Pasta Quake: Exploring Earthquake Magnitude


How can uncooked spaghetti illustrate the magnitude scale?

We will explore an earthquake’s magnitude through the often-reported Richter scale. Then, we will learn about the moment magnitude scale. Properties of the earthquake source relate to the moment magnitude. Seismologists (earthquake scientists) prefer use of the moment magnitude when possible.

An increase of one unit of magnitude relates to a 32 times increase in the amount of energy released. We can show this through uncooked spaghetti noodles! If a Pasta Quake magnitude (M) 5 earthquake is one spaghetti noodle, a M6 earthquake is 32 pieces of spaghetti! A M7 earthquake would be 1024 (32 x 32) spaghetti noodles! In this activity, learners use uncooked spaghetti noodles to experience different earthquake magnitudes.


Learners will be able to:

• Demonstrate that an earthquake’s magnitude is related to its energy release through the Pasta Quake model.

• Explain the differences between the Richter scale and the more accurate moment magnitude scale.

• Describe that each increase of magnitude by a whole number (M4 to M5) releases 32 times more energy.