Art as Aftershock

Earthquakes are dangerous phenomena, yet two artists chose to present these natural disasters, in a way that makes viewers contemplate, rather than fear them.

Luke Jerram and Carlos Amorales created works that comment on the 2011 Japanese Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, and 1985 earthquake in Mexico City, respectively. Their works allow viewers to contemplate the nature of earthquakes with the help of visualizations through seismographic data.

In Jerram’s piece, the artist took the seismographic data from the Tōhoku earthquake, and rotated it using a computer program to see the data in three-dimensions, later printing it in those dimensions. The sculpture, made in 2011, represents nine minutes of the earthquake, allowing viewers to calculate, and imagine, the severity of the disaster on their own.

Amorales approaches the 1985 earthquake in a more theoretical presentation, in “Vertical Earthquake” (2010). Rather than using data, the artist creates his own fault lines and cracks on the walls, drawing epicentres around each. The artist chose to capture the chaos and emotion of the event. Within the installation, newspaper clippings of the disaster are displayed, with fault lines drawn on them as well.

Where Jerram uses data to help visualize the severity of the earthquake in Japan, Morales plays with drama and emotion, creating a fragmented image which symbolically reflects the earthquake that he witnessed. Both pieces however, are sobering reminders of the immense power our Earth has over man-made constructions.

-Anna Paluch

Happy Birthday Inge Lehmann, Discoverer of Earth's Inner Core

In 1929 a large earthquake occurred near New Zealand. Danish seismologist Inge Lehmann “the only Danish seismologist,” as she once referred to herself—studied the shock waves and was puzzled by what she saw. A few P-waves, which should have been deflected by the core, were in fact recorded at seismic stations. 

Lehmann theorized that these waves had traveled some distance into the core and then bounced off some kind of boundary. Her interpretation of this data was the foundation of a 1936 paper in which she theorized that Earth’s center consisted of two parts: a solid inner core surrounded by a liquid outer core, separated by what has come to be called the Lehmann Discontinuity. Lehmann’s hypothesis was confirmed in 1970 when more sensitive seismographs detected waves deflecting off this solid core.

Born in Denmark in 1888, Lehmann was a pioneer among women and scientists. Her early education was at a progressive school where boys and girls were treated exactly alike. This was a sharp contrast to the mathematical and scientific community she later encountered, about which she once protested to her nephew, Niles Groes, “You should know how many incompetent men I had to compete with—in vain.” Groes recalls, “I remember Inge one Sunday in her beloved garden…with a big table filled with cardboard oatmeal boxes. In the boxes were cardboard cards with information on earthquakes…all over the world. This was before computer processing was available, but the system was the same. With her cardboard cards and her oatmeal boxes, Inge registered the velocity of propagation of the earthquakes to all parts of the globe. By means of this information, she deduced new theories of the inner parts of the Earth.”

A critical and independent thinker, Lehmann subsequently established herself as an authority on the structure of the upper mantle. She conducted extensive research in other countries, benefiting from an increased global interest in seismology for the surveillance of clandestine nuclear explosions. When Lehmann received the William Bowie medal in 1971, the highest honor of the American Geophysical Union, she was described as “the master of a black art for which no amount of computerizing is likely to be a complete substitute.” Lehmann lived to be 105.

Learn more about Lehmann and experience the power of earthquakes in the exhibition Nature’s Fury: The Science of Natural Disasters, now on view. 


Bicycle Seismographs

Maker project by Kati Hyyppä is a drawing machine that can record the bumps of a bicycle journey:

The idea for a bicycle seismograph, that is, a mechanical drawing machine, which records the bumpiness of the ride on a small paper roll, was born from these shaky experiences. In summer 2016 came the opportunity to turn this idea into reality in a form of a workshop called Data bicycles at the A/D/A festival, which approached smart cities and citizen utopias with a twist. 

More Here

What is a saint? A saint is someone who has achieved a remote human possibility. It is impossible to say what that possibility is. I think it has something to do with the energy of love. Contact with this energy results in the exercise of a kind of balance in the chaos of existence. A saint does not dissolve the chaos; if he did the world would have changed long ago. I do not think that a saint dissolves the chaos even for himself, for there is something arrogant and warlike in the notion of a man setting the universe in order. It is a kind of balance that is his glory. He rides the drifts like an escaped ski. His course is a caress of the hill. His track is a drawing of the snow in a moment of its particular arrangement with wind and rock. Something in him so loves the world that he gives himself to the laws of gravity and chance. Far from flying with the angels, he traces with the fidelity of a seismograph needle the state of the solid bloody landscape.
—  Leonard Cohen, Beautiful Losers

New Google Doodle Honors Pioneering Seismologist Inge Lehmann

“You should know how many incompetent men I had to compete with — in vain"

Inge Lehmann, who discovered that earth has both an inner and outer core, should be inspiration for any young woman with dreams of becoming a scientist, and on Wednesday Google honored the pioneering seismologist’s 127th birthday with a new animated Doodle.

Lehmann, born on May 13, 1888, made her discovery by analyzing P-waves (primary waves), a high velocity seismic wave that is the first to be recorded by seismographs because it travels through the earth’s core more quickly.

In 1929 Lehmann was studying a large earthquake near New Zealand and observed that some P-waves seemed to bounce off a boundary. This caused a higher frequency of seismic activity within a “shadow zone.” She attributed the phenomenon to an inner core made of different materials. Proven correct, the shadow zone today called the “Lehmann Discontinuity.”

from time magazine 

You whisper sabotage. You whisper
retrouvailles; this wordsick midnight

wrapping me in hex-bright smoke.
Our bodies lucent in this new wreckage.

Our bodies spellbound in cursive scrolls.
Our bodies triggered like flawed seismographs.

—  Scherezade Siobhan, watching  aurora from the cockpit 

Last weekend we covered the installation of seismometers outside of CenturyLink Field to monitor the shaking and energy release generated during Seahawks games (see here: This is actual data from those seismometers, in all 3 directions from 4 sensors.

This seismograph captures the exact moment when the Seahawks scored a touchdown to send themselves to the Super Bowl. Can you tell when it happened? I bet you can.