This blog starts on a down note but I promise, it picks up steam as the story unfolds.
Earlier this month, a section of Malaysia, one that includes the country’s highest mountain, Kinabalu, was struck by a magnitude 6 earthquake. Tragically, the shaking of the mountain caused the death of 18 mountain climbers.
Unlike hurricanes, tornadoes and heavy rains, earthquakes have no ‘season’ which would thus allow adventurers to stay off of mountains during ‘earthquake season’. With earthquakes, everyone is just surprised. And, if one is dangling from a piton that is wedged into a crack in the rock and that rock decides to move several feet or fall off the rock face altogether, well, it can be a deadly surprise. This is one of the reasons that the Clown never took up mountain climbing, unless, like Pike’s Peak, you can drive up in a car.
In Malaysia, Mt. Kinabalu is considered sacred, in spite of the fact that the official national religion is Islam, which has a very strict policy of considering nothing sacred but Allah. I’m pretty certain that when ISIS finally storms Malaysia, they will tear down Mt. Kinabalu because it is a false idol. Allah Akbar!
After the tragic earthquake, there emerged a back story that has shaken the entire seismology community, which, of course, happens to the seismology community fairly routinely.
It seems that in late May, some foreign trekkers (a.k.a. people with questionable hygiene but good boots) were trekking around the parts of Mt. Kinabalu that don’t require ropes and pitons and they decided that the backdrop of the sacred mountain would be perfect for some nude photos. Four of the trekkers broke away from a larger group, against the wishes of their local guide, stripped down and took photos of one another in the buff, the perfect Facebook, Instagram and Twitter opportunity.
One might imagine this as just another instance of ugly Americans being boorish. One would be wrong, thankfully. The four included an English brother and sister (the English are weird in this way), a Canadian woman and a young fellow from Holland.
The four were arrested for indecent exposure, jailed and fined $1,300 US each. But then, the real crisis emerged.
According to Malaysian government officials, including Joseph Pairin Kitigan, Deputy Chief Minister of the state of Sabak, the trekkers’ nudity on Mt. Kinabalu had “angered the mountain” and played a significant role in causing the earthquake.
“There is almost certainly a connection,” said the Minister, echoing what many outraged locals had been saying ever since the earthquake hit; and who better to know the mood of the mountain but the locals, none of whom, it should be noted, has a degree in seismology.
A close personal friend of the Clown’s happens to be an earthquake expert and professor at Georgia Tech University. Let’s call him “Barry G. the PhD.” Given the latest purported connection between nudity and seismic activity, I was sure that he could help explain how the cause and effect are caused and effected.
“Well,” said Barry in his best professorial timbre, “This remains a theory until additional testing can be done. However, the mere inclusion of what we in the profession are calling the “Jaybird Factor”, has enormous potential to explain what has been, until now, a mostly unpredictable event. The entire seismic community is both excited and concerned.”
Why the concern?
“We’re troubled that earthquake prone areas, such as along the San Andreas Fault in California, could be impacted by the fact that many people in California traipse around in the nude. Eventually, the fault will have had quite enough and strike back.”
I mentioned that all four of the offending trekkers were between the ages of 22 and 24 and in good trekker shape but still the mountain was pissed.
“Excellent point,” said Barry. “It’s quite possible that if the miscreants had been middle-aged Germans who had spent a little too much time at Oktoberfest, the magnitude could easily have been 8.5 to 9.”
I asked if there was a study in the works at Georgia Tech to validate the Jaybird Factor.
“Oh, absolutely,” said the good professor. “I’ve already hand-selected 12 of our most attractive undergrads to participate, six females and six males. We’ve also rounded up a dozen Atlanta homeless people of indeterminate age and gender. We hope that the male to female ratio among this group is close to equal ”
According to Barry G. the PhD, the study will involve taking the two study groups to a major plate tectonic boundary. Then, in Step 1, the students or ‘control’ group, will frolic nude in and around the fault line. This will be followed by a period of observation to evaluate any resulting tremors. Dr. G indicates that he, as the lead researcher, will personally video record Step 1 of the test.
When Step 1 is complete, Step 2 will expose the same plate tectonic boundary area to the nude bodies of the ‘test’ group, the homeless segment. Again, there will be a (probably more anxious) period of observation along the fault to record seismic activity and measure the difference between the ‘control’ and the ‘test’ groups’ impact on geologic anger.
“Normally, I would remain in the area for the entire test,” said Professor G. “But once I have the video of the Step 1 portion, I’ll be rushing back to Atlanta to study every aspect of the video, topless to bottom, oh, sorry…top to bottom. Besides, I’d rather not be around should the ground gods get extra pissed at having to endure naked street people. Look, I could handle a magnitude 6 but anything much higher makes me nauseous.”
Given that the government of Malaysia is funding the study, results will not be made public, ever.
Observoid of the Day: “Plate Tectonics” is a geologic specialty that includes dinnerware, some people from IT and patent medicines. It’s hard to explain.