Earthquakes and their damaging effects have fascinated and terrified humans since, and certainly before, recorded history. Hazards from seismic events include the destruction of engineered structures, ground collapse due to liquefaction, triggering of volcanic events, generation of tsunamis, and political instability resulting from societal disruption. The physics of earthquakes as a scientific study is relatively young, beginning in earnest with the invention of seismographs in the late 1800's. Since then principles of continuum mechanics, wave propagation, rock mechanics, geochemistry, geology, probability theory, and others have been employed for the purpose of providing some measure of protection for the "built environment" and the humans who inhabit it. The seismic hazard field is richly multi-disciplinary, employing seismologists, geophysicists, geologists, geochemists, geotechnical engineers, structural engineers, social scientists, and politicians to implement mitigation measures. In this talk I plan to 1) discuss the history of the development of our knowledge of the physics of earthquakes, 2) how earthquake hazards are characterized today with an example from California, and 3) discuss the current state of earthquake hazard assessment in the midwestern U.S.
ANL Physics Division Colloquium Schedule