A whole lot of shaking going on


  • Letters
  • Sunday, 26 Jan 2003

By THANONG KHANTHONG

BANGKOK: The lives of office workers and residents of Bangkok skyscrapers will never be the same again. Not only do they have to keep a watch on the possibility of commercial aircraft heading toward their buildings Sept 11 style, but they also have to worry about earthquakes. 

Our fellow residents have to worry about aircraft hitting their buildings because there are still a lot of crazy people out there. 

And now, with Wednesday's earthquake, they have to pray before taking the elevator to their offices. 

Life without your two feet firmly planted on the ground is so very vulnerable. We are now talking about an earthquake in the central districts of Bangkok – Silom, Siam Square and Sukhumvit.  

However, the tremor was on a very small scale. It could hardly create a tempest in your coffee cup, but our fellow Bangkok residents were scrambling out of their buildings in panic. 

If this level of tremor were to take place in Tokyo, Japanese business people would brush it off. They would go on to eat their sushi as if nothing had happened. 

The Japanese are smart. They can construct buildings that move flexibly back and forth in tempo with an earthquake. 

So Japanese people living in tall buildings only have to imagine that they are happily swinging in a cradle during an earthquake. 

The problem with the buildings in Bangkok is that they are mostly built on swampland, as the capital, dubbed the Venice of the East, used to be surrounded by canals in the old days. So the foundations of large buildings are rather shaky. 

Even worse, Bangkok folk have been pumping underground water for consumption, causing Bangkok to sink several centimetres every year. 

The Pacific Place Building on Sukumvit Road, which is built with a total of 20 floors, could have only 19 floors left by the year 2050 as its ground floor sinks and becomes a basement. 

Scientists were quick to assure Bangkok residents that the earthquake would not harm an ant. 

“Don't worry, get back to work,” they said. They explained that the quake in Bangkok was just part of the vibrations of a far stronger quake in Sumatra. 

If only the scientists could be trusted. 

With this quake, Bangkok residents can no longer trust the Anon Fish. 

According to Thai legend, the world is supported in space by a giant fish called Anon. But whenever the Anon Fish moves its body because its muscles are cramped, there is an earthquake. 

If you want to combine the modern scientific theory with the Anon Fish theory, you'll arrive at the conclusion that the Anon Fish was extending its body and its tail all the way from Sumatra to Bangkok. 

Sumatra felt the tremor more strongly because that was where the head of the Anon Fish was. Its tail was pointing to Bangkok. 

That is why Bangkok was only very slightly affected by the quake. 

In his Brief History of Time, Stephen Hawking writes: “A well-known scientist (some say it was Bertrand Russell) once gave a public lecture on astronomy. He described how the Earth orbits around the Sun and how the Sun, in turn, orbits around the centre of a vast collection of stars called our galaxy. 

“At the end of the lecture, a little old lady at the back of the room got up and said: ‘What you have told us is rubbish. The world is really a flat plate supported on the back of a giant tortoise.’ 

“The scientist gave a superior smile before replying: ‘What is the tortoise standing on?’ 

“The lady retorted: ‘You're very clever, young man, very clever. But it's turtles all the way down.’”  

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