« StarTalk Radio

A Violent Earth

2013-03-28 | 🔗
Japan was recently hit by a triple punch: a powerful 9.0 magnitude earthquake generated a huge tsunami, which then critically damaged a nuclear power plant.

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Skip. The commercials support star talk on patriarch to listen to every episode, commercial free stored for those of you that are just turning into an age k, world major earthquake with the magnitude of seven point: nine has hit Japan. The meter logical agency has issued its an army warning for Japan specific coastal morning. Sets about me baby as high as six meters in some areas. All refined around us or shaping back in the lights were flickering people I will grabbing each other. Children were quietly at least three hundred plus boats were damaged, appears completely destroyed, millions and millions of dollars. The reactor court is still hot, the plan to shreds, and so you need to cool down to the fuel inside that point
does it melt start. I welcome back to start operating on your hosts, Neil, the grass Thyssen astrophysicist with the American Museum of natural history. This We have a special edition of STAR Talk where we focus on the violent earth earthquakes, volcanoes synonymous. We want to give you the science that enable you to understand and interpret the whose reports we ve all been getting from the Pacific rim on March eleven, Japan, was hit by a trip punch and nine eight point. Nine magnitude earthquake a tsunami that followed shortly after and of the scariest among natural disasters that you might imagine the can earn about a nuclear power plant right there on the coast. By the tsunami, and the earthquake is at risk meltdown Madrid.
The science behind each of these issues, and The course of the show We will bring an experts to find out and get to the bottom of what going on in the science of the earth I'm join this week by my colleagues the American Museum of Natural history. One is a friend I've per day phenomena Steve did he's an astrophysicist at Steve start on radio. Thank you yeah and he's. It happens to be an expert on earth phenomenon as well as synonymous throughout history, and have also Jim Webster he's a geologist in the Department of Earth. Monetary scientists, any as a specialty invoking Jim welcome to start talk, radio thanking ale, it's great to be here thanks for coming on, and I wanted to start with you, Jim you're, the geologist here, and so we it's kind of blame you for this, these phenomena, what You tell me what an earthquake is and why we have them in what what's what's going on with the earth? An earthquake is a release of energy and the outer portion of Europe
So what the energies gotta come from Somewhere- and I know we have had a form of solar system- describe the formation of a solar system and start The huge gas cloud is mostly hydrogen and helium and is a little bit of trace elements elsewhere forms, a son in the middle of these other. Concentrations of mass that make the planets in each of those planets will have some overheat. Some of the heat because it was hot when it formed others, because as it collapses, it Get harder for having collapsed and earth is still it seems to me four and a half billion years should be long enough for this place to cool down. What's goin on, I like the fact that you focused on heat and energy because really is this release of energy that drives seismic earthquake activity? That's also what hopefully, we'll talk about a little bit later, the volcanoes that are associated with earthquakes around our planet. Early on in the formation of our planet, there was the accretion, and You have the various particles, literally slamming into one another violently and earning he'd energy over
but if you have energy of motion and then you stop moving because you collider that energy still has to go somewhere and its revealed in the heat of the object, so source eating his object, but the objects would grow overtime and eventually the body was large enough and heavy enough that the more dense material iron nickel metal alloys started sinking to the centre under the force of grub, so need a fluid object for this to happen. Otherwise I'll just sit on the top is Iraq, but the earth at that time was liquid, the enough plastic enough for him. Things to fall in my thanks to rise. That's what you're saying like I love you choice of language word, fluid, may or may not be a liquid amino hot, solid material. If it's hot and behave slowly of a very long period of time, it will be It is a fluid. It's not an a fluid and in a conventional sense, but given enough time, it'll move in exactly or materials may move through. It made me It's your heavy, you followed middle. So this is where you segregate out heavy from light in the formation of the earth, and we know that that the core of our planet is largely iron nickel and it was the formation of that court.
Also generated a tremendous amount of energy that still resides that part of it still resides in our planet. Still, besides, and so that energy manifests itself by them by violence activity on earth crust. Exactly the most apparent thing for us is perhaps watching volcanic eruptions surface molten material being for this kind of a peak into the energy of the earth is revealing its in its insides. Exactly this one of the few ways, one of the better ways that we cannot actually gatherer materials from me in earth biggest are carried up by molten lava so Voltaire's Orangist anywhere iced tend to see them collected where you ve got sort of where you also. North is right, and so these are related phenomenon, clearly exactly not to get too heavy into play. Tectonic theory, but the surface of our planet consists of these brittle plates that float around this fluid, not liquid but fluid medium, and in fact it's where these plates converge and where they come apart. It really represents the great majority of the earthquake.
