June 1, 2008 Issue

Physics To Go 50 - Sichuan earthquake

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Physics in Your World

Himalayan Horizon from Space image
image credit: Expedition 1, ISS, EOL NASA; image source; larger image

Himalayan Horizon from Space

Here are the Himalayas, as photographed by an astronaut on the International Space Station.  These mountains were created by the collision of two continents, as the India Plate, proceeding north at about 5 cm/year, has ground against the Eurasian Plate over the last 40 or 50 million years.  To find out more, visit the NOVA site Birth of the Himalaya.

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Physics at Home

Mountain Maker, Earth Shaker

Visit NOVA's Mountain Maker, Earth Shaker for a simulation of what happens when two plates collide--you move the plate with your mouse and watch the new landforms appear.  To find out more about colliding plates, visit the USGS Convergent Plate Boundaries.


From Physics Research

Understanding Plate Motions image
image credit: USGS; image source; larger image

Understanding Plate Motions

This map, from a USGS poster, shows the epicenter of the May 12 earthquake in Sichuan, China, along with the boundary, at the lower left, between the India Plate and the Eurasian Plate. The northward movement of the India plate produces the frequent seismic activity in China.

For the theory of the movements of plates in the Earth's crust, visit the USGS' Understanding Plate Motions.

(This feature was updated on July 19, 2013.)

Worth a Look


Visit the Exploratorium's Faultline for a general introduction to earthquakes, with data, photos, activities, and more.  Also, check out Plate Tectonics for plate tectonic animations, along with a description of the theory and how it was developed.

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