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Miaki Ishii is an associate professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Harvard University who uses North American seismometers to understand how the magnitude 9 earthquake in Japan in March 2011 started and spread. On Tuesday, April 24, Dr. Ishii will visit the Museum to discuss what scientists know about this earthquake and what they have left to learn. She recently answered a few questions.
What geological forces caused the 2011 earthquake in Japan?
Miaki Ishii: At the site of this earthquake, the Pacific plate is colliding with the North American plate—that part of Japan, believe it or not, is considered part of the North American plate. When two things bump into one another, you have stress buildup, and to relieve it, there are earthquakes. In this case, a lot of stress had accumulated for over 1,000 years, and it was released all at once in a huge quake. Many faults failing at once also made this a large event.
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Join the Museum’s annual celebration of Earth Day with Spaceship Earth on Thursday, April 19. This Hayden Planetarium program takes viewers across the planet’s verdant hills and blue oceans and into space to view Earth as only astronauts have seen it. Director of Astrovisualization Carter Emmart will guide the tour using the Museum’s Digital Universe Atlas, an authentic 3D map of the cosmos that uses satellite data as recent as three hours old to digitally reconstruct the universe. Emmart recently answered a few questions about the experience.
Why is it important to take a look at Earth’s place in the universe?
Carter Emmart: Earth Day was a direct result of the first images acquired by astronauts viewing our home from the humbling distance of the Moon. One planet, ours, in space, alive with life and color, covered mostly by water and a dynamic atmosphere with constantly shifting clouds, and all this seen from our national goal of reaching the Moon, our nearest neighbor, lifeless, without color or water, and without atmosphere. Regardless of how fascinating the rest of the planets, moons, and asteroids are, ours is paradise. We are part of this world, and our survival goes hand in hand with it. We respond to its beauty as we respond to any beautiful landscape filled with color, form, and the dynamics of nature. Our Earth Day celebration is a moment to sit back and revere our planet and our existence.
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Space dust and asteroid fragments reach Earth’s surface every day, but only rarely do extraterrestrial objects cause serious harm. Scientists use increasingly precise technology to track near-Earth objects and gauge if a Cretaceous-style collision could be on the horizon. At the forefront of this research is MIT professor Richard Binzel, whose Museum lecture Asteroids: Friends or Foes? on Monday, April 16, evaluates the threat of asteroids and makes a case for how they might actually be useful to humans. Binzel recently answered a few questions about his research.
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Chris Filardi is the director of Pacific Programs at the Museum’sCenter for Biodiversity and Conservation. He has spent his career studying island birds and their unique ecologies, from working with indigenous communities to conserve island ecosystems to tracking the foraging behavior of Palm Cockatoos. At the upcoming SciCafe on Wednesday, April 4, Filardi will talk about how the genomic revolution and increased access to islands have changed how these systems are studied. He recently answered a few questions about the role islands play in understanding speciation, or how new species arise.