Iben Browning

Just a quick note while I’m on a lunch break to let you know that 20 years ago yesterday, I was out of school.  I wan’t sick or anything like that.  No, everyone was out that day as school was canceled.  There was no snow or ice or anything else that sometimes results in school closures that day.  As I remember it, the day was sunny, if cold, but otherwise a perfectly good day to attend the local textbook looney bin.

No, school was canceled that day because of one man–Dr. Iben Browning–who predicted there would be a catastrophic earthquake on the New Madrid fault that day.

He was wrong.  Even two decades later, we are still waiting for the big one to hit this area.  To make matters worse, Browning died seven months later, an object of ridicule instead of someone respected for dedicating his life to the scientific community.

Still, the incident is a perfect example of how an idea can be caught up in the media winds and spread across the land to have an impact on millions of people.  It should be taught in classrooms across the country as a lesson in how the media sometimes creates the news simply be reporting the news.

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