Earthquake Machine: Graphing Time vs. Strain

How can we model elastic rebound in the classroom?

This animation shows the "Earthquake Machine" using two blocks with different grit sandpaper, thus different friction. Animation illustrates the build up and release of strain in locked and slow slip zones. The first block, in red, has fine sandpaper on its bottom and simulates the slow slip zone between tectonic plates. The second block with coarse sandpaper on its bottom side, simulates the locked zone of two plates. As the first rubber band is slowly pulled, strain builds up. Once enough energy is stored in the rubber band to overcome the friction of the sandpaper under the red block, the red block slips slightly. (Note: This is similar to the slow earthquakes or episodic tremor and slip events in the Pacific Northwest.) Once the red block slips, the rubber band between the red and blue wood block stretches slightly. As this rubber band continues to stretch, the strain between the blocks builds until the blue block finally moves. The movement of the blue block would be equivalent to a major earthquake.


Keypoints:

Model graphs time vs strain to illustrate:

  • Build up and release of strain in the earth.
  • The first block simulates small earthquakes between tectonic plates.
  • The second block simulates the locked zone of two plates.
  • During small earthquakes strain is transferred to block #2
  • Strain between the blocks builds until #2 finally moves, equivalent to a major earthquake.

Total Time: 28s
Level: Novice

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