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Doomsday Machines

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Science  15 Jul 2016:
Vol. 353, Issue 6296, pp. 238-241
DOI: 10.1126/science.353.6296.238

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In San Diego, California, a six-story tower riddled with strain gauges and accelerometers rises from the platform of one of the world's biggest earthquake machines. This device—a sort of bull ride for buildings—is one in a network built around the United States to advance natural disaster science with more realistic and sophisticated tests. The National Science Foundation initiative has helped scientists simulate some of the most powerful and destructive forces on Earth, including earthquakes, tsunamis, and landslides. The work has led to new building standards and better ways to build or retrofit everything from wharves to older concrete buildings. Now, in a new $62 million, 5-year program, the network of doomsday machines is expanding to simulate hurricanes and tornadoes and is joining forces with computer modeling to study how things too big for a physical test—such as nuclear reactors or even an entire city—will weather what Mother Nature throws at them.

  • * San Diego, California

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