An hour with… the Earthquake Simulator

Individual Science Centre exhibits usually get no more than a few minutes of attention, but spending a whole hour near one can be interesting…

The 'Shake House'The ‘Shake House’ earthquake simulator is tucked away in the back of the ‘Earth: Our Untamed Planet‘ exhibition. It is a room furnished like a kitchen with a sofa and coffee table. Unlike other kitchens, it also has a vertical pole in the centre to hold on to, and a railing to stop people from falling out when the shaking starts.

Three buttons next to the kitchen counter let you choose the experience of an earthquake in a building on hard bedrock, in a building on soft sediment, or at the top of a tall building on soft sediment.

For some, the anticipation alone is too much. One family sends the mother in first, while the kids watch from outside, afraid and calling to her to “hold on, it’s starting already!” After all three modes have been tried and the mother is still ok, the kids join in for the second round.

The shaking is really quite mild, though (unless you imagine actually being at the top of a tall building that is supposed to be unmoving…). The most dramatic effect is the ceiling light swinging back and forth, and that’s best seen from outside the simulator.

So most kids end up enhancing the experience with their own swaying and jumping, for effect. One set of siblings are all standing on one leg, waiting for the shaking to start, then immediately jump and fall to the ground, no matter how gentle the shaking. That’s exciting for two rounds of three different types of earthquake, and then it’s time to move on.

Most people seem to go through two rounds and may actually observe the differences between the three different situations. Very few seem to try to correlate those with the building type and how that affects the movement, though. The repeated attempts seem to be more about figuring out which mode is the most ‘shiok‘…

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