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Measuring Earthquakes

Nature volume 30, pages 149152 | Download Citation



I.—METHODS IT is difficult to define the word earthquake in terms A which will not cover cases to which the name is inappropriate. To say that an earthquake is a local disturbance of the earth's crust, propagated by the elasticity of the crust to neighbouring portions, is true, but the definition does not exclude, on the one hand, such tremors of the soil as are set up by the rumbling of a carriage, by the tread of a foot, or even by the chirp of a grasshopper, nor, on the other, those slow elastic yieldings which result from changes of atmospheric pressure, from the rise and fall of the tides, and perhaps from many other causes. One writer, in his definition of the word, limits the name earthquake to disturbances whose causes are unknown—a course open to the obvious objection that if the study of earthquakes ever advanced so far as to make the causes perfectly intelligible we should, by definition, be left with no earthquakes to study. It must be admitted, however, that in the present state of seismology this objection has no force, for in assigning an origin to any disturbance likely to be called an earthquake, we have, so far, been able to do little more than guess at possibilities. The more practicable task of determining what, at any one point within the disturbed area, the motions of the ground during an earthquake exactly are has lately received much attention, and in this department of seismology distinct progress has been made.

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