Taiwanese earthquake oracle becomes hit in Turkey

“I am a hero in Turkey,” Dyson Lin, a self-acclaimed scientist, said on Friday, the day a 6.8-magnitude earthquake hit Turkey’s eastern province of Elazığ, killing at least 39 people.

Lin said he had successfully predicted the earthquake in Elazığ and a tremor that hit the western province of Manisa a few days earlier.

Thousands of Turks started following him on social media and have been retweeting his new podcasts. Many praised Lin and advised others to follow him, but some called him a fake scientist.

Dubbed the “earthquake clairvoyant”, Lin’s predictions were reported by many websites and media outlets in Turkey. Lin said on Twitter that Turkish television channels had been clamouring for interviews.

According to his Twitter bio, Lin is the founder and the CEO of the Taiwan Quake Forecast Institute. He said on his account that he had been fined in Taiwan for correctly predicting earthquakes.

After Lin said in October that an earthquake of magnitude 7 would strike Istanbul, Turkish fact-checking website teyit.org began to investigate. But delving deeper into his past, Teyit found little to back Lin's claims of expertise.

A basic search shows Lin opened his Twitter account in 2015, while according to his LinkedIn account, he founded his institute in 2008.

Teyit found no company under this name in Taiwan’s records. When it searched Lin’s company address on Google maps, it found an empty plot of land.

There are no scientific articles written by Lin and no scientific institutions that cite his work.

Teyit found out that in different dates between July and October last year, Lin said that earthquakes with magnitudes 7 to 8 would take place in Japan, the Philippines, Taiwan, South America, California, India and Nepal.

None of those predictions turned out to be true, but Lin does not explain why his predictions frequently fail. He seems to believe that whenever one of his predictions comes true, people forget the rest.

In October, when Teyit looked into him, Lin was following 25 people on Twitter. Half of them were from Turkey. Now he follows more than 5,000 people on Twitter, many of them Turks.

Lin predicts earthquakes via an electronic device he calls Air2. He advises people to assemble their own Air2 systems, using readily and cheaply available circuitry - a very reasonable investment if you were able to save thousands of lives.

In his blog Lin says he predicts earthquakes by observing air voltage, not by observing electromagnetic waves. He does not explain what air voltage is and why measuring it is a superior method. He says his graphics are the most beautiful of all methods available.

As well as legitimate seismologists, Lin is also at odds with other earthquake oracles. One of them is Frank Hoogerbeets, from the Netherlands, the “quake mystic”, who founded Ditrianum in 2002, another earthquake forecast programme.

“Turkish media-outlets claim Dyson Lin was my teacher. This is FALSE! I have been doing planetary geometry and earthquake research since 2007. Lin doesn't know about planetary geometry. His forecast methods are ridiculous and irresponsible,” said Hoogerbeets on Sunday.

Meanwhile, Turkish blogger Mahmut Tezcan asked whether Lin really had predicted the earthquakes in Manisa and Elazığ.

On Jan. 22, the day a 5.4-magnitude earthquake jolted Manisa, Lin predicted a tremor in western Turkey. But he predicted the epicentre would be the northwestern province of Balıkesir, at least some 100 km away from Manisa.

“KARS - Kars-Turkey got 10+6 super big signals. So East Turkey is in danger, too,” Lin said on Twitter on Jan. 21, a post now widely shared to prove that he predicted the Elazığ earthquake. But Kars, in northeast Turkey, is at least 400 km away from Elazığ.

Lin also changes his mind quickly. On Jan. 25, he said Istanbul was safe, but advised people to escape the city. Then a few hours later he said Istanbul’s Silivri district was in big danger.

On the same day, he said Ankara was in danger because there were some signals from the northern province of Sinop. “Sinop-Turkey got 10+6 super big signals. Sinop is near Ankara. That means an M6+~M7+ can happen near Ankara,” he said.

But Sinop is some 350 km from Ankara.

Dyson has become such a phenomenon in Turkey that Turkey's Disaster and Emergency Management Agency published a statement on Saturday.

“It is impossible to predict the date and the time of an earthquake with today’s technology. We ask our citizens not to give credit to speculative information and to follow official sources for correct information,” it said.

While Lin has attracted many curious followers in Turkey, thankfully, few have heeded his advice to flee their homes and cities.


© Ahval English