Atom Wave: The Ease of Artificial Earthquakes

Atom Wave

Saturday, June 07, 2008

The Ease of Artificial Earthquakes

Are you a disgruntled teenager? Maybe a political leader in need of attention or distraction from scandal? Do you need insurance money to upgrade that decrepit place you call a home? Have you considered earthquakes?

It turns out that artificial earthquakes aren’t just the realms of science fiction. These days any small country or corporation can get into the earthquake business, and it is easier than you might think.

Earthquakes occur due to stress within the earth’s crust. Over years or decades, stress accumulates within a fault until its slips. It is this slip that releases vast quantities of potential energy, transforming it into mechanical energy and acoustic vibrations. Actually most of the energy is lost to heat and the fracturing of the earth.

Returning to man made earthquakes; you can manufacture California shattering quakes from nothing more than construction machinery moving about massive amounts of mass. It’s simple really. Transferring large amounts of mass about shifts stress on faults, changing their dynamics and ultimately destabilizing them. They crack and you have an earthquake.

The best way is to build a dam. Back during the construction of the Hoover Dam, hundreds of quakes were recorded during the filling of Lake Mead. The quakes reached their peak in 1939 when the dam reached its peak, and they have flucturated ever since with water level. The area was not seismically active before construction began. It is speculated that the recent earthquake in China is the consequence of the filling of the Three Gorges Dam.

You could also inject liquids or gases underground. Back in 1961 the Army came up with a bright idea to dispose of toxic sludge from Napalm production. They injected it deep underground, of the order of 165 million gallons into a hole in Rocky Mountains Colorado. The army discontinued the program after a number of earthquakes were likely triggered. This problem will only be compounded in the coming decades as companies begin disposing of carbon dioxide deep within the earth.

Are you feeling greedy? You could profit of your endeavor by mining coal. In 2006 alone, 6,195 million metric tones of coal were extracted from the earth, and that was just the start. Coal mining operations also have to extract water, which can come out to many times the mass of coal. It is estimated that up to 50% of earthquakes could come from this source.

These last two are more speculation, but not totally unreasonable. You could assemble a skyscraper. The new Taepei 101 weighs in more than 700,000 tons. Back in 2005, a geologist claimed that this new structure was stressing a long dormant fault in Taiwan. You could also drill an oil well dry. It is alleged that three large earthquakes were triggered in Uzbekistan from natural gas extraction, quakes of the order of 7.3. There is certainly a correlation between drilling and earthquakes, but it is still debated over how much.
Are you still unsatisfied? You can still always resort to the deep underground detonation of a large explosive device. At least a few earthquakes have been set off over the years from underground nuclear testing. The Sedan detonation in 1962 set off an earthquake of the order of 4.75 on the Richter scale while researching the peaceful use of nuclear weapons.


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