RAPID CITY-Small movements can make a big impact.
Visitors of the South Dakota Mines Museum of Geology in Rapid City will soon be able to get a better picture on where earthquakes happen, what causes them and get a better understanding of the movement underneath their feet.
The museum is installing a hand-sized seismometer box called Raspberry Shake, which will be at the center of a new interactive exhibit allowing guests to jump up and down on the floor and see the seismic waves they create in real-time on a monitor.
Kevin M. Ward, an assistant professor of Geology and Geological Engineering at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, clusters his research around observational seismology to understand tectonic, magmatic, and near surface geological processes. Which, put in layman's terms, is the scientific study of the earth's crust, the large-scale processes which take place within it and a theory that the planet's crust and upper mantle is divided into a large number of plate-like sections that move as a distinct mass.
"The small Raspberry Shake seismometer is set up in the concrete bunker of the museum at the Department of Geology and Geological Engineering," Ward said. "Kids, especially, can come by and jump and see the ground move in real-time. They can experience how even the smallest movement can be measured in seismic waves."
Seismometers can be used by larger sports arenas to measure audience reaction. For example, when the Earth began to shake in the remote jungle of Acre, Brazil on the afternoon of Jan. 5, the Seismological Observatory of the University of Brasilia registered a magnitude 6.8 earthquake and minutes later, the tiny Raspberry Shake device inside a concrete bunker at the School of Mines registered the same earthquake, sending an email alert to the phone of Ward.
"The Raspberry Shake measures vertically and is a good tool for amateurs and practical use," Ward said. "It does not record as much data as the more sophisticated, larger seismometers, but will pick up the movement of trains, cars, etc., which then is picked up by the network and allows us to see the movement here locally."
The new exhibit is scheduled to open later this month and will also feature a collection of geographic maps rotating through different regions of the world.
"The maps show how old these events are," Ward said. "The larger the circle around one of these earthquakes, the larger the event."