Hosted by Sandra Tsing Loh, The Loh Down on Science is a fun way to get your daily dose of science plus a dash of humor in less than two minutes.
Hosted by Sandra Tsing Loh
Airs Weekdays 2:43 and 3:43 a.m.

Hot Flashes

Do earthquakes cause ... hot flashes?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Saying, yes! But of an Earthly nature.

Meet David Goldsby and Terry Tullis from Brown University. They played a game of make-a-quake in their lab, sliding various types of rock generally found along faults across each other.

At slow speeds, nothing happened. But at speeds common in quakes--about one foot a second? The rocks literally sparked high-temperature bursts of heat at microscopic points of contact between the rocks. Each of those points is apparently like a match. It needs a good connection but also a quick flick to get it firing. Then, boom!

The heat weakens or even melts any caressing crystals, lowering the friction and easing the slide.

This could explain how ruptures propagate, but, to an extent, also why they stop. Each Lilliputian explosion facilitates slipping over a tiny sliver of a millimeter. Then the friction rockets back up. The movement could stop right there. Or it could spark more hot flashes, more unwanted surface wrinkles, even more hot flashes ... and more ... and--yeah!--it's tough to be Mother Earth.

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