Resonance: Modeling Resonance in Buildings using Spaghetti Noodles

John Lahr (USGS seismologist) demonstrates how to use spaghetti noodles and raisins to model building resonance during earthquake ground shaking. This is a “kid-friendly” version of the wood blocks and dowels BOSS model. Here he uses spaghetti noodles of different heights to show how fast or slow vibrations will affect taller or shorter noodles.

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The BOSS model is an effective way to show how buildings of different heights respond to seismic waves. All buildings have a natural frequency.

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This video lecture shows John Lahr (USGS Seismologist Emeritus) describing the BOSS experiment that models oscillations of different height buildings.

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John Lahr, US Geological Survey Seismologist, demonstrating a cheap and kid-friendly version of the BOSS model that shows how buildings of different height oscillate during earthquake shaking.

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All buildings have a natural, period, or resonance, which is the number of seconds it takes for the building to naturally vibrate back and forth.  The ground also has a specific resonant frequency. Hard bedrock has higher frequencies softer sediments.  If the period of ground motion matches the natural resonance of a building, it will undergo the largest oscillations possible and suffer the greatest damage.

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Related Lessons

All buildings have a natural frequency of oscillation or resonance frequency. When seismic waves shake the ground beneath a building at its resonance frequency, the structure will begin to sway back and forth. This concept can be demonstrated in the classroom using the BOSS Model Lite as a discrepant event demonstration to engage students in earthquake-engineered buildings.  

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