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August 2, 2013

The jiggling Earth, or, what are all those squiggles?

Ever since we first formally recorded one more or less a century and a score ago, the seismogram of an earthquake has become an iconic symbol. Oversimplified and unrealistic ones abound, but natural seismograms of earthquakes are distinctly identifiable. Despite the unique details of every earthquake, seismograms around the world are phenomenally similar. The differences among them are actually what allow seismologists to understand the propagation of earthquakes and the structure …


November 4, 2011

East Coast (U.S.) earthquakes – What gives?

On Tuesday afternoon, August 23, 2011, people up and down the United States’ East Coast–and as far inland as Chicago–felt an unmistakable tremor. At first, of course, the sensation was not so unmistakable: “earthquake” was not the first explanation that came to mind, especially for the explosion-conscious residents of New York and D.C. mere days before the 10th anniversary of the Sept 11 terrorist attacks, nor for Americans (and Canadians!) …


May 5, 2011

Swaying high-rises and resonance frequencies

In a post a few weeks ago I linked to a humbling video of high-rise buildings in Tokyo swaying after the 9.0 quake. Well, those buildings were full of tens of thousands of people, plenty of whom had cameras. That video was only the beginning; below are many more that capture the dramatic oscillation of the towering steel edifices. The swaying is especially clear in the following video, likely filmed …


February 28, 2011

Tsunami misconceptions

Exactly one year ago today we (some of us) sat glued to our TVs as the tsunami generated by the gargantuan 8.8 Chilean earthquake barreled into bays around the Pacific Ocean. This is what we saw:   Many people found that anti-climactic, especially in comparison to this famous video of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami pouring into Patong Beach, or this dramatic one of the ’04 tsunami crashing ashore at another resort …


Earthquake Basics

Before diving into the wealth of fascinating earthquake phenomena I plan to share with you, I’ll give an extremely brief basic overview of what earthquakes are and why they happen, so that we can all be on the same page. Let’s start with the big picture: The Earth is a big rocky (and rather metallic) body, like a number of others in our solar system. Within this big orb of …