Activity on our planet and the great majority of the volcanic active molten rock some one of the most famous regions would be at work, but I've read about is called the ring. A fire which is basically the entire perimeter of the Pacific Ocean is now is an accurate exactly if you want to start in the western portion of the Pacific and move up from New Zealand up to the various island chains along the western coast. See the eastern, corrosive Asia. Uproar in the corral, the allusions to the new illusions of Alaska and come right on down the West coast of the North America, South America and South America ran on down a typically and more than four hundred active volcanoes around that ring and this is what we call the ring of fire exact, so innocent volcano erupting or an earthquake in that zone. We shouldn't be surprised, no, not at all as usual business as usual for earth, so what kind of we haven't that a tweet from someone were to read? It between names are always fascinating here, just come so calm stupor. Why is it so hard to predict
earthquakes where we know so much about plate tectonics. Could you sound knowledgeable? What's the problem here, earthquakes or due to a very localize phenomenon and the upper portions of Planet it may impact the crush democratically lack of proportion to the question, and earthquakes actually are sourced in the mental that we deemed down that fluid portion below the brittle custom course of our planet. Yes, earthquake and start there as well, but there are localize phenomenon, distort and actually build predict that any given point in time What's going to happen in the immediate future comes differ, so you can predict sort of statistically how many are of great you might expect in a zone or in a region, but for a specific, but but for specific spot did he a town and a date. You can provide that just yet without precursory information. Exactly that's what makes it of course cursory him from his ship. That's all that information, you don't you can figure out how to get yet well, that's! What's our scientists and others are trying to acquire and try to interpret Delacroix correlations between some precursor.
Phenomenon? Ok! So now, so we have earthquakes another the scale that we used to measure than when I grow up. They called it the Richter scale but now seems to be called something different Eve, Steve Sort studied earthquakes throughout history and as they have affected called prison civilizations. So what's the scale we were using today. Let's call the moment, magnitude scale. The old Richter scale could not measure earthquakes that were of the highest magnitudes, accurately didn't so that these are the scale. Could the scale was ineffective? It was in effect, distinguishing really high magnitude from even higher magnitude, rags and so a new magnitude scale based on what's called moment. Magnitude cut was devised in the nineteen seventies, and that involves three factors. One is the area of the fault that breaks a second is the slip along that fall or how foreign manaos far moves? And the third is the rigidity of the rock?
strong, the rock is actually quantify the rigidity, so so two extremes of rigidity, one might be rubber and extreme might be diamonds. What's yes, and those We can all be measured more or less for all earthquakes and so come up with numbers and and and now the numbers seem pretty simple is like one to ten or something, but it is. There are limits to the scale. It's actually itself. It's a logarithmic scale, which means that each number going from to say seven to eight is not a small change in energy. It turns out to be a change of a factor of about thirty three for each make forward each magnitude. Yes, so if you go up to magnitude is thirty three times thirty, three, which is a thousand, but in terms of the amount of energy which is released so, for example, the earthquake, but just struck Japan was meant to nine. The earthquake that struck in Haiti was a magnitude. Seven, the difference in the energy was
a thousand factor of a thousand, and so so, if you look at our earthquake magnitude scales, the last numbers I saw for Japan were eight point nine. I wondered so round that tonight has been rounded by the: U S Geological Surbiton, It has been rounded tonight, ok, so that the threat that that's good. So I'm not good! I mean it's it's it's! U simplifies simple, simplifies how we think about this. So that's interesting to know about the magnet. He would have that quake verses, other quakes that we know about, and when I think about it, what so we well. What's the limit of quick power well on this scale, it has to do with the size of the farm, could I once got a tweet from served as a citizen and this batch here, I'm looking at my notes here. They yeah Who is this so important as I keep getting ass? Would at ten point? Oh quick and the world because we ve, had a ten point o earthquake. It might be touching on his millions are predicting no Christmas,
after that, one with the largest recorded earthquake was nine point. Five that was in Chile in nice. In nineteen sixty and basically modern times is not yet historical. It's only in modern times that we ve been able to measure these things to quantify these things with any degree of accuracy or what year all about nineteen hundred pound. Back to nineteen hundred okay. So that's a century of data we have going source. I should get a nineteen five, where was it again that was along the coast of Chile, South America? Here we are Jim Webster in the ring, a fire again exactly a year or so Steve continue. Ok well meant that earthquake is the largest that was measured, instrumental. How large could an earthquake veal depends on the length of the fault and false cannot be indefinitely large
One thing you cannot be larger than the earth, then I'd circle around the earth ripe, adjust hypothetically suppose that you consider the circumference of the entire earth as a fault, and you made a slip across that that had the b the size of the slip up of a very large earthquake, and we know the rigidity of the earth. If you put those numbers together, you would get high profits earthquake of magnitude. Twelve, I mean that would be the extreme upper limit lorries at every really bad day on earlier. Yes, but a horse is totally unrealistic because there's no way that you could have a break along a fault wrapped entirely around the earth. Now, if you start so earthquakes, it seems to me, could Jim might resident geologist now to earthquakes, to build a trigger a volcano. Is that correct. You know that's an excellent question, because for years at the museum, we would hear these questions posed by the public and honestly, initially folks would scoffed at the likelihood,
