Surprisingly, the probability that an earthquake should reoccur in any part of the world is smaller, the longer the time since the last quake took place. This is one of the conclusions reached by the physicist Álvaro Corral, researcher at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB). Corral has been the first to observe that there is a relation between consecutive quake-to-quake time intervals that follows a universal distribution of probability. This in turn suggests the existence of a simple physical mechanism that regulates the process of earthquake generation. The research is to be published shortly in the prestigious journal Physical Review Letters.
If you throw a loaded dice, no-one can know the result beforehand, as this will be random; but if the dice is thrown a great number of times, one given result will come up more times than any other. Although the process is random, there is a distribution of probability that favours one result over the others.
A physicist at the UAB, Álvaro Corral, has discovered that earthquake behaviour follows a similar logic. Nobody knows the time interval between one quake and the next - this, too, is a random process - but Corral has found out that the process is “loaded”, that is, there is a distribution of probabilities that favours earthquakes being grouped together over time. As the researcher indicates, this tendency towards grouping shows itself in the very long term, and so goes far beyond the grouping of the successive replicas that occur in the immediate aftermath of an earthquake.
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