Monday, 21 January 2013

Earthquakes and art

A sand tracing pendulum, in Washington, USA, produced some very interesting patterns after an earthquake of magnitude 6.8. The smooth curves you can see on the outside are what you normally see when someone sets the pendulum in motion to make a tracing ... without seismic assistance. The earthquake's handiwork is the design in the centre.
The motions caused by the earthquake moving the pendulum's base started small, and the initial tracings were overwritten as the strength of the ground's motion increased. Once everything started to slow down after the shaking stopped, the pendulum slowed to a stop, gradually "writing" the pattern in tighter circles as it moved back to its natural centre. If you look at it closely, you can see that the pendulum was apparently centreing in one spot, and then moved a final time to come to rest in a slightly different location. This may be explained by last minute settling in the ground.
It's interesting to think that such a massive and very destructive release of energy can also contain such delicate artistry within its chaos. 
You could use this image to lead into a discussion about earthquakes and then try some of the following ELIs:-
- Earthquake prediction - when will the earthquake strike?
- Earthquake through the window - what would you see, what would you feel?
- Geobattleships (ELI+)
- Quake shake - will my home collapse?
- Shaken but not stirred?
- Surviving an earthquake
- Waves in the Earth 1: the slinky simulation (ELI+)
- Waves in the Earth 2: human molecules (ELI+)

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