There was some reaction between since they folks you mean your colleagues of another era. Unfortunate. Yes, ok. I know to be specific about air as my colleagues, but that was a technical response, but in the last several decades we ve we ve seen data that seemed to imply strongly that there can be relationships- causal relationships, for example after this earthquake, that she was talking about Chilean nineteen sixty within thirty eight hours. It was a major reduction at court on Calais, but two three hundred eighty kilometers away and end there been afraid of going to court thriller The climate is not far given the size of these plates exec right now. Japan, Fuji. Is a volcanic com is an incorrect, not Fuji Yes, and so so any chance that this earthquake will stimulate food food, Yama, beckoned, an explosion cause prevented at Steventon. Pajama last explode. Remember, I believe, as ninth seventeen hundred d,
journalism about you know some seventeen o seven right, so any chance of that happening again, probably a very slight chance not to worry that the inhabitants of Japan that are yet to suffer another another tragedy, but potentially, if there is magma sitting in Fuji charged with gas, is waiting for some trigger This could prove potentially provide if it were, if, if it were primed for that triggers outlying require that if it's not primed, it's just that it's just another day in a life of poverty of adornment volcano. Yes because seventy it's not that one or go geologically, that's were yesterday now mean geologists, actually break up and extinct volcano from adornment. One has been ten thousand years of no volcanic act, vineyard stakes exactly so that's that's! That's pretty serious s working with geologic time Gee logic, Time Steve, I any famous quakes in history that sort of shaped culture cause. I know you study this well, one that really put the phenomenon. The map list for Europe was the earthquake that destroy this.
Lisbon in Portugal. I remember that seventeen fifty five and fifty five on November first and that was followed by a tsunami and a terrible fire and killed the huge numbers of people and was. Bill shock for Europe now. This is in the era of physics, Newton's physics had been published by then, and so is our sense of the forces nature operating over there still sort of mystical. Well, there was an argument about whether this wasn't just a natural phenomena that had nothing to do with divine intervention on the earth, but up that, really that the understanding of earthquakes was nowhere near on us. Sound basis at that time. So this this would have put the philosophers, and it is because it is all Saint State and people die in the churches. Churches are the largest structures. Your quick takes him out. That's right! In fact. It inspired Voltaire to what the Lisbon are. Quick in his candied Let's get back to that after outbreak, and after that,
it will also talk about whether the universe has any effect on earth process will see them. Hello secret for you. When I consider singing all of the ads on this shell there just one way to get out of hearing there go to patriarch arms last startled, and porthos at the five dollar level or higher to listen. The star talk ad free, you can download. All current episodes into your favorite park has player and ever hear another commercial on star talk ever again, you will definitely not after hear me saying if you support us at patriarch dot com. Last our talk I mean I'm just thinking I mean just saying.
Start. I welcome back to start our greater listening during our bread It's too artists to have given our time and energy for to fund raise for the earthquake tragedy in Japan. You'll hear more such artists, as the programme continues back to start talk. I have two special yes in the studio with me on this special startup programme, where revoked hang on the violent earth. And what would it onto us in the past what it might continue to do to us in the future, with Spain attention, of course, to the earthquake in Japan,
Steve, soda reason, astrophysicist, wartime friend and colleague of Mine and Jim Webster, a job this specializing in volcanoes, both of whom, from the scientific departments of the American Museum of Natural here Jim I hand you you're elements that you work with Europe actually GEO Chemist specifically right. I'm a GEO chemist on mineral deposits, you're immediacy of mineral deposits, and so I can give you so these minerals from the formation of the earth is there that the the base elements make your minerals are part of the gas cloud, forms the solar system. Not really segregate out until we have this molten blob? That would one day become earth heavy instinct to the bottom I think sink to the top and over the bridge You're telling me about what goes on earth. Yet these heavy, I would instead of out from the lower regions, to the surface, where we can then mind them as war. So what does that process? But in the context of our violence or active or dynamic earth is not only our quakes and envy,
He knows that are a consequence of energy from its interior, but these magma molten bodies, actually heat water, the water, dissolves trace concentrations of metals like gold or silver, copper and many others, moves them and deposits them in fractures forming ain't deposits in the crust of our planet, so this is where we get these wars demand official to us, as when I see a vain that is iron ore, gold or platinum, that to be running water through that rock a great many of them. Yes, because we know from just washing close at home, hot water is a better solvent. It does a better job of cleaning, very not water. In the interior of our plan, its quest for planet dissolves, metals, it does such a good job of cleaning. The cleans off the color from your clothes is well exactly, and so now We have there been concerns that, what's going on with earth, there's been a lot of sort of misinformation, even pseudoscience regarding forces of the universe. And whether they had some effect on the earthquake itself for example, there was a report, a daring it was even advanced by a
urologist suggesting that then called a Super moon might have had special influence on earth crust. Triggering the Japanese, the japanese earthquake, Superman by those by the terminology would be a moon. Orbit around the earth which is elliptical sometimes closer to earth summit. Further away, more colloquial terms, for that would be over so when the moon is very close in a stronger title forces the ties that we all know and love at the beach, these forces operating and are related to the distance from us, but there also related to the phase of the moon full Moon and new moon. Have high tides quarter, I will give you the Nepe tides where it's the moon is actually competing for the sun for who's gonna raise the border in order to think it raised at all. So if you can I'm full moon, new moon with when its close Just you get sort of a double effect and there was one We are concerned that the Superman might have caused this. The problem was for that concept. Is that the earthquake took place.
