TIME Natural Disasters

Here’s What Seismologists Have to Say About the Science of ‘San Andreas’

California's probably not experiencing a tsunami anytime soon

The earthquakes at the center of San Andreas, the Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson disaster movie that hits theaters Friday, are so powerful that they seem to destroy anything and everything across the state of California. The Los Angeles and San Francisco skylines crumble in what we’re told is the strongest earthquake of all time—a magnitude 9.6 on the Richter scale.

But it turns out a 9.6 earthquake would be impossible along the San Andreas fault—at least according to seismologists. And that’s just the start of errors that make the movie somewhat less than factual. Here’s what seismologists are calling into question:

1. The size of the earthquake

An earthquake along the San Andreas fault couldn’t exceed a magnitude 8.2, according to U.S. Geological Survey seismologist Lucile Jones. That’s 126 times weaker than the imagined earthquake in the movie. (Because of the logarithmic basis of the Richter scale, each whole number increase in the rating means a tenfold increase in the magnitude of the quake.) There have been much more powerful earthquakes, including a magnitude 9.5 in Chile in 1960, the largest ever. But those have occurred only in subduction zones, where two plates meet and one sinks beneath the other. The San Andreas, a transform fault, is the meeting place of small tectonic plates that are slipping away from each other.

2. The damage an earthquake could cause

A 2008 study found that a worst-case scenario earthquake of 7.8 magnitude in Southern California could cause $213 billion in damage and leave 1,800 people dead and 50,000 severely injured. A total of five high-rises and 1,500 smaller buildings would be expected to collapse across the city. But those figures, while dramatic, seem small compared to the number of skyscrapers we see crumbling left and right and the countless people who burn, drown or fall from fatal heights in San Andreas. To be fair, the Rock never stops to give the audience precise death tolls or injury numbers—he’s too busy saving jumping out of a moving plane, out maneuvering a tsunami and, ultimately, saving his family. But with Los Angeles essentially razed and San Francisco largely underwater or on fire, it seems like the potential devastation is beyond what could ever happen in real life.

3. The earthquake triggered a massive tsunami

In addition to facing several earthquakes and a seemingly endless number of aftershocks, the characters in San Andreas have to confront a tsunami of gargantuan proportions. That’s flat out impossible, seismologists say. There’s a small possibility that a California earthquake could trigger an offshore landslide, which might in turn trigger a small tsunami that hits California. But that tsunami would be much, much smaller than the one in the movie—which seems to swamp all of San Francisco—and only hit a very narrow part of the coast.

Read More: 3 Places Where the Next Big Earthquake Could Hit

4. A California earthquake could be felt on the East Coast

An earthquake in California may be felt in Nevada and other neighboring states, but it would never be felt on the East Coast. Certainly, it wouldn’t cause damage to the White House as San Andreas suggests.

5. Seismologists can predict earthquakes

In San Andreas, Paul Giamatti plays a California Institute of Technology (Caltech) who has discovered the key to predicting when and where earthquakes can occur. But real-life Caltech assistant professor Jean-Paul Ampuero says predicting earthquakes is not something seismologists are even close to doing. He called it the “holy grail” of seismology. Seismologists wish they could discover a way to predict earthquakes, but most evidence suggests it’s impossible. That said, some disaster preparedness experts advocate for an early warning systems that will alert people to an approaching earthquake. This technology doesn’t predict earthquakes but rather alerts affected residents that one has begun.

But San Andreas got one thing right: you should prepare for an earthquake

While seismologists panned the science in San Andreas, they praised its focus on preparedness. The main characters know exactly what to do when the big one hits. One character tells people to get under a table and hold. Another points out that landlines will still work when cellular service is down and directs people to higher ground when there’s a tsunami warning.

“Although the science part is wrong, that’s not going to be your experience of an earthquake. Your experience is going to be an emotional experience,” said Jones. “I would hope people look at this and say ‘I really want to get some of that emergency response training.’”

TIME celebrities

Jay Z Is Singled Out for Saying Water Is ‘Free’

jay z rapper new york
Michael Stewart—Getty Images Rapper Jay-Z seen on the streets of Manhattan on May 11, 2015 in New York City.

Denver Water writes an open letter to the rapper-producer

Denver’s water supplier criticized Jay Z in an open letter this week for under-appreciating the value of water and recently claiming it was free.

“Your comments bring up the issue of how people value water — an issue our industry struggles with all the time,” Steve Snyder, of Denver Water, an organization the supplies some 1.3 million people and around Denver, wrote on his organization’s website. “All the money in the world can’t help when water becomes scarce.”

