Back in March, Pruned posted a short video of a Japanese earthquake van – a video which I’ll embed here for ease of reference:
You’ve got yourself an educational experience – and an interesting small business model, at the same time.
But maybe you don’t need a van like this to simulate earthquakes; maybe there are other ways of experiencing seismicity that geologists have so far overlooked.
It occurred to me last week while flying over Canada that turbulence is a kind of unappreciated seismic resource. For instance, our plane hit a strange quilt of winds – an atmospheric event, like an earthquake in the sky – over the Canadian Arctic and so the plane began to lurch, rattle, drop, and slightly tilt, and this went on for several minutes.
To quote Wikipedia, we hit “invisible bodies of air which are moving vertically at many different speeds.”
As far as I can tell, then, those “invisible bodies of air” are a permanent part of the sky geography of the Canadian Arctic; like a mountain range on land, these curling, rising, marbling, and sifting winds move invisibly through Arctic airspace like a permanent feature of aerial terrain, ready to rock passing airplanes.
In fact, you could install some sort of in-flight dashboard – with a BLDGBLOG Seismology Plug-In™ – that tells you, in real time, as you experience aerial turbulence, how that turbulence would register on the Richter Scale. I think people would be shocked to realize that they have very likely experienced a 6.0 earthquake in the sky – only it was called turbulence and they were sitting inside an airplane.
3.0s and 4.0s would be so common as to be coextensive with air travel.
So you take geology students up on an airplane in a thunderstorm – and they’d soon understand what an 8.5 feels like. Or a 7.2, and so on.
Of course, a few questions arise – such as how accurate this analogy really is, and whether I have any idea what I’m talking about. But I also wonder, if this does hold, whether airplane design has anything to teach engineers who work in seismic zones. Should the foundation of a Tokyo high-rise, or a single-family home in Los Angeles, be designed more like an airplane fuselage?
And could the exact same thing be said for ships at sea – that certain large waves, or certain stretches of choppy water, are like a 6.0 earthquake – and could this also extend, then, to particularly bumpy stretches of road – that, at 35mph this road is a 4.0 earthquake, but at 75mph it’s a 9.3 – and could the same even be true for railroad travel and bumpy subways?
Could you deliberately build roads – with bumps and holes and bad paving – to simulate certain types of earthquakes? You then drive on these roads at certain, specific speeds, taking notes with Caltech geologists.
In which case, perhaps a car chassis would offer an intriguing structural analogue for future home designs in seismic areas…?
All these earthquake analogues – experiences awaiting their Richter Scale – constantly surrounding us.