During quarter moon, so it's not even a formal you're, not even combining that and the Superman that anyone would refer to take place with took place ouch nineteenth and March nineteen is ok. Sorry, full moon your course. Moon. If you look at the data, We have a lot of data on foods in the history of the world. We know the moons orbit from Newton's laws you go back through time, and you just correlate this with where and when earthquakes might have happened and Steve Soda. What did we find? There's no correlation. There is theirs oh correlation, or have been looking for it for a long time to see. If there's any correlation between the occurrence of earthquakes and the lunar orbit and the tides and there's no, significant and it simply not there, and so some people might sables. Gotta have some effect and what I was then tell them is if it has any, act. All what you really want to do is compared with other things that might have an effect that swamps it allowing you to
completely ignore these other phenomenon, and so when you look at other factors that can affect what's going on in Europe, for example Jim beneath the crust there's this guy. Link convection moving magma, all the time in the mantle that portion of the planet just below the quest that's fluid. Most of it is not liquid solid, but over geologic time hundreds of millions, fears it slowly moving but is driving the motions of the plates at the surface and and leading to magma forming a crust and volcanoes erupting again most of our size because your question we are sure of Turin is you're. Talking about effective tides. We know the earth tides the attraction. The moon actually causes our planet to expand and contracts three, a meter yet you're, not only the liquid, the liquid contents of the earth, the ocean, but also the physical earth. Spans about a meter. Every time you go through high tide, that's correct! This happening all the time twice a day. Twice a day, This is why we have no correlation with with seismic active, no correlation. That's correct report because have to hide
I today to low tide today that you think, by the way, just by the by in the solar system, there are places where tides are too ITALY wreaking havoc on their hosts objects. For example, tides from you, are squeezing and pumping energy into the nearby moves to Jupiter. Io is one of them. Your role, is another. These wounds are much much harder for the effects of the title forces, in fact, surely you know Jim that they must act A volcano in the solar system is Jupiters Moon, IO, its volcanoes there and where is it getting a tiered? It's a tiny little object, it's getting pumped by the title forces, Jupiter ever unusual Kane of sulphur emitting volcanoes, and I do not want to be there for that. And so so the point is Steve. Then then there were correlation. They would have easily revealed itself in the data because we have centuries millennia of data, yes of earthquakes and lunar phases.
I just wanted to spell that myth, whether nodded happened or can happen elsewhere. Our Own doesn't do it to earth that's correct period, so not only that we have people concern about what effect the earthquake has on our axis and that's a fun one is an affront to calculate that stuff. So what worked well tell there's a major earthquake in the motion of plates, said? Displacement has even motioning with his hand on a kind of kind of like a little danced thing here. Ok, because a slight redistribution of of the mass of the earth is very slight on the scale of the entire, but it's enough to make a a change as a very small change in the length of day and the tilted. The earth's access, but they're really trivial, though nothing that you would
this would have any consequences of practical, because I've got a question here. Is another treaty set as a common for large earthquakes to change earth axis and will the earth correct itself, whereas each change permanent? That's a great question: will that the changes are random and so the act in different directions. They won't correct themselves, but it is common. It's just that the effects are extremely small if their random it means summer. Earthquakes can speed up the rotation of the earth and others can slow them directly so that the net effect might just be nothing over again in a baseline time. That's why I, and so, but so that the actual basis of phenomenon is that your wrote mission rate. Is related to how the mass is distributed in your body, it's like an ice skater singing holding waits at arms at arm's length case their weight or just the weight of her hands right right, pulling the main slightly the change distribution of their man. You spin up these have been up to conserve. Angered momentum, as is called in the art, can do the same thing and so placed
moving so Jim plates move over each other under each other's sideways to each other. Well, in the process of subjection, the more dance but thin open actual hours sub, dug up does sound very x rated GEO Jargon zero. There are then go for it, but the ocean crust, because his mordents and thinner is actually thrust or subjected beneath nearby continent. Rust, and so your changing the distribution of mass on the earth. We change the distribution of them, so it has tried to speed up or slow down in response to that. So, in the case of the japanese earthquake, Japan moved towards the east about eight feet and it was in the same direction. The earth was spinning correct, so that's why they this is spinning up well actually would have to. It would relate to whether mass moved towards the polar away from the pole, because then that where you're getting closer to the rotation, access or farther away. So so this would be the disputes we can ask how much of an affected his hat and see what was its negligee megaliths
that's your quantum, how you quantify has no practical council, no practical matters, whoever. It is true, however, that we track and monitor the rotation ready to earth the tides raised on, surface by the moon. The slashing of these tides back and forth on our Continental Shelves- Crete Friction and actually slows down the rotation of the earth systematically, In fact, we that had what we're up to twenty three or so Leap seconds added to the calendar to compensate for our slowing down, simply because of the tide. The day is getting longer because of the tides he's getting longer and that's been going on since stress, since the moon was there. So it is not a quick question in that in just a couple of minutes. We have left before next break if we drew so the earth's crust pulling out boil and or and replacing it with water, The fact is that haven't stability, the question that has no real effect. We do know that their substance in places like the Phoenix area where ground waters withdrawn his cause local heirs of collapse in this very local there.
