Interview with Dr. Motoji Ikeya
By David Jay Brown
Dr. Motoji Ikeya is a Japanese interdisciplinary researcher, using
electron spin resonance (ESR) in geosciences and radiation dopsimetry,
with a research interest in the cause of unusual animal behavior prior to
earthquakes. His laboratory experiments at Osaka University have shed an
enormous amount of light on the possible mechanisms that may be operating
during this unexplained phenomenon.
Dr. Ikeya majored in Electronics and then Nuclear Engineering at Osaka
University. He worked at Nagoya and Yamaguchi Universities, was a research
associate at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and a fellow
of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation at the University of Stuttgart,
Germany. He is a recipient of the Asahi Newspaper Grant for Encouragement
of Science (1981) and the 4th Osaka Science Prize in 1986.
Dr. Ikeya’s major field of specialization has been in quantum geophysics.
He has researched Electron Sin Resonance (ESR), which is used for dating
geological and archaeological materials, and in the future these
techniques may be used for dating materials on icy planetary bodies. He
has also researched radiation dosimetry and assessment of the paleo-environment.
Dr. Ikeya began his earthquake precursor studies after the Kobe Earthquake
At Osaka University Dr. Ikeya was chair of the Quantum Geophysics
Laboratory, and is the author of more than three hundred scientific
papers. He was Professor of Graduate School of Science at Osaka
University’s Department of of Physics since 1987, and of Earth Space
Science since its foundation in 1991. Dr. Ikeya retired from Osaka
University in 2004, and is now helping young people in ESR on a part-time
Dr. Ikeya is also the author of *Earthquakes and Animals: From Folk
Legends to Science* (World Scientific, 2004), which is the most important
book on the subject of unusual animal behavior and earthquakes since
Helmut TrIbutsch’s classic work on the subject *When the Snakes Awake*.
This meticulously researched work is an interdisciplinary treasure trove
of folk legends, historical anecdotes, interview surveys and subjective
reports, geophysical science facts, and most importantly, a fascinating
summary of Dr. Ikeya’s own laboratory research. (To order a copy of Dr.
Ikeya’s book click here.)
Ikeya’s laboratory experiments were conducted to see if exposure to an
electrical field or electromagnetic pulses could elicit animal behavior
similar to what has been reported prior to earthquakes. Ikeya’s
experiments produced very interesting results. For example, fish showed
panic reactions, and earthworms moved out of the soil and swarmed when
current was applied. These are very similar to the behaviors that are
reported before earthquakes. Dr. Ikeya’s work also sheds light on other
mysterious pre-earthquake phenomena--which he was able to recreate in the
laboratory--such as strange plant growth, earth-lights, fogs, atmospheric
distortions, and unusual phenomena with electric appliances, such as
televisions and cell phones.
I interviewed Dr. Ikeya on October 12, 2004. Dr. Ikeya has a great deal of
curiosity, open-mindedness, and the rare ability to bridge scientific
disciplines. We discussed how his laboratory experiments help us to
understand the causes of unusual animal behavior prior to earthquakes, why
so many scientists are resistant to this idea, and whether or not a
reliable earthquake forecasting system is possible.
David: What motivated you to start studying the relationship between
unusual animal behavior and earthquakes?
Dr. Ikeya: The Kobe earthquake in 1995. I live 30 km from the epicenter
and thought it strange that many earthworms dug themselves up in my small
garden. At the time, I did not know the legend that a number of emerging
earthworms is a sign of a large earthquake. Many people noticed this,
including my neighbors.
David: How have your laboratory experiments with electric fields and
electromagnetic pulses helped to shed some light on what may cause unusual
animal behavior prior to earthquakes?
Dr. Ikeya: First, theoretical calculation of EQ light, which was seen by
my graduate students and associate professor. EQ clouds and fogs in
legends may naturally be produced in super-cooled atmosphere. Then, it
dawned on me that animals might be sensing such atmospheric discharge and
electric field as electric field effects.
David: How do you think animals detect electromagnetic waves, and why do
you think this cause them to behave in peculiar ways?
Dr. Ikeya: Electric fields may be sensed by the force on the animal’s
hair. Induced current in the body may cause changes with some
David: Your research provides strong evidence for the theory that
electromagnetic changes are causing the unusual animal behavior and other
unexplained phenomena that are sometimes reported to occur prior to
earthquakes. Do you think that this is just one possible explanation or
the only one?
Dr. Ikeya: Probably most of the unexplained phenomena (80 - 90%) reported
by lay citizens would have electromagnetic causes. Old legends of bent
flames, and rice cooking anomaly, as well as animal and plant anomalies,
are definitely electromagnetic in origin. However, the Moses'
phenomenon [reports that great bodies of water will suddenly and
temporarily split apart, creating a valley to the ocean floor, and two
massive walls of water] is due to natural hydrodynamic causes.
David: Why do you think so many scientists are resistant to the idea that
unusual animal behavior prior to earthquakes is a real phenomenon?
Dr. Ikeya: Because there are people who link trivial events to large
earthquakes, and afterthoughts are inevitably involved in the statements
by lay citizens, especially at a distance larger than 100 - 200 km for a
M7 earthquake. I explain this in Chapter 5 of my book *Earthquakes and
For countries like New Zealand, the focal depth is 50 km or so.
Electromagnetic (EM) intensity would be less, and so there would be less
unusual phenomena. Granite bedrock in Japan might play a role due to the
involvement of piezoelectric quartz grains, while basalt may generate less
intense EM waves. Fluid movement in the boundary of granite might be
responsible for the generation of EM waves, rather than the
David: What do you think are the most important experiments that still
need to be done in order to shed more light on the nature of mysterious
Dr. Ikeya: Experiments of less intense EM exposure to human being, which
is not allowed since we are not medical doctors. Some people might be very
David: Do you think that it is possible for observations of animal
behavior to ever be part of a reliable earthquake forecasting system?
Dr. Ikeya: No! Once we know that EM pulses are responsible, electronic
detection will be better at forecasting earthquakes than observations of
animal behavior. However, additional information about unusual
phenomena--collected by an automatic observation system, rather than a
collection of reports from lay citizens--would increase the reliability of
a forecast of a disastrous earthquake. Collected data on cattle healthcare
from farms in different areas, which are transmitted over the Internet,
may be useful for studying the cattle’s response to weather changes,
including an impending earthquake. They may provide additional
David: What are you currently working on?
Dr. Ikeya: I am a visiting professor of nano-science at the Institute of
Scientific and Industrial Research on a part-time basis since my
retirement. There is no job at the university if a professor is behaving
unusually. However, I am developing my theory on generation and
propagation of seismo-electromagnetic signals (SEMS) since my book,
*Earthquakes and Animals*, is for the general public. Scientists need some
mathematical equations that explain the phenomena quantitatively.
It is a bit tough for an old professor to work on two entirely different
subjects, though both subjects are equally interesting.
To order a copy of Dr. Motoji Ikeya’s book *Earthquakes and Animals:
From Folk Legends to Science* visit the World Scientific Web site: