radon released from the ground in advance of
certain earthquakes. The effects of radon gas on the level of air
ionization can also be expected to change the electric field gradient,
and dozens of animals (including humans) have been shown to be sensitive
to changes In the electric field gradient of the atmosphere. (Chalmers,
1967) This Is discussed in more detail In the upcoming section on electric
Theory Another candidate for the underlying cause of unusual animal
behavior prior to earthquakes is fluctuations In the earth's magnetic
field. Because some animals have a sensitivity to variations In the
earth's magnetic field (usually as a means of orientation), and since
variations in the magnetic field occur near the epicenters of earthquakes
(Chapman and Bartels, 1940), it has been suggested that this is what the
animals are picking up on. Reactions to weak magnetic fields have been
shown to exist in bacteria, termites, beetles, and fish (Barnothy, 1969),
so the possibility can not be dismissed that some animals may
occasionally recognize the magnetic-field changes of 1-100 gamma that
sometimes appear before earthquakes.
However, it is
unlikely that magnetic fields alone are the sole cause of unusual
pre-earthquake behavior, as experiments have shown that magnetic field
disturbances cause confusion in animals at worst, not the fear and panic
that has been witnessed prior to earthquakes. Also, magnetic field changes
usually appear much too early before an earthquake (sometimes months
before), and the magnetic field variations to which animals would normally
be exposed to-because of day-to-night variations and frequent magnetic
storms in the ionosphere--are at least as great as those variations
associated with earthquakes. But magnetic field variations may be part of
what animals are responding to, as electromagnetic signals are strongly
associated with earthquakes. Extending the field of study beyond just
magnetism into electromagnetism--which covers a wider sphere of
Influence--may be key to understanding what Is occurring with these
Marsha Adams, at the
Time Research Institute in San Francisco, developed sensors that measure
low-frequency electromagnetic signals, which, she says, allow her to
predict earthquakes with over 90% accuracy. Adams set up a network of
electromagnetic sensors along some of the major faultlines in California,
and from the input she receives--which Is analyzed by specialized
computer software--she issues weekly earthquake forecasts. Adams suspects
that low-frequency electromagnetic signals-created by the fracturing of
crystalline rock deep In the earth along fault lines can have biological
consequences, and that her Instruments are picking up the same signals
that sensitive animals do.
As a result of this
technology--which is supported by private subscription, not public
funds--Adams says that her system makes unusual animal behavior
observations obsolete. However, since It has not been clearly determined
what it Is that the animals are picking up on, complete confidence in the
electromagnetic sensors may be premature, and Adams' 90% accuracy claim
hasn't been confirmed by an Independent study.
As part of my
research with Dr. Sheldrake we subscribed to Adams' earthquake prediction
service for four months. Since there weren't any earthquakes during this
period we can't confirm her accuracy rating. However, she didn't make any
false predictions. Adams' work deserves more serious attention, and
further support for her belief Is provided in the section below on
electrical field theory.
As we discussed at
the beginning of this section, fish are known to have a high degree of
sensitivity to variations in electric fields, and this appears to be an
important clue for understanding how animals react to pre-earthquake
signals. The surface of the earth has a constant electrical field, and
because telluric current variations (natural electric currents flowing
near the earth's surface) have also been noted before some earthquakes, It
has been suggested that this may be what the fish are reacting to. (Ulomov
and Malashev, 1971) To test this hypothesis, Motoll Ikeya and his
colleagues at Osaka University in Japan, have done numerous studies where
they exposed a variety of animals--including minnows, catfish, eels, and
earthworms--to a weak electrical field.
experiments were conducted to see if exposure to a weak electrical field
could elicit the pre-earthquake animal behaviors-what the Japanese call
Seismic Animal Anomalous Behavior (SAAB). Ikeya's experiments produced
interesting results. Fish showed panic reactions (Ikeya et al, 1996), and
earthworms moved out of the soil and swarmed when the current was
applied. (Ikeya et al, 1998) Unlike their American counterparts, some
Japanese researchers take SAAB research quite seriously. A group of
Japanese researchers have even gone so far as to do genetic experiments,
to see If they can find specific genes that encode for a sensitivity to
pre-earthquake signals, which would make some animal breeds more
sensitive than others. (However, these studies by Individual Japanese
scientists do not necessarily reflect the general attitude of most
contemporary seismologists In Japan. When I Interviewed Professor Junzo
Kasahara--a prominent geophysicist at the Earthquake Prediction Research
Institute at the University of Tokyo--he told me that most seismologists
in Japan don't take the SAAB research that seriously.)
author of When the Snakes Awake, has suggested that a piezoelectric
effect may be responsible for triggering the pre-earthquake behaviors in
animals, and this explanation seems significantly more plausible than the
ultrasound and gas-leaking theories described above. This theory makes
sense because of the following facts. When certain crystals-such as
quartz-are arranged in a way that pressure is applied along particular
portions of the crystal's axes, the distribution of positive and negative
ions can shift slightly.