Shallow levels of collapse, collapse of land in land, but none of the larger plate, tectonics large crystal process, but sleep wasn't there some point that some measured earthquake levels from activity. While there was injection of fluids into the crust of the earth in Colorado in the nineteen sixty that began to trigger lots of smaller quakes and when they stopped small, would be Armagh level hold magnitude for something. I feel so Jim magnitude for do even feel that I remembered when the World Trade Center collapse. I live near by them. I've made careful notice of what it felt like as they Perhaps it was about the level of a subway rumbling underfoot, and then I read the earth EC scale, four point: five, about that'll rattle your dishes a little, but there's no ever any damaged about right. So is the lubrication of these fluids being injected in Colorado along the fault surface that allowed the slippage increasing cause these So what you saying is that if you have friction holding it too Heather and starting off it, basically locked by friction, you're weakening the fault when you inject a fluid into it
lubricating, the fluid exact a year. Relating to the fort, and so you can actually trigger earthquakes by this method. Yes, it's We have to get back to that in a fourth second, but in the third segment, when we come back, we a straight to my interview, which I had this afternoon with nuclear physicist, Mitya Aachen, to talk about the nuclear power plant and their disaster risk. In Japan will see you at the end of the break, naturally occurring vision process. So we know all of all these sort of bad byproduct vision, and this is the physics of the nuclear bombs, but so why don't you just use? Fusion is because we do not act control yet So our talk, radio, especial violent earth addition inspired by the trade. In Japan. We're gonna go straight to an interview that I had with mutual Kokoo, professor physics. Sid University of New York to chatter Japan and nuclear risks there are now posed by the damage to the reactor check it out so much.
When we think of nuclear power is fusion there's vision, but all power plants in the world or vision right, that's right, Power is the engine of the universe. It would strive the stars, the galaxy all of it, because we fuse hydrogen to create here, but on the earth. As far as we can tell only on the earth, do we use uranium so at a few, the atoms of hydrogen. We split the of uranium. Now bleeding My mother nature does not use fish only in bomb to nuclear power plants. Do we use vision in the whole universe could be there's only one naturally occurring reactor that we think it can go back to paleo times but other than we see no example of a naturally occurring vision process. So we know all of all these sort of bad byproduct of vision, and this is the physics of the nuclear bombs, but so why don't we just use fusion is because we do not have control it. Yet what is relatively easy to create a vision planted his uranium, we'll split up all by itself? They do nothing.
