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"These things happen."

So...the weird news coming out of Arkansas. Or, rather, what we might perceive as the weird news coming out of Arkansas, if we set aside the certainty of coincidence*, and the inevitability of highly improbable occurrences:

1) "More than 500 measurable earthquakes have occurred in central Arkansas since September, and it's unknown if they'll stop anytime soon, seismologists say." (source).

2) "Arkansas game officials hope testing scheduled to begin Monday will solve the mystery of why up to 5,000 birds fell from the sky just before midnight New Year's Eve." (source)

3) "Arkansas officials are investigating the death of an estimated 100,000 fish in the state's northwest, but suspect disease was to blame, a state spokesman said Sunday." (source)

The "bird fall" (to speak in Fortean terms) occurred about sixty miles west of the fish kill. Most (but not all) of the birds that died were of a single species, the red-winged blackbird. All of the fish that died were of a single species, the freshwater drum.

The earthquakes have occurred in the same general area, many north of Little Rock.

These things look odder than they likely are, if we insist upon viewing them as connected. However, the fish kill probably wouldn't have made it past the local news, if not for the "bird fall." Especially given that the fish seem to have died on Thursday night, or earlier that day, well before the birds. And the earthquakes have been being reported for months now, but I feel like I'm the only one who pays attention to geological news, and, near as I can tell, only one crackpot conspiracy website is trying to link the earthquakes to the fish kill and the "bird fall."

But the truth is, these things happen.

There are numerous non-mysterious ways the birds may have died (weather or fireworks are both good candidates). The fish kill clearly isn't the result of a pollutant, or more types of fish would be involved, so it's likely a species-specific contagion (virus, bacterium, fungus, or other parasite; my money would be on a viral or bacterial infection). And the earthquakes...well, while interesting, they need to be viewed in the context of the infamous New Madrid Seismic Zone and the recent discovery of a new fault line, roughly 100 miles east of Little Rock.

Near as I can tell, few have rushed to connect the storm front that stretched from Missouri to Mississippi and caused seven (human) deaths (and passed over central Arkansas) to any of this, even though it's the most likely explanation for the bird deaths.

I think the most curious thing about this— so far —is the connections humans see (myself included).

* Coincidence is a constantly occurring phenomenon with a bad rap. Lots of people treat it's like a dirty word, or something rationalists invoke simply to dispel so-called supernatural events. And yet, an almost infinite number of events coincide during any every nanosecond of the cosmos' existence. We only get freaked out and belligerent over the one's we notice, the ones we need (for whatever reason) to invest with some special significance. Co-occurrence should not be taken for correlation any more than correlation should be mistaken for causation.


( 10 comments — Have your say! )
Jan. 3rd, 2011 04:53 am (UTC)
It's true -- all of those individually are curious but not "OMG HOW FREAKIN' WEIRD," until presented together.

If I were running a supernatural roleplaying game set in the modern day right now, though, they'd certainly end up connected.
Jan. 3rd, 2011 05:00 am (UTC)
My dad's family lives in Beebe. I stayed there for a summer when I was 9, and spent most of it holed up in the tornado shelter writing stories on an old black Royal typewriter (I wrote about that bit over on Fragments of Shadow.

The other thing to keep in mind that Beebe is also directly in a military flight path, and right by an air force base. I used to lay on the back of the family truck with a gigantic siberian husky and watch the bombers fly by. There really are any number of reasons this could have happened.
Jan. 3rd, 2011 05:36 am (UTC)
As a lifelong Arkansan born & raised, I can say with certainty that the only thing weird about all of this is the news coverage. We're right up against the New Madrid fault line, that is massively overdue for a major quake, & well known for bizarre weather patterns. Common comment around here is "if you don't like the weather, just wait five minutes!" Back in the late '80's early '90's, we had thousands of Canada geese fall out of the sky frozen solid...people were picking them up & putting them in their freezers. I will admit the local packs of coyotes have been more active & noisier than usual since before Christmas, & I had to shoot a raccoon the other day because it wasn't acting right (was afraid it might have been going rabid), but nothing too out of the ordinary for Arkansas.
Jan. 3rd, 2011 07:10 am (UTC)
Arkansas has always been a mystery to me.
Jan. 3rd, 2011 09:46 am (UTC)
Jan. 3rd, 2011 12:05 pm (UTC)
few have rushed to connect the storm front that stretched from Missouri to Mississippi and caused seven (human) deaths (and passed over central Arkansas)

That was my first thought, since I remember paying attention to that particular weather front. The one thing that stumped me about this as a theory was how the birds kept falling out of the sky for a while afterwards as opposed to more instantaneously ~ for example, had a wind shear/extreme down draft/lightning/hail knocked them all down as one large flock.

One thing I don't particularly give any merit to is it happening "shortly before Midnight on new year's eve", since our modern calendar is very much a human concoction.
Jan. 3rd, 2011 04:22 pm (UTC)
'This happens. This is something that happens.' - Stanley Spector, Magnolia
Jan. 3rd, 2011 07:10 pm (UTC)
I think people find comfort -- or paranoia -- in patterns. It implies a kind of order amidst the chaos, I guess. So we tend to give coincidences more play when they appear to fall into a pattern, no matter how far a stretch it might be.

I'm not a geologist by any means, but my own initial reaction was to wonder whether these are indications of future volcanic activity, but I assume no new cracks or craters or the like have been discovered. And again, one would think if released gases were to blame, a greater variety of wildlife would have been affected.

We had a 4.6 earthquake in central Indiana last week. I live at the northern edge of the state, and the tremor woke me up, although I couldn't figure out what it was, at the time. It's a disconcerting feeling to those of us who are used to calm earth beneath our feet.
Jan. 4th, 2011 05:26 pm (UTC)
Arkansas is Weird
Well... maybe the connection is that the gods are displeased with AR's persistant treatment of immigrants and gay folk as 2nd class citizens :-P
Jan. 5th, 2011 09:39 am (UTC)
I'm putting this up here since this post of yours was just about the second thing that came to my mind as i read this article: http://www.aolnews.com/2011/01/04/500-more-redwing-blackbirds-found-dead-in-louisiana/?icid=maing|main5|dl1|sec1_lnk1|34527

What went through my mind was 1) Blackbirds again??? 2) Well, such things just happen sometimes,, like CK pointed out... 3) Anyway, just how many times has this happened without being noticed just because it didn't happen in a "meaningful" date or as part of a news trend? 4) Still, blackbirds again...

A long time ago all the birds in the skies of Mexico City simply dropped dead all of a sudden in mid flight; it was quite simply caused by pollution, and it was the last minute call Mexicans got for finally take some measures against it. Human beings also started to drop dead, which helped quite a bit to jumpstart awareness.

We did get a few flocks of birds falling down here in my city (Guadalajara) about a year later. It affected all varieties, though.
( 10 comments — Have your say! )