Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

A Universal Law May Govern Time Elapsed Between Earthquakes

03.03.2004


Surprisingly, the probability that an earthquake should reoccur in any part of the world is smaller, the longer the time since the last quake took place. This is one of the conclusions reached by the physicist Álvaro Corral, researcher at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB). Corral has been the first to observe that there is a relation between consecutive quake-to-quake time intervals that follows a universal distribution of probability. This in turn suggests the existence of a simple physical mechanism that regulates the process of earthquake generation. The research is to be published shortly in the prestigious journal Physical Review Letters.



If you throw a loaded dice, no-one can know the result beforehand, as this will be random; but if the dice is thrown a great number of times, one given result will come up more times than any other. Although the process is random, there is a distribution of probability that favours one result over the others.

A physicist at the UAB, Álvaro Corral, has discovered that earthquake behaviour follows a similar logic. Nobody knows the time interval between one quake and the next - this, too, is a random process - but Corral has found out that the process is “loaded”, that is, there is a distribution of probabilities that favours earthquakes being grouped together over time. As the researcher indicates, this tendency towards grouping shows itself in the very long term, and so goes far beyond the grouping of the successive replicas that occur in the immediate aftermath of an earthquake.


A surprising consequence of all this, although it may seem to run against the expected, is that the probability of an earthquake repeating is smaller, the longer the time since the last quake occurred. So, “the longer we’ve been waiting for the big one, the longer it’ll take for it to come”, says Corral.

The relation discovered by Álvaro Corral is found hidden under the register data for earthquakes that have taken place around the world since the 1970s. Corral has analysed this data from a perspective that is somewhat different to the traditional approach. Whilst it is true that, up to now, scientists have studied the intervals between quakes with a reductionist approach, differentiating between the main quake and its replicas, the UAB researcher has placed both quake types in the same basket. This approach is in accordance with the view taken by the philosophy of complexity, aiming to find descriptions for phenomena on a global scale. The approach is inspired by the late Danish physicist, Per Bak.

As the article published in Physical Review Letters points out, Corral divides the surface of the earth into different regions and takes into consideration the intervals of time between all the consecutive earthquakes catalogued for each of these zones. In analysing the distribution of probability for these time intervals, the UAB physicist discovered that, in spite of their randomness, the quakes are consistent with a universal law that tends to group them together.

This grouping tendency has appeared in all the statistical analyses carried out on the data catalogued, independently of the minimum intensities considered (running from 2 to 6.5 on the Richter Scale), or of the regions studied (running from those having 400 km2 to the entire Earth). In this way, the fact that all quakes obey a universal law of probability suggests the existence of a simple physical mechanism that regulates the process of earthquake generation on a global scale.

Octavi López Coronado | alfa
Further information:
http://www.uab.es

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Algorithm provides early warning system for tracking groundwater contamination
14.08.2018 | DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

nachricht Artificial Glaciers in Response to Climate Change?
10.08.2018 | Universität Heidelberg

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New interactive machine learning tool makes car designs more aerodynamic

Scientists develop first tool to use machine learning methods to compute flow around interactively designable 3D objects. Tool will be presented at this year’s prestigious SIGGRAPH conference.

When engineers or designers want to test the aerodynamic properties of the newly designed shape of a car, airplane, or other object, they would normally model...

Im Focus: Robots as 'pump attendants': TU Graz develops robot-controlled rapid charging system for e-vehicles

Researchers from TU Graz and their industry partners have unveiled a world first: the prototype of a robot-controlled, high-speed combined charging system (CCS) for electric vehicles that enables series charging of cars in various parking positions.

Global demand for electric vehicles is forecast to rise sharply: by 2025, the number of new vehicle registrations is expected to reach 25 million per year....

Im Focus: The “TRiC” to folding actin

Proteins must be folded correctly to fulfill their molecular functions in cells. Molecular assistants called chaperones help proteins exploit their inbuilt folding potential and reach the correct three-dimensional structure. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry (MPIB) have demonstrated that actin, the most abundant protein in higher developed cells, does not have the inbuilt potential to fold and instead requires special assistance to fold into its active state. The chaperone TRiC uses a previously undescribed mechanism to perform actin folding. The study was recently published in the journal Cell.

Actin is the most abundant protein in highly developed cells and has diverse functions in processes like cell stabilization, cell division and muscle...

Im Focus: Lining up surprising behaviors of superconductor with one of the world's strongest magnets

Scientists have discovered that the electrical resistance of a copper-oxide compound depends on the magnetic field in a very unusual way -- a finding that could help direct the search for materials that can perfectly conduct electricity at room temperatur

What happens when really powerful magnets--capable of producing magnetic fields nearly two million times stronger than Earth's--are applied to materials that...

Im Focus: World record: Fastest 3-D tomographic images at BESSY II

The quality of materials often depends on the manufacturing process. In casting and welding, for example, the rate at which melts solidify and the resulting microstructure of the alloy is important. With metallic foams as well, it depends on exactly how the foaming process takes place. To understand these processes fully requires fast sensing capability. The fastest 3D tomographic images to date have now been achieved at the BESSY II X-ray source operated by the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin.

Dr. Francisco Garcia-Moreno and his team have designed a turntable that rotates ultra-stably about its axis at a constant rotational speed. This really depends...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Within reach of the Universe

08.08.2018 | Event News

A journey through the history of microscopy – new exhibition opens at the MDC

27.07.2018 | Event News

2018 Work Research Conference

25.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

'Building up' stretchable electronics to be as multipurpose as your smartphone

14.08.2018 | Information Technology

During HIV infection, antibody can block B cells from fighting pathogens

14.08.2018 | Life Sciences

First study on physical properties of giant cancer cells may inform new treatments

14.08.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>