And then you can get a vision process going, of course, yet to purify it. Fusion? On the other hand, he had to concentrate with enormous pressures and temperatures to get the fusion process going. That's my mother, nature can do it. Cause gravity is for free. In outer space, hey you get gas, you compressive bo. Bingo, you gotta start when I was in high school by the way, by adviser was one of the founders of this nuclear energy. I Edward Teller, nuclear energy, he said does not belong on the surface of the earth. It belongs underground because it has undergone and have a tsunami, you simply put the manhole cover on it and walk away now. The fundamental difference between fusion and vision as far as health and safety are concerned is a fusion is clean. Helium gases, gosh comers valuable hydrogen to helium very clean, very little nuclear waste helium is the by product of fusion going on in the sun every day of the week, but vision creates vision, products, whereas you split you ain't, madam you get caesium strontium. I had I and all the red rector products that come spew
not of a nuclear accident in these very same chemicals can be absorbed into the body in bad ways. That's right take a look at the thyroid gland. If I really and can absorb iodine one thirty one with a half life of eight days and give you thyroid cancer effect. HU, a cancer was one of the main byproducts health by products of the Chernobyl accident. People drink milk iodine occurs in water, soluble form gets into the mill concentrate in the fire, glam strontium ninety concentrates in the bone marrow and caesium one. Thirty seven will concentrate throughout the body the half life strontium and seize him more about thirty years, and that means that if you ingest this into your bones and your muscle, your body become radioactive and will be re tobacco for centuries. Long after your dead, your grave will be radioactive. Japan no stranger to national disaster. They ve been an earthquake zone that ever since the cultured set foot there, there's also, of course, the nuclear bomb blasts from nineteen forty five
and there's no shortage of the films that show Godzilla another sort of creatures. Levelling cities, too, can comment on how well Japan is taking this in the Japanese. Which were something called come on. That is, suffer quietly and that's what they ve done throughout their history. Nineteen, twenty three, the entire city of Tokyo, was levelled. A hundred. Forty thousand people died that massive canto, earthquake and yeah you live with that way become a go to Tokyo, you kind of field. If the earth shake underneath you her feet, and so you re guys that, even though we have satellites in outer space- and we can see in outer space, we cannot see an inch but the whole your own feet. You can predict em, there's no way to x, Ray the earth and as a consequence, where children when it comes to predicting earthquakes. My view on this is the disease
starts thus far. Doesnt seem to be much worse than anything. That's happened before, such as in Chernobyl. Is this a date to celebrate how safe Japan has made itself in the face of what it knew would be ultimate disasters, while some people think that the situation is quote stable, while thus like hanging in there on a cliff on your fingernails. Yes, it's stable, but if you're thing in Hell started breakers hard to get tuckered how you are toast, and so that's a situation here that as long as the redirected byproducts, don't penetrate the containment, then you're. Ok, like three mile island through my island, was the class five accident that ninety percent of the core disintegrated. But the vessel held the radioactive material, the vessel contended to do that by design natural effect. The rods which are very clean and vertical, looks like a box at three mile island when they opened up the reactor to photograph the state of the core. They found that it looked like a bowler, granola, totally fragmented and dissent.
Raided, but nonetheless contained but contain now. We think that this accidents class six in the sense that is contained but seeping out not exclusively, but just through deem explosions and hydrogen gas explosions, as Coney m- interacts with water to create hydrogen gas. You light a cigarette, you light a switch and boom. You have hydrogen gas explosion. We had three of them in Japan. Many people thought those explosions were radioactive it was a chemical explosion. In organ donation blew the roof right off the containment structure and at Chernobyl we had a class seven accident, an accident that ruptured not just the core, not just the vessel, but the building itself and shot about twenty five percent of the fish products right, into the air into people's backyard. And all things are true: nobody was unprovoked by nature. I am sure nobody was
human error, people disengage these scram safety mechanism and meanwhile, in Japan that plants been around since that really seventies. Rash right is very old. Nineteen. Seventy one designed the mark one general electric boiling water reactor, so why doesn't reactor to cool down all by itself? What what is driving the heat source that put it at risk of melting and nuclear meltdown is forever in the sense that you have all this nuclear waste once you shut off the chain reaction powers, we do by ninety percent, but is that last ten percent of power that last for tens of thousands of years and that causes the meltdown is called decay heat the gay he'd very slowly goes away, but that decay here the ten percent of the original power is enough to melt. The containment is enough to blow the entire reactor apart and we saw that at Chernobyl. So this is the heat that it would generate on its own right. People say: well, why did they simply hit the off switch
hey what they simply turn it off. You cannot turn off mother nature. You cannot turn of nuclear fission, so when's, you scratch the rights that, as you stop the chain reaction decay he keeps on going for for an extended period of time at Chernobyl. Do you know that it still hot at Chernobyl? That was a nineteen eighty six explosion when it rains water seeps into this? Our coffee guess of concrete, he's up, in reaction slowly builds up again warders an excellent source of coolant. So what's the problem, there is no shortage of water, obviously, especially in the face of a sonata think of driving a car, the car is out of control. What do you do you hit the brakes, but the brakes don't work then the radiator starts overheat and the radiator explodes so your brakes don't work the radiator explode and then your gas tank is about to catch on fire. What do you do you head for the river?
