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Earthquakes, Seeing Into The Furture Essay

1346 words - 5 pages

Earthquakes have plagued our lives for as long as people have inhabited the earth. These dangerous acts of the earth have been the cause of many deaths in the past century. So what can be done about these violent eruptions that take place nearly with out warning? Predicting an earthquake until now has almost been technologically impossible. With improvements in technology, lives have been saved and many more will. All that remains is to research what takes place before, during, and after an earthquake. This has been done for years to the point now that a successful earthquake prediction was made and was accurate. This paper will discuss a little about earthquakes in general and then about how predictions are made.Earthquake, "vibrations produced in the earth's crust when rocks in which elastic strain has been building up suddenly rupture, and then rebound."(Associated Press 1993) The vibrations can range from barely noticeable to catastrophically destructive. Six kinds of shock waves are generated in the process. Two are classified as body waves--that is, they travel through the earth's interior--and the other four are surface waves. The waves are further differentiated by the kinds of motions they impart to rock particles. Primary or compressional waves (P waves) send particles oscillating back and forth in the same direction as the waves are traveling, whereas secondary or transverse shear waves (S waves) impart vibrations perpendicular to their direction of travel. P waves always travel at higher velocities than S waves, so whenever an earthquake occurs, P waves are the first to arrive and to be recorded at geophysical research stations worldwide.(Associated Press 1993)Earthquake waves were observed in this and other ways for centuries, but more scientific theories as to the causes of quakes were not proposed until modern times. One such concept was advanced in 1859 by the Irish engineer Robert Mallet. Perhaps drawing on his knowledge of the strength and behavior of construction materials subjected to strain, Mallet proposed that earthquakes occurred "either by sudden flexure and constraint of the elastic materials forming a portion of the earth's crust or by their giving way and becoming fractured."(Butler 1995)Later, in the 1870s, the English geologist John Milne devised a forerunner of today's earthquake-recording device, or seismograph. A simple pendulum and needle suspended above a smoked-glass plate, it was the first instrument to allow discrimination of primary and secondary earthquake waves. The modern seismograph was invented in the early 20th century by the Russian seismologist Prince Boris Golitzyn. "His device", using a magnetic pendulum suspended between the poles of an electromagnet, "ushered in the modern era of earthquake research." (Nagorka 1989)"The ultimate cause of tectonic quakes is stresses set up by movements of the dozen or so major and minor plates that make up the earth's crust."(Monastersky Oct, 95) Most tectonic...

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