Today we talk about engineering for earthquakes, and how what we know about geology affects how structures are designed for different locations. Our guests: a structural engineer and a geologist from the USGS.
Rafe NeedlemanFormer Editor at Large
Rafe Needleman reviews mobile apps and products for fun, and picks startups apart when he gets bored. He has evaluated thousands of new companies, most of which have since gone out of business.
Japan will be recovering for years from the magnitude 9.0 earthquake and resulting tsunami that struck there a week ago. Arguably, of all the places in the world to get hit by such a disaster, Japan was the best prepared. Yet still there was devastation. Thousands of people died. Towns were literally washed away. Several nuclear reactors were damaged beyond repair. How did this happen? What technologies and engineering were used to mitigate earthquake and tsunami risks in Japan, and how did they fail?
And could it happen here?
Today we're talking about engineering for earthquakes, and how what we know about geology affects how buildings and other structures are designed for various locations.
First of all, Andy and Tom, how are your organizations responding to the Japan quake?
What happens in a nuclear plant when there's an earthquake?
What did we learn from Japan?
How has seismic engineering changed in the past, say, 20 years? How does our understanding of geology play into this?
Can a 40-year-old power plant be considered safe under today's standards?
How about other plants, power grids, or infrastructure like subway systems, elevators, etc.?
Buildings--in particular, for big ones like skyscrapers, what's the latest in engineering? Are buildings being built like cars--to save occupants but be "totaled" after a major quake?
How about technology to warn people of impending quakes? When Charles Richter, who invented the Richter scale, was asked in 1971, "What are your thoughts on the possibility of predicting earthquakes in the next two decades?" he replied, "None." Have we made progress?
Tsunami mitigation--what can be done in coastal cities such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York?