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July 26, 2009

An Invisibility Cloak for Earthquakes

Earthquakes are among the most feared natural disasters. They reshape the landscape and wreck cities in their path. Major earthquakes can cause tsunamis (aka tidal waves), fires, landslides, floods, and a whole array of additional problems. However, a new technology may be able to buffer against earthquakes, protecting cities and towns, at least.

The idea is actually pretty simple. Set a series of large, plastic rings around an area you want to protect. Be able to change how stiff these rings are. Then, when an earthquake occurs, change the stiffness of the rings to transfer the energy somewhere else. The reason this would work is because earthquakes are really waves of energy moving through the ground. The "cloak" created by the plastic rings would nuetralize the waves directed at the city, diverting them elsewhere. Thus, the area around the "cloak" would still be affected. However, anything within the "cloak" would sustain little or no impact from the earthquake.
This technology is still in an experimentation stage. It works in small-scale models in the lab well, so real-life trials are underway. It doesn't elimate damage or risk from earthquakes, however. It is simply a way to help protect areas that are at a lot of risk from major earthquakes. Hopefully, this technology will become a way to reduce major disasters like the earthquake in China last year.

Credit: Science Daily- 'Invisibility Cloak' Could Protect Against Earthquakes