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The Atlantic Meets the Pacific Meets UCSD-TV
By Rich Wargo, UCSD-TV science producer
For a few months last spring, things were really rumbling at UC San Diego’s Engelkirk Structural Engineering Center, where researchers subjected a five-story mockup of a hospital to the largest earthquake test of its kind. “Building It Better: Earthquake-resilient Hospitals for the Future,” a UCSD-TV and California Seismic Safety Commission documentary two years in the making, takes you behind the scenes of these dramatic earthquake tests as researchers evaluate their impact on the many complex systems within hospital buildings, including surgical suites, patient rooms and more. The program also reviews the history of seismic safety for California’s hospital infrastructure, and what is being done to secure its future.
Phenomenal is the only way to describe this project. I’ve recorded and produced many programs on tests at Englekirk – from a massive concrete parking structure to an 80′ wind turbine to metal frame buildings and more – but I’ve never witnessed anything like this, and honestly, hope none of us ever experience a quake as intense, or even half as intense, as this test provided.
While we did our best to capture this intensity, being present at the moment of testing brought with it the visceral uncertainty of whether an entire five-story building will collapse before you. This not only induces an instant of panic, but makes you think more than twice about how prepared we all are for such an event – and how truly outstanding and critically important the work of the California Seismic Safety Commission and the many researchers and partners involved in this test is to our common well–being.
After seeing this project closely from the inside, I am certain that too many of us are unprepared and have no idea just how devastating the “big one” – which will happen – will be. But there are people working together to make sure that when we need it most, our critical infrastructure will be ready, and the data, information and lessons from this project are making and will continue to make immense contributions to that goal.
And I didn’t even mention the fire testing……
Watch “Building It Better: Earthquake-resilient Hospitals for the Future,” premiering tonight at 8 and online now.
TeacherTECH: Earthquake Teaching Tools
The next program in our new series TeacherTECH, from the San Diego Supercomputer Center airs Wednesday March 24 and features the irrepressible Debi Kilb, Science Director of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography Visualization Center. Debi’s specialties are the underlying physics of earthquakes, and getting other people really enthused about it. She’s going to show you many readily accessible sources on the internet where you can find a wide range of information on seismic activity, both in the past and as it happens. And don’t miss physics guru Phil Blanco’s TeacherTECH presentation on Newton’s Laws and Gravity on March 31. Visit UCSDTV’s TeacherTECH page for other programs in the series, and more resources and information from the presenters.
Building It Better
In keeping with the theme of seismicity, Debi’s TeacherTECH presentation is followed by Building It Better, a chronicle of the most massive outdoor real-time seismic test ever conducted. You’ll get an inside view of the western hemisphere’s largest shake-table at UC San Diego’s Jacobs School of Engineering’s Englekirk Structural Engineering Center. The shake table is the only of its kind in North America, and you’ll see the amazing ingenuity and technology that is required to conduct a test of this scale.
We’ve embarked on a new program that chronicles the seismic testing of a wind turbine conducted at UC San Diego’s Jacobs School of Engineering’s Englekirk Structural Engineering Center – home of the western hemisphere’s largest outdoor shake table. California will be expanding the use of wind generation, and as we all know, California is one of the most seismically active regions in the nation. It is the first time a turbine has been tested in this manner and will provide a wealth of information for design and deployment of wind turbines for our renewable future. We caught the turbine being subjected to forces two-and-a-half times greater than the Northridge earthquake, and we’ll be getting an inside look at a working wind farm and how this research will help advance wind power – keep watching and you’ll see the results.
Learn more about what’s happening in Science on the UCSD-TV Science Blog