Author Simon Winchester has written some nice books, including about earthquakes and other geological phenomena, but quake scientists say he's a little shaky in his latest stab at seismology. After the 9.0 Japan quake, Winchester took to Newsweek to posit that the quake raised the likelihood of a big San Andreas quake, mostly because it sits on the other side of the tectonic plate that shifted under the sea off Japan. Balderdash, say all the quake experts contacted by LiveScience.com.
"There is no evidence for a connection between all of the Pacific Rim earthquakes," Nathan Bangs, a geophysicist who studies tectonic processes at the University of Texas Institute for Geophysics, told Life's Little Mysteries. "I don't know what the basis is for the statements and implications in the Newsweek article, but there is no evidence that there is a link."
U.S. Geological Survey earthquake geologist David Schwartz, who heads the San Francisco Bay Area Earthquake Hazards Project, concurred. "Simon Winchester is a popular science writer, not a scientist," Schwartz said. "I'm not saying we won't have an earthquake here in California at some point in the future, but there really is no physical connection between these earthquakes."
Related but unconnected: Rebecca Solnit, author of "A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster," writes for Zocalo: "We can’t stop the earth from shaking. What we can do is stop rewarding journalism that spreads misinformation or hysteria, stop tolerating government responses that needlessly fracture communities, and start preparing with drills and gear."