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Physical Attraction


We are the podcast that explains ideas in physics, one chat-up line at a time. Not just a physics podcast, though - interviews with scientists, scholars, authors and reflections on the history and future of science and technology are all in the wheelhouse.

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Aug 19, 2017

Let’s talk about earthquakes. As we know, the Earth’s crust is made up of tectonic plates – vast plates of rock that shift around due to convection and the motion of fluid in Earth’s mantle. They, roughly speaking “join together” at fault-lines. But in reality, the plates can’t slide past each other frictionlessly; what tends to happen is that they “catch” on each other, stick for a while – with pressure building, because whatever predominant force is pushing them along is building up pressure and elastic strain energy. Then, eventually, it all becomes too much, and they slip dramatically, releasing all that built-up energy quickly and causing vibrational waves to propagate, which we feel as Earthquakes. For this reason, they occur predominantly around faultlines, like the San Andreas fault that runs through California, and others in Japan, South America, and the middle east.


But do earthquakes have the power to destroy the world or even wreak major damage on human civilization as a whole? Let's find out.