I recently found a blog post from Wolfram Alpha on using interactive info graphics to simulate how buildings can be built to withstand a large earthquake. It was written a year ago soon after the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Sendai, Japan area.

It is a difficult topic for those who were here in Japan when it happened. I was fortunate in a way to be in the U.S. when it occurred, but under unfortunate circumstances. My mother had a stroke and my sister passed away unexpectedly. I flew to the U.S. on a Monday, (after just having arrived back from an Apple conference in Singapore where I met Kim for the first time) and the earthquake happened on Friday. Today is the anniversary of my sister’s death and she has been on my mind a lot lately. I have also noticed a lot of small tremors lately and it makes me worried that I might not be lucky enough to be out of the country the next time.

For those who understand how to use Wolfram Alpha then the new Computational Document Format (CDF) might make sense to you. I find it over my head. I downloaded the CDF player, but then didn’t know what to do with it. However from the Wolfram Alpha blog site there were examples of interactive info graphics such as below.

Earthquakes are oftentimes caused at the boundaries of tectonic plates, which form huge faults on the surface. When large enough forces are applied in two different directions, they overcome the friction between the boundary and cause a sudden movement. The phenomenon, also known as strike-slip, is one of many mechanisms that causes earthquakes. The following animation simulates the strike-slip at a fault and seismic waves caused by it.

 Simulating Seismic Base Isolation

It is comforting to know that most of the buildings in Japan are built to withstand strong earthquakes. This model above helps me to appreciate how the Japanese build their high rise mansions.