By now most of us are resigned to the fact that the much heralded earthquake predicted with great fanfare by Iben Browning, a retired climatologist, didn't happen.

Browning said that on Dec. 3, the Earth, moon, and sun would be aligned and create a gravitational pull on the Earth's crust, much like moving ocean tides. The result would be an earthquake occurring in the 48 hours before or after Dec. 3.Instead, the New Madrid Fault near Tennessee has remained notably silent.

What did happen is more interesting in this case than what didn't happen.

For instance, fanatics came out of the woodwork - not only near the famous fault - but all over the country - even in Utah.

Food storage dealers enjoyed a run on emergency kits and dehydrated food products.

Insurance agents received an avalanche of calls about earthquake insurance.

Schools made preparations for a quake and even instructed students to bring in certain foods and materials in preparation for a siege if it struck while school was in session.

Some people made plans to pull their kids out of school on the designated day and take them to Temple Square.

All this even though local officials never encouraged speculation about the validity of Browning's prediction, and have continued to say only that there is a 20 percent chance of a major quake on the Wasatch Front sometime in the next 50 years.

Even more interesting was the outpouring of people who traveled to the fault site itself - either because they didn't believe it would happen and they wanted to make a non-happening a happening - or because they were crazy.

So as I have thought about this phenomenon, several things struck me and I have come up with definitive answers. I have decided in true David Letterman style to devise my own top ten list to explain it.

Some of the reasons may seem obvious because of their superb logic - and some may seem so cosmic that they are almost incomprehensible. Good luck!


10. The earth was so shaken by a stampede of people to the site of the earthquake that earth tides were knocked off their course and the quake path was so badly littered that all factors were reduced to normal.

9. Jimmy Stewart's movie, "It's a Wonderful Life," about an idealistic member of Congress and a savings and loan disaster needs an opportunity to make its annual holiday run even more impressive than in previous years because it is so relevant to the current S&L crisis.

8. Gorbachev, fearing that a major quake would shake people's confidence or divert their interest, pleaded for some additional time to get the Soviet economy going again.

7. A lot of people are simply not ready to die yet because they are so out of shape. They are afraid they would go to the cholesterol kingdom.

6. A major earthquake might endanger the flight path of the Soviet spacecraft which now contains the first journalist in space - a flight that absolutely must succeed because the Japanese are paying for it.

5. Madonna's sexy video - which was actually turned down by MTV then played in its entirety on Ted Koppel's "Nightline" - has turned the world upside down without an earthquake.

4. There are not enough survival kits on hand to fill the needs of every school kid in the country for at least 12 hours.

3. Reincarnation might force a number of us to reflect on our past lives and to make plans to come back as more undesirable persons in even worse circumstances than we are in now.

2. Dan Quayle.

1. George Bush's policy in the Persian Gulf is so shaky that an earthquake might completely destroy it.