As many people have pointed out, my comic about tweets outrunning seismic waves seems to have been widely verified in yesterday’s earthquake:

It’s always nice to see real-life confirmation of your calculations! The quake started in Virginia at 13:51:04 EST, where most of my family lives.  Texts from my brother in Charlottesville (25 miles from the epicenter) were slowed down by the spike in cell traffic, but I got an IRC message from my brother in Newport News, VA at 13:52:09. Based on USArray/EarthScope detector readings posted at Bad Astronomy, his message overtook the seismic waves outside Philadelphia, and reached New England over a minute before the quake was felt there.

I once heard a story (originally told by Kevin Young) about Gerson Goldhaber, who was a physicist at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. He was talking on the phone with another physicist at SLAC near Stanford University near the end of the day on Tuesday, October 17, 1989. The SLAC physicist suddenly interrupted with, “Gerson, I have to go! There’s a very big earthquake happening!” and then hung up. So Gerson stepped out into a group of people in the hall, made a big show of yawning and checking his watch, then said, “Aren’t we about due for an earthquake?” Before anyone could respond, the Loma Prieta earthquake reached Berkeley, and he became a legend.

My best friend from college is from Mineral, VA, a town of a few hundred people and one stoplight, which was at the epicenter of yesterday’s quake. A few years ago, he moved to Sendai, Japan, where he got an apartment just a few miles from the coast. Fortunately, he survived the March earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdown. Last I heard from him, he was moving back home. He really can’t catch a break. Fortunately, it sounds like there’s not too much damage. (Though from what I remember of Mineral, I can’t help but wonder—if the quake did cause damage, how would you tell?)

110 replies on “Earthquakes”

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  2. this is about comic on nostalgia (318) this comic only applies if said generation ends up having a future, and considering what they are all doing this makes it less and less likely. 😉


  3. @Thomas A. Anderson

    You mean what YOUR generation is doing. It’s the fault of the older generations for where we are right now, not that of the current (under 25) generation considering you have to be 35+ just to be in those political positions.


  4. While living in Christchurch, it was quite interesting to play a slight variation on the Earthquake Game.
    Generally, one plays the Earthquake Game by guessing the recent quake’s strength and then seeing how close you were by checking with geonet once the servers there cease to be overloaded.

    However, the other version could be played on with cellphones or on Twitter (or Twitter with cellphones), where people in different parts of Christchurch or the Canterbury plains can play ‘guess the direction’ as well as directly illustrate the comic.
    Most accurate guesses from my friends were coming out of Timaru.


  5. I used your comment in my high school physics class to illustrate the differing speed of waves. They loved it, thank you!


  6. This works with radio too
    On Sept 4, when people in Hororata were live on radio, they would say “there’s another aftershock”, I’d wait ~10 seconds, and it would hit home, or in the other direction, I’d feel one and a couple of seconds later, people on radio out East would report it.
    Playing guess-the-magnitude, you don’t win unless you guess to within 0.2 on the MM scale AND name Greendale, Port Hills or New Brighton as the fault responsible.


  7. About earthquakes, wait another couple of hours and one of the biggest asteroid will come close to the earth. If it hurts, it’s gonna be one of a pain for everybody on earth for sure (see google for keyword asteroid DA 14)


  8. Each year the southern California area has about 10,000 earthquakes. Most of them are so small that they are not felt. Only several hundred are greater than magnitude 3.0, and only about 15-20 are greater than magnitude 4.0. If there is a large earthquake, however, the aftershock sequence will produce many more earthquakes of all magnitudes for many months.


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