Snyder pointed to the drought in California as an example of the importance of water and linked to a story about people who can’t afford to pay their water bills.

Jay Z, one of the world’s best paid music producers, made the remark in a March interview for a story on the launch of his music streaming service, Tidal. “Water is free. Music is $6 but no one wants to pay for music,” he told the New York Times. “You should drink free water from the tap — it’s a beautiful thing. And if you want to hear the most beautiful song, then support the artist.”

TIME weather

May Is Already the Wettest Month in Texas History

A home on the Blanco River was taken off its foundation after heavy overnight rain caused flash flooding in Wimberley, Texas, May 24, 2015.
Rodolfo Gonzalez—AP A home on the Blanco River was taken off its foundation after heavy overnight rain caused flash flooding in Wimberley, Texas, May 24, 2015.

'It has been one continuous storm after another'

Flooding in Texas has taken the lives of at least 19 people and caused a virtual standstill across the state with school closings and road closures. It turns out all that rainfall has also set at least one new record: May 2015 is now the wettest month in state history, with over four days still to go.

Across Texas, the average rainfall in May has measured 7.54 inches, beating the June 2004 record of 6.66 inches, according to figures provided by the Office of the State Climatologist at Texas A&M University. The wettest region, located adjacent to Dallas-Fort Worth area, has received more than 20 inches of rain.

“It has been one continuous storm after another for the past week to 10 days in several regions of the state,” State Climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon said in a statement. “It has rained so much that the ground just can’t soak any more moisture into it, and many creeks and rivers are above flood stage.”

The beginning of El Niño and the flow of wet air from the South have both contributed to the record downpour, according to Nielsen-Gammon. He predicted that the wet weather should change within the next few days.

In some parts of the state, rivers and reservoirs went from 20% to 100% capacity in the past month. Still, a drought remained in other parts of America’s largest contiguous state.

TIME weather

Forecasters Predict ‘Below Average’ 2015 Hurricane Season—But Threats Still Lurk

hurricane NOAA prediction 2015
Getty Images

'We always hope for the best and prepare for the worst'

Forecasters expect this year’s tropical storm season to be weaker than usual with zero to two major hurricanes predicted to affect the United States, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced Wednesday.

The announcement came days before the official start of the Atlantic hurricane season on June 1. Hurricane season typically lasts until the end of November.

Overall, the agency predicted 6 to 11 named storms with winds of 39 mph or greater and 3 to 6 hurricanes with wind speeds of 74 mph or greater. Despite the “below average” prediction, officials from NOAA and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) stressed that communities typically affected by hurricanes, particularly along the Gulf Coast, should still prepare for the worst.

“No matter how many pitches Mother Nature throws at us, from only a few to a whole lot, if just one of those pitches gets through the strike zone we can be in for a lot of trouble,” said NOAA Administrator Kathryn Sullivan at a press conference. “Below average doesn’t mean no pitches get thrown our way.”

The El Niño weather phenomenon, which began this spring, is at least in part responsible for the suppression of storm activity, Sullivan said.El Niño tends to increase wind shear, the difference in wind speed and direction over a relatively short distance, which in turn subsequently slows down storm formation and growth.

In the NOAA press conference, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said that his city is better prepared to handle a major hurricane today than it was when the Hurricane Katrina hit 10 years ago as a Category 3 hurricane, killing more than 1,800 people—but he stressed that city residents should still prepare.It’s also important to remember that a storm doesn’t necessarily have to be powerful in order to wreck a lot of havoc. Superstorm Sandy wasn’t technically strong enough to be rated as a hurricane when it made landfall in New Jersey on Oct. 29, 2012—yet it caused north of $60 billion in damage because of its sheer size and because it squarely hit some richest, most populated coastal territory in the U.S. There’s no way to predict today where any hurricanes that may form in 2015 could make landfall—and location matters as much as strength.

“We always hope for the best and prepare for the worst,” he said. “We have a lot of work to do, but we’ve learned a lot of the path.”

TIME Higher Education

1 in 4 Harvard Grads Didn’t Have Sex in College

And so much more info about Harvard's graduating class

A quarter of Harvard College’s graduating seniors didn’t have sex while in college, according to a survey by The Harvard Crimson. Among the grads who didn’t remain celibate during their years in college, 12% of the class had more than 10 sexual partners and 21% first had sex during their freshman year.

The survey also revealed that three years after a cheating scandal rocked the Ivy League institution, nearly 20% of graduating seniors admitted to cheating while in college. Nine of out 10 admitted cheaters said they did so on a problem set or homework assignment, while about 30% cheated on exams or papers.

