Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Microstory 563: The Quake That Never Was


Two weeks ago, a minor seismic tremor shook the Usonian west coast. No big deal, we deal with them every time. No one was hurt, and we suffered very little damage. But something was different about it. This tremor wasn’t supposed to be minor at all...it was actually shaping up to be the largest in recorded history. Science, for now, has given us no way to significantly predict major seismic activity before it begins, but the same does not go for predicting an active tremor’s growth. By measuring the increase in intensity over even a short period of time, seismologists have learned to determine just how big the quake will ultimately be. This on its own serves little practical purpose, for getting the word out to the public how bad it’s going to get once it gets worse than it already is can’t ever really help. However, this research is a necessary step to predicting quakes with enough time to warn people of its danger, and even possibly halting a quake’s progress. This may sound like the stuff of science fiction, but it’s technically already happened before. With this one. Several separate teams of seismologists were in decent enough locations to measure the seismic activity for this particular tremor. By combining their data, they discovered that it was simply not as large as it should have been. Its ultimate effects should have been devastating for anyone close to its epicenter. So why was it so minor? Well, technically it wasn’t, because what actually happened was that it simply stopped. After but a few moments of a steady increase in intensity, it suddenly began to dissipate at an even faster rate; faster than could be considered physically probable. Plenty of scientists in the field are studying the possibility of halting quakes, but as far as the industry as a whole knows, no one has been successful. It’s possible that this research is being done in secret, yet no team has come forward with their findings. They are either keeping it under wraps even still, or something else is going on. Already, certain religious groups are using this as an opportunity to promote their faith, claiming some divine intervention. We may never know what truly happened with this tremor, but I think most of us hopes that it happens again.

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