Seismic Slinky: Modeling P and S waves

Novice

• Activity
• Learner Worksheet: Seismic Slinky Explorations (Appendix E)
• Poster: Personal Protective Actions (Appendix C)
• Poster: ShakeAlert: Implementing Public Earthquake Early Warning for the U.S. (Appendix B)
• Types of Seismic Waves (Appendix D)

How do seismic waves interact and move through the Earth?

In this activity, learners will model seismic waves using a Slinky© to experience how seismic waves interact and move through the Earth.

Three different options provide opportunities to understand the characteristics of different types of seismic waves. In the 5-minute activity, learners observe an animation about fast traveling P waves and the slower-traveling S waves then discuss the basics of the ShakeAlert Earthquake Early Warning system. The 15-minute activity provides hands-on experiences of how P and S waves travel using a Slinky©. The 45-minute activity provides learners an opportunity to explore additional seismic wave concepts and how they relate to real-world situations.

Objectives:

Learners will be able to:

• Use the model as a tool to observe and understand seismic wave properties.
• Describe the difference between P and S waves based on the direction of particle motion relative to the direction of propagation.
• Understand that seismograms show characteristics of each type of seismic wave.

Related Videos

A video demonstration of how a slinky can be a good model for illustrating P & S seismic waves movement.

Video Novice

Related Animations

We use exaggerated motion of a building (seismic station) to show how the ground moves during an earthquake, and why it is important to measure seismic waves using 3 components: vertical, N-S, and E-W. Before showing an actual distant earthquake, we break down the three axes of movement to clarify the 3 seismograms.

Animation Novice

An earthquake or explosion can generate seismic waves. These elastic waves may travel either through the earth’s interior as "body waves" (P and S waves) or along or near the earth’s surface as "surface waves" (Rayleigh and Love waves). This set of four animations shows the behavior of each using a 3-D grid.

Animation Novice

Oblique view of a highly generalized animation of a subduction zone where an oceanic plate is subducting beneath a continental plate. (See sketch below for parts.) This scenario can happen repeatedly on a 100-500 year cycle. The process which produces a mega-thrust earthquake would generate a tsunami, not depicted here.

Animation Novice

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