A number of days ago I had posted my question about the confusion on the terminology used in the recent report of the Taiwan earthquake. After further reading of Taiwan earthquake news in one of the Chinese newspapers here, I have figured out what has been going aberrant.
Every seismologist knows how the Richter scale was developed. The earthquake magnitude is in order of magnitude (¡°shuliang jie.¡± in Chinese) and thus is dimensionless. However, it is yet a QUANTITY from which the energy released by an earthquake is determined. The traditional Chinese term of ¡°zhenjie¡± (or simply ¡°jie¡±) for magnitude is even a better terminology than the English term, because it not only implies order of magnitude (¡°shuliang jie¡±), but also is a quantitative term that physically represents the ¡°jump¡± of a quantity similar to stair or ladder steps. It is a unit of quantity that can be counted, but is not really a dimension like meter, erg, or dyne that has an exact physical definition. Because magnitude is dimensionless, so in English the term ¡°magnitude¡± is put in front of its value, such as ¡°magnitude 7.6,¡± to indicate that it is dimensionless. In Chinese value is always ahead of unit, and, as said, ¡°jie¡± is a unit of quantity but is not really a dimension, so ¡°7.6 jie¡± is perfectly natural and scientific in Chinese, and is also mathematically sound. However, a new term ¡°guimu¡± was ¡°invented¡± to substitute for ¡°jie¡± in Taiwan. One who understands Chinese should know that ¡°guimu¡± is a relative comparison term that cannot be used as a unit of quantity. We have only heard of large ¡°guimu,¡± small ¡°guimu,¡± or ¡°guimu¡± is very large, ¡°guimu¡± is very small, but never heard of one ¡°guimu¡± or two ¡°guimu.¡± Therefore, just like its English equivalent ¡°scope¡± or ¡°extent,¡± ¡°guimu¡± by no means can be as a substitution for ¡°magnitude¡± to use as a unit of quantity. Such as ¡°guimu 7.6¡± is really an odd blind copy of English that does not have much scientific meaning, and it is even not truly Chinese. If scientific terminology is confused of quantitative with qualitative, what can it achieve?
Now we go to seismic intensity. Everybody knows intensity is a subjective division of the surface damages caused by an earthquake, and is determined totally by human physical sensibility. It is therefore qualitative and its division involves no quantity units. It seems strange to see that our Taiwan colleagues assigned the quantitative unit ¡°jie¡± as the qualitative division of intensity. Amazingly, this is another mix-up of quantitative term with qualitative term! One who knows some fundamentals of earthquake engineering or engineering seismology shall know that intensity is not really linearly dependent on the distance to the epicenter, but reflects also the soil conditions at a site. Determination of intensity needs a survey by an experienced field crew. As far as I can remember, it was the first time in my life as a geophysicist to hear intensity in quantity unit is reported together with magnitude right after an earthquake. You can determine magnitude right after an earthquake and you can report gross damage assessment, but you cannot report a definite value for intensity at the same time. This can only confuse people. People will wonder how one earthquake can have two ¡°scientific definitions¡± at the same time? How can you do a field intensity survey for the whole affected area right after an earthquake? How can a large city or a large area belong only to one intensity division? Fellows, what have you achieved by playing new terminology, besides raising confusion to people and showing your own poor qualification? Do you know magnitude was reported in the same Chinese newspaper around here both in ¡°jie¡± and ¡°guimu,¡± and also with intensity in ¡°jie,¡± for the same earthquake? It is really a work of morons.