5 People Who Predicted Disasters And Were Mocked Mercilessly
Gone are the days of superstitious oracles spouting vague nonsense about the future. Instead we now have throngs of scientists ... spouting incomprehensible nonsense about the future. And that's often the problem. Instead of trusting these modern-day wizards, people have a tendency to call them doomsday thinkers just because we're too dumb-dumb to recognize the warning signs. As a result, the world has treated many predictors of doom and gloom as nerds who were off their meds, only admitting that they were right after it started raining limbs. For example ...
Several High-Ranking Officers Were Punished For Predicting The Pearl Harbor Attack
With most generation-defining disasters, we learn after the fact about all the warning signs, and how they were missed or not taken seriously. The attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 was no different. But what is not often talked about was the sheer volume of influential people who tried to convince the U.S. government that they could hear the planes coming.
For example, when Admiral James Richardson pointed at Pearl Harbor naval base as being particularly vulnerable to Japanese attack, you'd have expected people to listen. After all, Richardson was both an expert on the base's defenses and Japanese military strategies, which is a pretty valuable niche to have in this situation. When the country opted to move its fleet to Pearl Harbor in 1940 as a show of force, Richardson shared his worries that it would be seen as an act of aggression, as well as leave the fleet wide open and exposed. He was promptly fired for his concerns, and ten months later was proven right.
General William Mitchell was another fellow who predicted Japan would strike, only he had this incredible foresight 17 years before it happened. Hell, Mitchell was so ahead of his time that he died five years before it happened. As a brigadier general in the first World War, Mitchell gained valuable experience in aerial combat, specifically when it came to targeting weak points in fleets and warships. He was especially good at sinking battleships -- which, if you've ever played the game, you know made him a big deal. So when Mitchell went on a military inspection tour of the Pacific in 1924, his own combat experience made him realize something very disastrous could happen if Japan were to ever attack the U.S. As he put it in his report:
Attack will be launched as follows:
Bombardment, attack to be made on Ford Island (in Pearl Harbor) at 7:30 a.m. ... Attack to be made on Clark Field (Philippines) at 10:40 a.m.
However, no one back home was eager to take Mitchell seriously. Because of a string of insubordination accusations, badass William Mitchell had developed a not-so-great reputation with the rest of the brass. In fact, the entire inspection tour had been a sort of forced vacation so that he couldn't make any waves back home. So it's easy to imagine all the masturbatory gestures his superiors made when Mitchell returned from his exile with a 324-page document about the martial danger some islands half a world away could pose.
As it turns out, Japan hit Pearl Harbor about 20 minutes after Mitchell said they would, then proceeded to Clark Field a few hours after. It even occurred on the same day of the week (Sunday) he had predicted. Of course, since he had died in 1936, the navy didn't really see the need to remind people they had been warned decades in advance. They did posthumously award him a Medal of Honor in 1946 for his efforts, so there's that.
A Paleontologist Predicted The 2011 Japan Tsunami Because Of A Poem
Tsunamis aren't like rain. You can't predict them by "feeling them in your bones" or seeing your dogs do panicked laps around the living room. It takes vigorous and dedicated analysis of a bazillion factors to even remotely understand the comings and goings of these death waves. Thankfully, there are scientists out there who have tried to be the first line of defense between us and the evil forces of water. It's a shame that we didn't listen to the one guy who had figured it all out.
In 2011, a massive tsunami hit the Japanese coast, causing hundreds of billions of dollars in damage and thousands of casualties. Almost everyone was completely taken by surprise by the onslaught. Someone who wasn't surprised was Koji Minoura, a Japanese paleontologist who had figured out this was going to happen years in advance. How did he know? Because of a poem.
In the late 1980s, Minoura had become intrigued by an ancient poem which told of "the famed waves of Sue-No-Matsuyama," which he suspected had a nugget of truth buried in its text. And he was right. Through analyzing the soil in the region the poem was set, Minoura discovered ocean water in one of the layers, proving there had been a massive earthquake/tsunami duet in the year 869. Digging deeper (literally), Minoura discovered something chilling: The same tsunami affected layers every thousand years -- and the next one was overdue.
He began alerting everyone who mattered in the country that another disaster was imminent. But the paleontologist started running out of time -- and he couldn't dig himself out of it. Nuclear plants were a particular area of concern to Minoura. He showed his data to officials at Tokyo Electric in the early '90s, noting that their seaside locations meant that a quakenami would be, in sciencey terms, "really bad." His warnings were cast aside, thinking tsunamis of that scale were about as likely as another Godzilla attack.
Of course, after the horrific event, Tokyo Electric stated that they had been "in the process" of considering protective modifications to the plant before the tsunami, which is exactly as vague and useless as it sounds. So in the future, governments of the world, please listen to your rogue paleontologists.
A Scientists Got Threatened By The Government For Correctly Predicting An Earthquake
Imagine you live in the most earthquake-prone area on your continent. Then imagine you're a scientist who figured out a way to predict upcoming earthquakes with unprecedented precision. Now imagine that, armed with reams of scientific data, you confidently warn a nation of an earthquake with enough space to save tons of families. Now imagine that instead of giving you a medal, they call the cops on you.
That is the story of seismologist Gioacchino Giuliani. In 1999, Giuliani started suspecting a link between radon gas levels and areas where seismic activity occurred. In response, he erected several radon detection stations around his hometown of L'Aquila, 60 miles from Rome. When, in early 2009, those levels started increasing, he became more and more sure that a quake would soon strike. But when he tried to warn the government, they wouldn't listen, despite the fact that Italy is considered to be "the most geologically volatile area in Europe." They even called him "an imbecile," which we're sure isn't the response they teach you during disaster response training.
