Who is Professor
Motoji Ikeya ?

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It is more accurate to say - Who was Professor Ikeya? Professor Ikeya died suddenly in 2006.

Professor Ikeya was Professor of the Graduate School of Science, Dept of Physics, University of Osaka (from 1987) and of its Earth and Space Science Department from 1991. He was also the inventor of a versatile dating technique that covers a wide time range and is used internationally in dating bones and teeth in particular. It earned him the sobriquet, Mr ESR. His book, New Applications of Electron Spin Resonance, is a classic in the field.

But he was more widely-known - particularly in Japan - for his work on earthquake precursors and his electromagnetic model (EM) of a fault. He was sometimes affectionately called Professor Catfish. The catfish was one of his most experimented-upon laboratory animals as his earthquake precursor research progressed. The catfish is unusually sensitive to EM waves, and Ikeya believed these were released onto the earth's surface before large earthquakes.

His interest in EM waves and their relationship to earthquakes started soon after the Kobe Earthquake in 1995. For 30 years he had worked in an inter-disciplinary field between solid state physics, geology and anthropology and when the earthquake occurred he thought he might be able to bring scientific method to bear on the reports of unusual pre-earthquake phenomena that were collected at the time. He also collected precursor reports from >M7 earthquakes in Izmit (Turkey) (1999), Taiwan (1999), and Gujurat (2001). There were many things in common in the reports from all four quakes.

What caught Ikeya's attention in 1995 were reports of earthquake light just before the Kobe Earthquake. Ikeya believed they might be electric discharges ahead of the main shock, causing an atmospheric dark glow. He began to develop an electromagnetic model of a geological fault, believing that increasingly deforming pressures on rock before earthquakes were creating piezoelectric effects. Any change in the position or density of polarised charge could produce Ultra Low Frequency (ULF) EM waves capable of travelling long distances to the surface without a conductive path. On the surface these could create intense electric fields and EM waves up to very high frequencies. Ikeya believed animals, electronic objects, and even plants reacted to some part of a wide range of frequencies depending on their position relative to the epicentre, and their size and shape and amounts of exposed conductive tissue or type of circuitry. Ikeya was not the first to postulate an association between earthquakes, piezoelectric effects, EM waves and earthquake precursors, but he developed the theory enormously.

In his university laboratory he began exposing animals, electronic objects and plants to pulsed and static electric fields comparable to those that could be expected from the EM model. He also found he could produce reported atmospheric effects: cloud shapes and fine-weather fogs in the laboratory.

He exposed many different animals - from silk worms to crocodiles - to (mostly) ULF waves and created to his satisfaction the sorts of behaviours that were repeatedly reported of animals before the four quakes he studied.

The results of his experiments are detailed in 295 pages of an accessible academic book, Earthquakes and Animals, From Folk Legends to Science, published by World Scientific in 2004, and available from them. He also took numerous videos of his experiments, some of them edited for this website.

Professor Ikeya was well-known to Japanese TV media, particularly the Tokyo Broadcasting Service and his work was the subject of a BBC TV documentary. His findings met with continued scepticism in academic journals on the grounds that anecdotal reports were not suitable for scientific study, and that earthquakes could not be predicted in principle. Ikeya simply persevered, proving statistically that although people may see correlations where there are none, real precursors were being detected. Before he died he had produced 35 scientific papers for English language academic journals and 22 in Japanese. In addition to Earthquakes and Animals, he also wrote an illustrated children's book, What are our Pets Trying to Tell Us? (on this website) and two books for the Japanese market: Why do Animals Behave Unusually? - The Birth of Electromagnetic Seismology, and Precursors of Large Earthquakes.

IKeya never claimed to be able to accurately predict earthquakes in terms of magnitude, location and time using animal behaviours or other presursor phenomena - although the violent movements of a catfish in a laboratory 130km from the epicentre led him to successfully predict the Western Tottori earthquake (M 7.3) in 2000. But he did claim there was a scientific basis to the legendary and reported precursors, and that an informed interpretation of amalgamated data should permit a rough estimate to be made of the likely region and magnitude of a large quake, and its time to within several weeks.

He certainly believed that if the average person knew what to look out for in a range of atmospheric events, and the behaviour of domestic animals, pets, electronic appliances and devices at home and round about them, they would be prodded into better earthquake preparedness.

And he was very sure about one thing: that the legendary behaviour of animals before earthquakes is a response to EM waves produced by varying levels of rock stress, and that he had been able to reproduce these behaviours in his electric field experiments in the laboratory.

Professor Ikeya was a resourceful, energetic, persistent, enthusiastic and innovative researcher. It's a pity he didn't live to see the increasing scientific evidence that EM fields are associated with earthquakes.

 

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