In this way pressure
changes to produce electrical charging of the crystal's surfaces. On the
average, the earth's crust consists of 15% quartz, and in certain areas
it can be as high as 55%.
Tributsch, the piezoelectric effect of the quartz Is capable of
generating enough electrical energy to account for the creation of
airborne ions before and during an earthquake. This electrostatic
charging of aerosol particles may be what the animals are reacting to.
Since some animals have also been observed acting frightened prior to
thunderstorms, and are known to flee areas, or show signs of distress
before a storm arrives, it may be that they have evolved a sensitivity to
electrical changes In their environment.
The Nervous System
and Electric Fields:
Some people say that
they feel an uncomfortable pressure in their head, or a persistent
headache that lasts for weeks, which suddenly vanishes moments before an
earthquake strikes. Because magnetite has been found in some animal
brains, Berkland thinks that it is possible that animals may be reacting
to their own headaches caused by changes in the earth's electromagnetic
field. He said that a dog was observed chewing on willow bark--the plant
from which aspirin In derived--prior to an earthquake, and he believes
that this was an attempt by the dog to self-medicate himself for the
Berkland also told
me that some people with Multiple Sclerosis--a disease caused by Improper
insulation around the electrically-conductive fibers of the nervous
system--experience an increase in symptoms weeks before an earthquake.
Since the nervous system is an electrochemical system, it doesn't seem
surprising that geologically-based electrical field changes would disrupt
animal behavior, other mysterious phenomena are often connected with
earthquakes. The regular eruptions of geysers have been interrupted. Well
levels have been reported to change, or the water In them has been known
to become cloudy. Magnets have been said to temporarily lose their power.
Many people report that there is suddenly an unexplainable stillness In
the air, and that all around them everything becomes completely silent.
Strange lights are often seen glowing from the earth, and unusual fogs
have been reported. (Several years ago my girlfriend and I once witnessed
a spectacular display of "earth lights" for around a half hour one
evening in the Santa Cruz mountains of California, which are riddled with
fault lines. Click here to read an account of this experience.)
These phenomena are
all consistent with the notion that the odd animal behavior may result
from changes In the earth's electromagnetic field, or the release of
electrically-charged particles due to Intense pressure on crystalline
rock. It's interesting that a number of people claim to have sighted
UFO's hovering around earthquake sites. Even more puzzling to explain are
the reports of unusual animal behavior prior to so-called
experiences, which Karen Wesolowski--Executive Director of PEER (Program
for Extraordinary Experience Research)--told me about. (PEER Is an
organization that was founded by Harvard psychiatrist John Mack to study
people who claim to have been abducted by alien beings.)
The UFO sightings
are probably due to a phenomenon called "selsmoatmospheric luminescence",
where the release of electrically-charged particles from the earth causes
auras and lights to be seen. This, and other electrical anomalies, like
interference in radio and television broadcasts, seem best explained by
the electrical changes that occur prior to earthquakes.
Disruptions in The Mind
explanation for the psychological effects underlying the strange animal
behavior arises from the fact that electrically-charged ionic particles
have been shown to change neurotransmitter (chemical messenger) ratios in
animal brains. More specifically, electrically-charged ionic particles
have been shown to alter serotonin (a neurotransmitter responsible for
neural inhibition) levels In animal brains. Since charged ions may be
released prior to some earthquakes, It has been suggested that this may
explain the two seemingly contradictory behavior patterns discussed
earlier, where normally-calm pets seem to become frightened, and wild
animals often appear to lose their sense of fear.
Serotonin levels In
the brain help to mediate an animal's fear response. This Is why serotonin
re-uptake antidepressants like Prozac are prescribed for people with
social anxiety. By increasing serotonin availability the brain, the
emotion of fear is reduced. Pre-earthquake electrical field changes may
effect neurotransmitter levels In different species of animals' brains In
different ways, and this may account for the difference In reactions
between wild and domesticated animals. However, it does appear that
serotonin is, at least, one of the primary neurochemical variables that's
being altered prior to earthquakes. There could be others.
neurotransmitter changes could possibly help to explain another related
phenomenon. I've noticed that earthquakes (like solar eclipses) sometimes
trigger an intense consciousness-altering experience in people. People
often feel energized, emotionally open, and acutely sensitive following
earthquakes. Powerful bonding experiences often occur between people In
the aftermath of a quake. It's Interesting that people almost seem like
they're under the Influence of MDMA (Ecstasy, the controversial "rave"
drug which floods the brain with serotonin) after earthquakes. Earthquake
victims often walk around after the quake In a euphoric daze, hugging one
another and expressing feelings of love.