Undeterred, Giuliani took it upon himself to save his fellow townspeople. He gave interviews and posted on the internet pleading with the locals to drive their Fiats far the hell away. But when he started hiring vans with loudspeakers to drive around and blast his message, the local authorities finally started listening. No, they didn't reconsider whether he might be right; they threatened to charge him with the very nebulous act of "spreading panic," and issued him with an injunction forbidding him to talk about earthquakes. They even made him take down his online posts, proving once again that the internet is for unfounded doomsday warnings only.
Unable to convince people of the upcoming disaster, Giuliani must've felt like the only cabin boy on the Titanic with good night vision. All he could do was tell his loved ones, keep his windows open, and force his family to go to bed fully clothed so that they could flee in style. Then, one fated April night, Giuliani proved to have the instincts of a dog (or a frog, apparently, when it comes to earthquakes). An earthquake struck mere hours away from the time Giuliani had predicted. Luckily, thanks to his precautions, neither he nor his family were injured -- though he must've strained his throat after presumably shouting "I told you so!" throughout the tremors.
A Financial Analyst Was Mocked Mercilessly By The Media For Predicting The Great Recession
After a decade of giving people houses big enough to make Saudi princes blush, the Great Recession of 2007 finally popped the housing bubble. But if we're honest, even after rewatching Margot Robbie's scene in The Big Short a few dozen times, we still don't understand the ins and outs of the whole crisis.
Not a lot of people knew at the time either, and those who did were laughed out of boardrooms for their outlandish claims that unchecked greed would destroy the world. And out of those laughingstocks, the man who received the big shortest end of the stick would've been Peter Schiff.
Schiff was one of only a few who understood what was happening. Unfortunately, the president of the Connecticut brokerage firm had a conscience to match his big brain, so instead of keeping quiet and making a quick buck, he began talking to the news in 2006, warning everyone who would listen that things were about to be mega-not-OK. On a CNBC interview, he said that Americans would soon be in trouble from too much consumption and borrowing and not enough saving. He echoed those sentiments on Fox News later that year, still a full year before the housing market started crumbling: "You're going to start to see both the government and the lenders re-imposing lending standards and tightening up on credit -- and these sky-high real estate prices are going to come crashing back down to earth."
As a response to his dire warnings, the news channels decided to reward him by not taking him seriously at all. CNBC called him "Dr. Doom," and he was basically turned into the comic relief on panels, as they chortled at how gloomy this economic Eeyore was getting. Even joyless Neil Cavuto, business anchor for Fox News, gave him shit, saying that he wouldn't be surprised if Schiff exposed the truth about Santa Claus. The mistake that Schiff had made was to try to warn the masses by going on the very shows run by people who are best buddies with the American stock market. Ironically, he would've had a better chance of an adult conversation about capitalism on Sesame Street.
Still, Schiff was almost frighteningly accurate in his fever visions of collapse. And now he's begun to embrace Bitcoin, so we guess it's time to start burning our paper money.
People Have Been Ignoring Climate Change Claims For Centuries
Climate change is one of those super-polarizing subjects these days. On the one hand, you have almost every meaningful scientist in the world saying it is real; on the other hand, no climate change denier has drowned yet, so there's that. But if the level-headed scientists of today think they have a hard time on stupidly "balanced" news panels battling wits against a Christian "scientist" with a blog, imagine how utterly frustrating it would have been to convince people of climate change a century ago.
1938 was one of the first times someone -- an engineer named Guy Callendar -- pointed out that maybe we should cut back on the whole burning all this fossil fuel shit. His paper was titled "The artificial production of carbon dioxide and its influence on temperature," and it is truly a hoot of a read, provided you're into the slow choking death of humankind. But despite his dire predictions, Callendar's scientific efforts were met with a "meh" and a wet fart. It didn't help that he was "only" an amateur meteorologist, or that "Guy Callendar" sounds like the made-up name of an alien trying to sabotage our technological progress. Even in the end discussion part of the paper, where other colleagues weigh in, Callendar was given the scientific respect of a kitten-rape apologist. But as the decades passed, his ominous predictions began to take shape. Most strikingly, this shape:
To understand how eerily close Callendar's predictions were back then, you have to remember that the scientific method of those days mostly involved terrifying white rabbits and undervaluing women. Granted, not everything Callendar hit was a home run. He thought that man-made global warming would delay the return of "deadly glaciers" (it didn't). He also refused to believe that the rising water would swallow up land where people live, while rising sea levels have been gobbling up Pacific islands like they're Pringles. But his temperature predictions were eerily accurate, and Callendar should have been one of the most well-respected scientific voices of his generations -- if only people had listened.
But if we're simply talking about people figuring out that continuously belching massive clouds of acrid smoke up into the heavens fossil fuel might just be hella dumb, we can go back a lot farther than Callendar. As early as 1912, in New Zealand, doubts about this brave new coal-burning world were being reported:
Even in 1883, national newspapers were already reporting on several scientists warning of the dangers of fossil fuels and nature in quite an alarmist fashion:
So while the climate change advocates do still have it tough today, at least no national news institute is allowed to call any of them a "prophet of evil" -- proving yet again that Fox News really was born in the wrong century.
Pearl Harbor is also a pretty solid WWII film, if you haven't seen it.
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