the river will cool down the car cool down the radiator, make sure the unexploded that's what's happening at the reactor site. First, the emergency call cooling system didn't work. Has a tsunami knocked out? No breaks the hen, hydrogen gas bubble, blue. The containment structure blowing up your radiator and there were they. Do they pump sea water into the reactor site next best thing available right, like driving it into the river. But the problem is that it is away from the oceans yet to pump it in there's no one atrocity the pump start work that generate has not worked and the crew there is being reduced from eight hundred people down to fifty you're talking about essentially a suicide squad that know that they could get a lethal dose. So there's not enough manpower to make sure that sea water is covering everything, even as you are a boy's off, but I tell you at a certain point: even they will be,
and at that point will have to abandon ship and when he abandoned ship you can have three meltdowns right in a row. That's the nightmare scenario and the spent fuel upon which his adjacent to the three reactors is open to the sky. There's no cover. There's no vessel is thus an open swimming pool of hot rod containing more waste. Then in the core of a nuclear power. Plant Hollywood lacks a focus in other core the meltdown, but it is the lowly waste dump that could actually cause the most damage and that's what is now separating President Obama from the japanese Prime Minister, President Obama's people are saying: hey you got no one. A fault line that level San Francisco in nineteen o six. My father was in that or quake. He was part of the clean up operation, it level, Tokyo and Anti. Twenty three is caused. Some of the greatest tragedies in human history, the Pacific, bring a fire, so your family in answer to respond in the United States for more than a century. Then that's right about a hundred years. My family's been here, but we have relatives in Japan and one of the
limited power and nations like Japan that have no coal oil reserves are reaching for this Faust GIN bargain the price you pay is you have a tremendous amount of fish products which are quite hot. These vision products can be released and a nuclear accident and, as a consequence, you have to take care of your nuclear power plants very carefully.
Few undergo the thirsty and bargain. But now, in light of this japanese accident, many nations, including Germany, are rethinking the thousand bargain unlimited power, the only prices, your soul, one of the problems, Japan also faces is where it is located geographically on earth is part of the ring of fire serve to try to make their own energy without the natural resources of coal and oil, and they do it by nuclear than they ve got a nuclear power plant on fultons that's right. Ninety percent of all earthquakes on the earth are in the Pacific. Ring of fire is the same. A fault line that level San Francisco in nineteen o six. My grandfather was in that earthquake. He was part of the clean. Operation, it level, Tokyo and nineteen. Twenty three has caused some of the greatest tragedies in human history. The Pacific ring a fire, so your family, an answer, has been in the United States for more than a century. Then that's right about a hundred years. My family's been here, but we have relatives in Japan, and one of the things that are relatives are debating right now is whether to evacuate for good.
Well until they can bring the reactor under control and until they can make sure that there's no contamination However, at Chernobyl also realise that some of the land will be a dead zone for maybe centuries to come, because you have to multiply the half life by ten before becomes relatively safe. So Chernobyl released caesium in strontium. How, lives of around thirty years. So in three hundred years parts of Chernobyl area will be usable. So that's where they creation of a goes below what people have determined to be safe for that right. In fact, you have piece of Chernobyl in your body, I have a piece of Chernobyl in my body, of course, in a microscopic form, but it circle the earth and the radiation from Japan.
He is not dangerous to the United States, but it is already in the United States. That was my interview with Michio Kaku. Just this afternoon. He was kind enough to give me a few minutes between sessions for his book. Tour for physics of the future of science will shape human destiny and our daily lives by the year. Two thousand one hundred. When we come back we'll March, start? I talk. Radio. Our special edition where we focus on the violent earth. Inspired first by the recent tragedy in Japan, where they point nine Earthquake level. Towns triggered a tsunami that was problem. The responsible for more of who die than the earthquake itself. Japan, of course, is a leader in earthquake, resist and building there. No stranger to earthquakes, they know they live in the ring of fire. The call
is industrially advanced, and I think it's worth comment that surely many more people would have died from the earthquakes. Mommy, were it not for the earthquake proofing of the physical infrastructure of that, Steve. Steamers order would joining me and start talking, not just the earthquake proofing of buildings, but also the training and education of what to do. When there's a tsunami warning most of the people who would otherwise have been drown, headed too high and as soon as they heard the warning and some of the high ground or just buildings that would survive the earthquake. It first and these rushing water in its lower levels, afterward correct, but even just the foothills and many more p would have died. Had the this population not been educated, This is an eight point. Nine earthquake. We did not want to go. There's an earthquake in Haiti. That was seven point o issue
Can you compare these energies while the energies bit by two orders of magnitude in in the earthquake, magnitude This translates into a thousand fold increase in energy of the japanese earthquake compared to the Haitian, when the difference was that the difference in the death toll is happening in Japan, I thought we'd, like glee, said aloud and around fifteen thousand between ten and twenty thousand nobly. Something like that. That's correct, whereas in Haiti was a quarter million people that's correct. There was first of all the layers quake. Even those weaker earthquake was almost right under the capital city, Second, there was essentially zero earthquake preparation or education or construction through withstand earthquakes and not only that you go back to two thousand and four you get to the indonesian tsunami Jim there an offshore earthquake. What was the magnitude of that one? You remember that was in the night.
