Lab seismic research on display at California Academy of Sciences

May 21, 2012

Simulation of a possible M 7.05 Hayward Fault earthquake on the scale of the Bay Area. (Download Image)

Lab seismic research on display at California Academy of Sciences

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory seismologists will be on hand Wednesday at the media premiere of the California Academy of Sciences' new show, "Earthquake: Evidence of a Restless Planet."

"Earthquake" is a new planetarium show and major exhibit that will open to the public on May 26. The show will launch visitors on a tour through space and time -- flying over the San Andreas fault before diving into the planet's interior, traveling back in time to witness both the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and the breakup of Pangaea (the supercontinent) 200 million years ago.

With an emphasis on scientifically accurate data, the show draws heavily from the expertise of key partners. Lawrence Livermore provided accurate ground motion simulations for the 1906 earthquake, ground motions for a hypothetical earthquake on the Hayward Fault, visualizations of seismic waves traveling through the Earth, and a temperature map of Earth's interior based on imaging with seismic waves.

"The LLNL team is happy to have contributed data to the show and thrilled to see the results in such a stunning visual form," said Arthur Rodgers, a seismologist at LLNL. "It's also satisfying to know that many people might learn something they didn't know about earthquakes or plate tectonics through work done at LLNL."

Starting at Point Reyes in Northern California, the show flies south along the San Andreas Fault until it reaches San Francisco. The Golden Gate Bridge fades away as the clock rewinds to 1906. The audience experiences an all-digital recreation of the 7.9-magnitude earthquake, followed by a scientific dissection of the event -- including views of the underground fault plane and the propagation of seismic energy waves based on supercomputer simulations.

Guests then embark on a high-speed tour of the past 200 million years, witnessing the formation of the Atlantic Ocean, flying over the cradle of humanity in Africa's Great Rift Valley, and visiting sites of historic earthquakes in India, China and Japan -- including the 9.0-magnitude Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.

A planetarium presenter will bring audiences even more up-to-date during a live portion showing the latest seismic events happening around the planet -- earthquakes big and small occur almost constantly. The show ends with a look at the modern building strategies used by scientists and engineers for a safer and better prepared future.

Watch the trailer. For more information on the show, go to the California Academy of Sciences Website.