Sexual assault on college campuses has been a hot topic this year and Harvard was not immune to the issue. More than 14% of women said they had been sexually assaulted while at Harvard.

More than 750 people, nearly half of Harvard’s senior class, responded to the poll.

[The Crimson]

TIME Soccer

See John Oliver Take Down FIFA

John Oliver slammed the soccer governing body long before the corruption scandal broke

If you’re confused about what led to the the arrest of International Football Association (FIFA) officials on Wednesday, a piece on comedian John Oliver’s show from nearly a year ago may shed light on the situation.

Oliver covers it all from sexist remarks by the organization’s top official to poor treatment of migrant workers constructing World Cup stadiums. FIFA is much like established religion, Oliver argues.

“Just think about it. Its leader is infallible. It compels South American countries to spend money they don’t have building opulent cathedrals, and it may ultimately be responsible for thousands of deaths in the Middle East,” Oliver said.

Watch below:

Read Next: What to Know About the U.S. Investigation Into Soccer’s Governing Body

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Television

Watch Amy Schumer Defend Bill Cosby in the Court of Public Approval

'We deserve to dance like no one's watching and watch like no one's raping'

Comedian Amy Schumer put the numerous rape allegations against Bill Cosby into perspective in a blistering takedown sketch on her show Inside Amy Schumer.

In the sketch, Schumer defends Cosby in the court of public opinion and faces off against a prosecutor armed with mounds of facts and witness statements. Evidence aside, Schumer wins the support of the judge and jury with distractions like cake and free sweaters. At the end of the day, she argues jokingly, the public should ignore the Cosby allegations because they don’t feel good.

“If convicted, the next time you put on a rerun of The Cosby Show you may wince a little, you might feel a little pang,” she says. “We don’t deserve to feel that pang. We deserve to dance like no one’s watching and watch like no one’s raping.”

TIME local

Woman Bitten by Black Widow Spider That Was Hiding in a Bag of Grapes

The spider was in a bag of grapes from Shaw's

A Vermont woman was hospitalized after being bitten by a black widow spider, which she apparently brought home with her in a bag of grapes.

Shaw’s, the grocery store that sold the grapes, said it was inspecting the grape products in all of its stores, according to WPTZ news. “The health and safety of products we sell, and our customers, is our first concern,” Shaw’s spokesperson Brian Dowling told WPTZ.

Black widow bites can cause pain, weakness and flu-like symptoms, but they’re rarely deadly for healthy adults. The 21-year-old Vermont woman was released after a night at the University of Vermont Medical Center.


TIME Television

X-Files Star David Duchovny Says He Cried When He Read New Script

David Duchovny at Radio City Music Hall in New York on May 11, 2015.
Andrew Toth/FilmMagic/Getty Images David Duchovny at Radio City Music Hall in New York on May 11, 2015.

The show will be back as a miniseries next January

X-Files returns next January after more than a decade off the air, and star David Duchovny says the new script is “fantastic.”

Duchovny, who starred on the original show from 1993 to 2002, described its relaunch as an emotional experience, according to an interview in Entertainment Weekly. “I got the first script this morning,” he told EW. “I just read it about an hour ago and I started crying reading the first page.”

The X-Files revival will run as a six-episode miniseries on Fox.

Read more at Entertainment Weekly.

TIME Cancer

How Herpes Is Being Used to Fight Cancer

Patients whose cells were treated with this STD were 8 times more likely to survive than a control group

A genetically modified strain of herpes can kill cancer cells and stop tumors from growing, according to new research. The strain, called T-Vec, was used to treat patients with melanoma as part of one of the final phases of testing of a new drug.

The research, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, is the latest to show how viruses may be used clinically to kill cancer cells. Unlike chemotherapy, which casts a wide net and kills any proliferating cells, viruses often narrowly target cancer cells, which could make them more effective in fighting the disease. The method also appeals to researchers because it activates the immune system to fight cancer.

Researchers looked at more than 400 patients with aggressive malignant melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer. More than 16% of patients given the T-Vec treatment showed a lasting response for six months, compared with 2% of members of the control group given normal treatment.

“We may normally think of viruses as the enemies of mankind, but it’s their very ability to specifically infect and kill human cells that can make them such promising cancer treatments,” said professor Paul Workman, chief executive of the Institute of Cancer Research, in a statement.

The drug, produced by Amgen, now awaits approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration before it will be offered to patients.


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