What is Big Think?  

We are Big Idea Hunters…

We live in a time of information abundance, which far too many of us see as information overload. With the sum total of human knowledge, past and present, at our fingertips, we’re faced with a crisis of attention: which ideas should we engage with, and why? Big Think is an evolving roadmap to the best thinking on the planet — the ideas that can help you think flexibly and act decisively in a multivariate world.

A word about Big Ideas and Themes — The architecture of Big Think

Big ideas are lenses for envisioning the future. Every article and video on bigthink.com and on our learning platforms is based on an emerging “big idea” that is significant, widely relevant, and actionable. We’re sifting the noise for the questions and insights that have the power to change all of our lives, for decades to come. For example, reverse-engineering is a big idea in that the concept is increasingly useful across multiple disciplines, from education to nanotechnology.

Themes are the seven broad umbrellas under which we organize the hundreds of big ideas that populate Big Think. They include New World Order, Earth and Beyond, 21st Century Living, Going Mental, Extreme Biology, Power and Influence, and Inventing the Future.

Big Think Features:

12,000+ Expert Videos

1

Browse videos featuring experts across a wide range of disciplines, from personal health to business leadership to neuroscience.

Watch videos

World Renowned Bloggers

2

Big Think’s contributors offer expert analysis of the big ideas behind the news.

Go to blogs

Big Think Edge

3

Big Think’s Edge learning platform for career mentorship and professional development provides engaging and actionable courses delivered by the people who are shaping our future.

Find out more
Close

NYC Earthquakicane Armageddon: Random distibutions and the folly of correlation

August 25, 2011, 2:28 PM
08-23-11-hurricane-irene_full_600

This week got me thinking - what are the chances that New York City could experience shaking from > M5 east coast earthquake and potentially be struck by a Category 2-3 hurricane in the same week? I have no idea how to do that math - but I would venture to guess that the chances are very, very small (like 'being killed by a banana that was dropped from a zeppelin' small).

So, if we're having two major events in the same week - earthquake and hurricane - how come nobody is trying to claim that they are related (well, nobody yet) to create an "earthquakicane", but there are people trying to say that earthquakes on different sides of the continent (and planet) are directly related? I mean, what are the chances that we would have a > M5 earthquake in southern Colorado and in northern Virginia on the same day? That has to be related, right? Correlation means causation!

People outside after evacuating in New York City during the August 23, 2011 Virginia Earthquake.

The answer to that is a very likely "no." We've talked about this before, but I think this week shows how easily the human mind tries to make correlations* between like events that are, for the most part, distributed randomly and doesn't make that same connection between unlike events. I mean, unless you believe in HAARP nonsense or that the government is hiding the 2012 evidence, you would never think that a hurricane and earthquake were causally related, so why the jump to think that earthquakes thousands of miles apart would be related? I'm not sure, beyond the idea that humans love to put things in order - so why not lump earthquakes together? (Oh yeah, and we're having more earthquakes, right?)

The next time we have a clustering of earthquakes around the globe, or a few volcanic eruptions in close temporal proximity, remember the NYC hurricane-earthquake week of 2011. Random distributions can cause clustering just as easily as it can cause quiet times. Armageddon it ain't.

* By correlation here, I mean the idea that "A leads to B because they are close in time/space", so I am wrapping the whole causation and correlation loop together. I'm find with correlation, it is the attribution of causation that requires exceptional proof.

Top left: Hurricane Irene seen on August 23, 2011.

 

NYC Earthquakicane Armagedd...

Newsletter: Share: