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Science News: January 2004

Author: Nicolas Delerue, Issue: January 2004, Topic: Science News, Science

A big earthquake in America could be dangerous for Japan

While studying a Tsunami that struck Japan in 1700, a Japanese researcher, Kenji Satake, from the Geological Survey of Japan in Tsukuba, realized that the origin of the Tsunami was much further away than initially suspected: the Tsunami might have been produced by an earthquake in north-America. He discussed his idea with Canadian colleagues and they simulated the effect of a magnitude 9 earthquake on the Cascadia fault that goes from Vancouver, Canada to Mendocino in California, US. The simulations confirmed that this earthquake would have caused a huge Tsunami that might have struck Japan. According to geological surveys such huge earthquakes seem to occur every 500 years and while the effects of a magnitude 9 earthquake on buildings are not well known, one thing is sure: if such earthquake hits western America now, it would be a huge catastrophe.

More details can be found at: http://www.nature.com/nsu/031124/031124-2.html

A new superconductor found in Japan

Researchers from Tokyo University have found a new pyrochlore superconductor. Superconductors are materials through which at low temperatures electric current flows without losses. Many superconductors have been discovered in the last century, but the one discovered in Tokyo is a pyrochlore (Pyrochlores are materials with the general formula A2B2O7) and is only the second pyrochlore to show superconducting properties. The reasons why the material which is insulating (does not let electric current to flow) at (relatively) high temperature (225K or -50C) becomes superconducting at low temperature (9.6K or -263C) are not yet well understood.

More details can be found at: physicsweb.org/article/news/7/12/7

Assessing earthquakes damages by monitoring the power consumption

After an earthquake or any other natural disaster, it is important to have a quick evaluation of the damages to dispatch the rescue team were they are mostly needed. In heavily damaged buildings, connection to the electric network is often destroyed and thus the power consumption in devastated areas drops. For example, after the Kobe earthquake, analysis has shown that in a district where 32% of the building were destroyed, power consumption in the area dropped by 31% after the quake. Thus, disaster prevention authorities are working with electrical companies to have a real time overview of the power consumption, which would help them to dispatch rescue teams accurately. Of course, these data must be cross-checked with other information, as the destruction of a hub of the electric network would lead to a 0 power consumption in that area.

More details can be found at: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/getarticle.pl5?nn20031105b2.htm

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