An infographic on how the March 11, 2011, Tohoku earthquake happened.

It’s from Live Science – you’ll have to click this link because their embed code apparently doesn’t work with WordPress.

Here are two caveats before you check it out:

  • If real science could be summed up in an infographic, we wouldn’t need scientists.
  • Research on the Tohoku quake is ongoing, and those who made the infographic may not have incorporated the latest thinking (though it’s certainly quite good).

Some recent research

Perhaps the ocean sea floor (rock/faults/etc.) played a significant role in the 2011 event, perhaps magnifying the tsunami waves rather like this (courtesy of USC/NOAA):


Another scholarly paper (PDF) that hasn’t yet been published suggests that underwater sediment slumping (an underwater landslide) played a significant role.

Here’s a short video on such things from an Oregon State University study (note that unlike during the Tohoku quake in 2011, the “sea bed” here doesn’t dramatically jump up on one side):


No last word in science

We like to think of scientists as Mr. Spock – feed them enough data and they will come to a definite conclusion. To some extent, they do this and are extraordinarily helpful to us all.

However, on a more fundamental level all scientists are just children building sand castles on the shore of that vast, uncharted Ocean of Truth, delighted when they complete an imaginative structure but just as delighted when it gets wrecked, for now they know a better way to build a castle.

No scientist will ever finish the castle – it is always a work in progress.

Categories: Earthquakes, Random thoughts, Science

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