Pasta Quake: Modeling magnitude scale using Spaghetti

How can I teach the difference between M 6 and M 9?

And how can uncooked spaghetti noodles help teach about the logarithmic nature of the magnitude scale? 

Understanding the magnitude change, thus the relative energy released from say, magnitude 7 to magnitude 8 can be challenging. Dr. Robert Butler (Univ. Portland) uses spaghetti to illustrate the concept by breaking pasta to show how each step up in magnitude represents a huge jump in the size of the pasta bundles. Each step in magnitude is represented by 32 times more spaghetti noodles.

In this video Dr. Butler rounded down to a factor of 30 to simplify the multiplication. 

But, technically speaking, whole unit of magnitude represents approximately 32 times (actually 10**1.5 times) the energy, based on a long-standing empirical formula that says log(E) is proportional to 1.5M, where E is energy and M is magnitude. This means that a change of 0.1 in magnitude is about 1.4 times the energy release.

This explains why big quakes are so much more devastating than small ones. The amplitude ("size") differences are big enough, but the energy ("strength") differences are huge. The amplitude numbers are neater and a little easier to explain, which is why those are used more often in publications. But it's the energy that does the damage.


Keypoints:

Discovery

  • What is the difference between Magnitude and intensity? 
  • How can we demonstrate intensity? (Shake a table)

Total Time: 2min 41s
Level: Novice

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