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Have you ever assured someone that your friend is reliable by saying that he or she "has both feet

on the ground"? The fact that such a phrase exists shows how much comfort we take in the idea that the ground beneath our feet is unmoving, unchanging and dependable. Indeed, much of our civili ation, from our houses and buildings to our energy, food and water sources, depends on unmoving earth. In truth, however, our planet!s seemingly stable surface is made up of enormous pieces of rock that are slowly but constantly moving. Those pieces continually collide with and rub against one another, and sometimes their edges abruptly crack or slip and suddenly release huge amounts of pent"up energy. These unsettling events are called earthquakes, and small ones happen across the planet every day, without people even noticing. #ut every so often, a big earth$uake occurs, and when that happens, the pulses of energy it releases, called seismic waves, can wreak almost unfathomable destruction and kill and in%ure many thousands of people &source' #olt(. That sort of cataclysm occurred on )arch **, +,**, in -apan, when a massive $uake, later estimated by -apanese )eteorological .gency to be /., in magnitude, struck 0* miles 1*2, kilometers3 east of the city of 4endai on the nation!s northeastern coast. The forces of the $uake, the fifth most powerful in the past century, set off a giant wave, called a tsunami, that engulfed villages, destroyed buildings and drowned and crushed people who lived there &source' 5reen(. The earth$uake and tsunami also badly damaged a six -reactor nuclear power plant in 6ukushima, *7, miles 1+8* kilometers3 north of Tokyo, destroying the backup generators that powered its cooling systems and causing a dangerous release of radiation that forced people in the region to flee. In all, the $uake claimed the lives of +,,0/9 people, according to the :.4. 5eological 4urvey. Though earth$uakes have terrori ed people since ancient times, it!s only been in the past *,, years that scientists have come to understand what causes them, and to develop technology to detect their origin and measure their magnitude. In addition, engineers and architects have worked to make buildings more resistant to earth$uake shocks. 4omeday, researchers hope to find a way to predict earth$uakes in advance, and perhaps even control them. In this article, we!ll give you the latest scientific knowledge about earth$uakes, and discuss how humans can cope with them. #ut first, here are some basic earth$uake facts. Earthquake Facts Technically, an earth$uake is a vibration that travels through the ;arth!s crust. <uakes can be caused by a variety of things, including meteor impacts and volcanic eruptions, and even sometimes man-made events like mine collapses and underground nuclear tests &source' Hamilton(. #ut most naturally occurring earth$uakes are caused by movement of pieces of the ;arth!s surface, which are called tectonic plates. 1=e!ll learn more about those plates on the next page.3 The :.4. 5eological 4urvey estimates that, each year, there are as many as *.2 million $uakes with a magnitude greater than +.,, the threshold at which humans can feel the vibrations

so we don!t usually even notice them. people around the world &source' 4toddard(. temples.. avalanches and landslides caused by them -have killed 900.. who survived the $uake.&source' :454(. people were killed. . government buildings and houses all crumbled..ccording to historical accounts. and they!ve claimed many lives. some eggs in it may still be kept intact" &source' 4cience )useums of @hina(. and struck @hina!s 4hanxi ?rovince in *779. >ver the last decade alone. ." he recommended. people indoors should not go out immediately.. and many occur in remote areas far from people. scholar named <in Aeda. and more than 02. later provided what may have been the first earth$uake preparedness advice in history' ".. .. "-ust crouch down and wait for chances. The earth$uakes that capture our attention are the rare big ones that strike near heavily populated areas. city walls. earth$uakes and the tsunamis. we!ll examine the powerful forces that cause this intense trembling and we!ll discuss why earth$uakes occur much more often in certain regions.ven if the nest is collapsed. 4uch earth$uakes have caused a great deal of property damage over the years. .t the very beginning of the earth$uake. The vast ma%ority of them are very small.. >n the next page.. ?erhaps the most lethal $uake in history had a magnitude of 0.