Yes it in the night- and I was fortunately huge, unfortunately, and two thousand an army that just role through there was another quarter million people down. Yes, and so you if we look around the world so that its remarkable that the numbers, we as low as they are in Japan, and so so now we have assumed Army and Steve you ve studied tsunamis in the history of human culture in particular, is up There's an ancient greek city who that you studied and You judge the end of that city to have been from a tsunami. Yes. Well, according to the ancient writers, described the demise of the city, the leaky which was on the Gulf of Corinth in Greece, it was destroyed by an earthquake and tsunami, and then there was its submerged nuts one of the earliest descriptions of its economy that we have. The city seems to have been wiped off the face of the earth. So, unlike Lisbon, in one thousand seven hundred and fifty five, which was destroyed by earthquake, fire, an end salami. That city was rebuilt. Yes, the leaky asked
There are always send down, was underwater correct what you're saying permanently underwater yes, so big was the shift in the place of the earth. Well, it was probably not the plates so much as its local substance of of the sediment land thinking it was soft materials, unstable, unstable, and so What how does an earthquake make us? An army is just the obvious it shakes the water. Will the main thing there's a change in level where the earthquake happens on the sea floor, and so the water is either displaced or or or fills in to make up for that and then because waters fluid at Will we'll be unstable and was when the way of a wave of energy to move to move grass distances. Yes and another way can happen, is sometimes in earthquake will trigger an underwater landslide and that will display a lot of what we have to do is displaced water and that will make a larger tsunami than the earthquake alone, so from brain or color if the pronunciation of his name right from our Facebook page faced with they start or radio would find it
start talk radio and were also our website start a radio dot net what kind of advances have been made in and predicted? in detecting Salamis Jim in now the national she adequate, pushing a graphic and atmospheric administration, not their booty across the the the ocean. Yes, specially in the Pacific Ocean, given the fact that it is making up to core of the ring of fire, especially after the indonesian earthquake in two thousand for their boys economics measure, way fight changes and this information is transmitted to satellites. In their fortunes, The two to know me, warnings and I've, seen the Pacific Ocean, the waves or jumping up and down all the time. So how is it going to know whether to salami way versus just some turbulence? local storm. Well, I think that there are patterns
wavelength and the timing? Does it there's a regularity that you can you can sort that? Ok? So you need obviously more than one buoy to do that. Yes, says: you're. Looking at you needn't network, a network of buoy. So that's that that's the catch here, and so when you have a network, you can actually measure things like the speed of the salami moving across the way and the height of the waves, so in mid ocean. How high is synonymous with actually not very high, maybe afloat or something just imports of your ship at sea when a tsunami roles under you wouldn't even know, I hardly know it because the wavelength is enormous. Wavelength is the distance from peak to peak of this way right. That could be like hundreds of miles and and its passing might take an hour to pass. Will there be a slow rise and fall of your You wouldn't even know you wouldn't, even though, but as that wave goes into the shallow areas, it slows down as it comes near the continental shelf, and so you have to come to the shore line where your sea level right and is slowing down as it's getting shower at the lay at the leading edge of the wave the water coming behind. It is moving faster, so it piled up in it rises and
ices and it reaches a point where just overtakes the shoreline and just keeps moving in yes, because that energy is it it's so so people think of a cinema in MID Ocean as moving warder in MID ocean. But it's not really moving energy, its energy manifested by this bump. Yet it's that that at that, transfers from one location to the other, completely across the Pacific, how fast did we move. I think it can be hundreds of miles an hour. On the focus, so in this case, if I remember correctly, with five hundred miles an hour late, it's fast as a jet liner here because I was looking at the time is where they predicted when it would hit the West coast of the It states in its about one, takes to fly Stevie. We were telling we were discussing earlier offline that the Pacific north-
Best is at risk to us and armies where there is a subjection on a place where the pacific plate is actually diving under North America, along the coasts of Northern California, Oregon Washington, Bridge Colombia, that is capable of making large earthquakes and there is geographically and actually historical evidence that there have been mass massive earthquakes there with a ray of repeat time on the order of something like three hundred and fifty years? The last one was in the year, seventeen hundred others this but debris deposits is yes, there's two red their sunk into a degree from a tsunami. The king far into land, is addressing images unfortunate, the debris off the coasts of Japan. So this is natural debris literate, yes, but there was also substance and so there's drowned forest, for example a drowned far yes, where the trees were all killed and you from the tree wings. You can date that event exactly to the year and it corresponds to a salami that was recorded across the Pacific in Japan in the year seventeen
hundred so the source of the tsunami was along the coast of north Northwest the United States- and that was a tsunami headed back the other way exactly back West. But yes, so the United States is potentially vulnerable to an event like that, and it's not prepared as Japan. You might have your own charity my favorite is the Red Cross. You want to send a ten dollar donation to their relief efforts in Japan, on your cell phone text to nine zero, nine nine knowing add the words Red cross standard. Texting fees apply Steve Soda, Jim Webster, thanks for being on start, talk, radio, it's time for my sweeter than we have I long for a future where energy released in quakes gets tat power, the cities they would otherwise destroy. This has been star talk, radio, partially funded by the National Science Foundation as well. Keep looking
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Transcript generated on 2020-02-03.