On December 8, 2006, Markus Häring caused some 30 earthquakes -- the largest registering 3.4 on the Richter scale -- in Basel, Switzerland. Häring is not a supervillain. He's a geologist, and he had nothing but good intentions when he injected high-pressure water into rocks three miles below the surface, attempting to generate electricity through a process called enhanced geothermal. But he produced earthquakes instead, and when seismic analysis confirmed that the quakes were centered near the drilling site, city officials charged him with $9 million worth of damage to buildings.
If Superman and Stretch Armstrong produced offspring in some hideous experiment, they might hope to create a new, upgraded iron alloy with super-elastic powers which allow it to keep its original shape even after stretching. Now Japanese researchers have done just that with added bonuses such as better ductility and a change in magnetization, Reuters reports. That may lead to better surgical interventions and even quake-proof structures.
Here's one genius computer program you might consider pushing virally for science's sake. The "Quake Catchers" program aims to make earthquake detection a lot easier and cheaper by taking advantage of accelerometers built into MacBooks and other newer laptops, the Los Angeles Times reports.
By Carina StorrsPosted 03.11.2010 at 10:35 am 3 Comments
Every now and then, we like to gather three things that have gone bigger, better and faster this month. This time we're saluting airports that operate after strong earthquakes, giant cargo-hauling green airships, and artificial blood platelets that could save soldiers' lives.
The 8.8 magnitude seismic shock that rocked Chile over the weekend likely also rocked the Earth's axis, shifting the planet's mass enough to shave 1.26 microseconds (millionths of a second) from all Earthly days going forward, a NASA scientist says. But that's nothing; the magnitude 9.1 Sumatran quake that spawned the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004 subtracted a whopping 6.8 microseconds.
To help highlight the immense destruction that befell Haiti as a result of the recent earthquake, satellite imaging company GeoEye has teamed up with Google to produce a plug-in for Google Earth that allows users to view shots of Port au Prince taken at 7:20 this morning. By toggling between the newer photos and older satellite images taken of the city, the full scale of the devastation becomes shockingly apparent.
Two high-profile geothermal projects in the U.S. and Europe were both permanently halted late last week, after federal officials in both countries questioned their safety and propensity to cause earthquakes. Projects in Basel, Switzerland, and in northern California were both abandoned, raising questions about the danger of purposefully cracking open the Earth to extract its heat.
By Carina StorrsPosted 10.14.2009 at 1:17 pm 2 Comments
The earliest known attempt at earthquake-proofing dates to the sixth century B.C., when builders in modern-day Iran inserted stone blocks between a structure and its foundation to reduce vibrations. Today's engineers buffer buildings with metal springs, ball bearings and rubber pads, all designed to sop up the energy from seismic waves. This summer, a team of physicists at the University of Liverpool in England and the French National Centre for Scientific Research tested a different strategy: redirect the waves altogether.
How exactly does one build an earthquake-proof building? If you answered "make sure the structure rocks completely off its foundation," you're actually in good company. A research team led by Stanford and the University of Illinois successfully tested a structural system that holds a building together through a magnitude-seven earthquake, and even pulls it back upright on its foundation when the quaking stops. The key: embracing the shaking, by limiting the damage to a few flexible, replaceable areas within the building's frame.