Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Whole Lotta Shakin Goin On

Earthquake epicenter courtesy Scientific American

VCCA had a whole lot of shaking going on but aside from losing our phone lines for a while, all is well.

Earthquakes are not standard Virginia fare. Yet at 5.8, the one that hit us yesterday was not the largest. The record holder was in 1897 at 5.9.

The epicenter in Mineral, Virginia is about 90 miles away. You'd think that since this quake was felt all the way up to Toronto, Canada, it would have been way stronger here. For a Virginian in August, the reason is ironic: our lithosphere is colder. The lithosphere is the outer rocky shell of Earth and because this crust is cooler on the East Coast, "...when something shakes, it is like hitting a bar of steel, it rings pretty well," according to Thomas Jordan, director of the Southern California Earthquake Center. The West Coast lithosphere has a higher temperature, plus it is divided by active faults - which breaks up the transmission of vibrations.

Still, even on the East Coast, thirty seconds in earthquake time is definitely longer than standard time - a good example of the amygdala in high gear. Our amygdalas got very busy laying down an extra set of memories on top of the 'standard' memories being generated by other parts of the brain. This additional input made the experience richer - which made it seem like the earthquake lasted longer than 30 seconds. Sort of a time warp.

Adds new meaning to the concentrated time artists, writers and composers depend on at VCCA.

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