Although this is
likely to be true for any natural disaster that people share, there may
be more going on. Subjectively, earthquake experiences often take on
dreamlike qualities, or have a sense of unreality about them. Perhaps
this is because our most cherished notion of what is safe and solid in
the world--the very ground upon which we rest--becomes wobbly and
unstable. Our whole sense of reality is shaken with the earth, as one is
suddenly lifted up out of the mundane, and thrust into the center of what
seems to be an immensely important drama. This experience can be quite
intense, so it's not inconceivable to suppose that geologically-generated
electrical signals stimulate our nervous systems in ways that heighten
this experience by altering our neurotransmitter levels.
and Precognition Theories:
explanations for unusual pre-earthquake behavior come from the realm of
parapsychology. It could be that what the animals are actually
experiencing is a form of precognition, or they could be perceiving and
responding to stimuli that currently science has no way to measure.
Support for the notion of precognition is increased when one compares the
reports of unusual animal behavior with the even more puzzling reports of
strange animal behavior reported in England during World War II (which
Dr. Sheldrake--who has built up a database of such accounts--told me
about). Animals were said to act with fear and agitation prior to aerial
bomb raids, long before they could have possibly heard or felt the
vibrations from the approaching aircrafts. More recent evidence comes
from a woman I visited In Israel (Savyon Liebrecht, a popular writer),
who told me that during the 1991 Persian Gulf War her dog always ran into
the bomb shelter before the air raid siren sounded.
There Is actually
considerable scientific support for psi or psychic phenomena such as
telepathy and precognition, although much of the public, and even many
scientists, are unaware of this. Some of the most convincing evidence for
these types of phenomena were uncovered by Dean Radin, a renown psi
researcher and author of The Conscious Universe. (Click here to read an
interview with Radin.) Through a series of cleverly designed experiments,
Radin and his colleagues have demonstrated that some people can receive
information about the future in ways that conventional science is
currently unable to explain. For example, in one of Radin's experiments
subjects became physiologically aroused a few seconds before they were
presented with an
emotionally-stimulating image. (Radin, 1997) A galvanic skin response (GSR)
monitor measured the electrical conductivity of the subjects' skin while
they sat before a video screen that displayed a random series of Images.
Most of the images were of pleasant natural landscapes or cheerful
people, which generated a calming physiological response. However, every
so often, a disturbing or emotionally-arousing image (an autopsy photo or
an erotic photo, for example) would pop up on the screen, which would
generate a measurable response of increased electrodermal activity.
Although the computer was programmed to wait five seconds before
displaying the image (after it was randomly chosen), the subjects' GSR
changes began several seconds before the image was actually displayed.
One way of
interpreting this sort of phenomenon is to suppose that there are
time-reversed information flows. Perhaps information can travel backwards
through time. However, this possibility brings with it all the notorious
time-travel paradoxes that are well-known in science fiction, and there
may be a simpler explanation. An alternative is to reexamine our normal
concept of what we call the "present moment". Perhaps this is too limited.
What we call "now" is a moment that has a certain "thickness" in the
space-time continuum, some fraction of a second. But what we consciously
experience as "now" may be much shorter than what unconscious parts of
ourselves--or other animals--experience as "now".
It may be that some
animals experience a "thicker" awareness of the present moment than we
do, one that expands farther into the past and future than we are
normally capable of. By this same notion other animals may experience a
"thinner" slice of the present "moment" than we do. How "thick" the
present moment is objectively may be difficult to determine, especially
since physicists often view the entire space-time continuum-past,
present, and future-as a single "block". Physicists are at a loss to
explain why we experience time flowing in a single direction only--from
past to future--and quantum physics tells us that events only exist in a
determined fashion if they are observed or measured. So there Is plenty
of room for speculation in this area.
explanation for this mysterious phenomenon is, if you live in an
earthquake-prone region of the world, then paying attention to the animals
around you may not be a bad idea. California and Japanese residents, like
other people living along major fault zones on this planet, don't need to
be reminded of the devastation that an earthquake can bring, and
currently Western science doesn't have any reliable means of forecasting
these earthshaking events. Tens of thousands of lives are lost globally,
and billions of dollars in property damage occur on average every year as
a result of earthquakes. Any clues that may be used to help us predict
when and where the next earthquake is coming should be approached with an
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