The Solution to Earthquakes: Run Away

A computerized visualization of a new satellite city of Istanbul features a cluster of buildings arranged to form a Selcuk star, a traditional Turkish symbol. Purdue University researchers have worked with Turkish officials to plan a future city that would be earthquake resistant and offer refuge if a major earthquake hits Istanbul, which experts say is likely. (Purdue News Service image/Nicoletta Adamo-Villani)

Engineers at Purdue University and the Republic of Turkey have come up with a bold (their word) way to save the residents of Istanbul from a catastrophic earthquake: Build a second city somewhere else. Like that's so easy? The Purdue guys needed two months and TeraGrid—the world's largest open-science computing grid—just to build a fly-through animation of their proposed city.

Istanbul is not well prepared for earthquakes and is expected to get a big one within the next 30 years. The proposed "satellite" city would not only offer residents a refuge but would have all sorts of amenities missing in old Istanbul, such as modern information technologies and security systems. And of course, earthquake-resistant structures.

Turkey can't afford to lose its most important city, and bringing Istanbul up to modern standards would cost an estimated $50 billion. But it's hard to believe that a brand-new city capable of sheltering 12 million wouldn't cost a whole lot more than that. The proposal sounds like a fun computer modeling exercise for Purdue students but hardly a realistic solution for Istanbul.—Dawn Stover