Earthquakes, Seismology, and Some Surprises

Old Main Classroom 224
Monday, October 21, 2019
to Monday, November 25, 2019
5:30-7:00 PM

Schedule: Monday, 5:30 p.m. -7:00 p.m., October 21-November 25
Professor: Mark Castner, Director, Braun-Ruddick Seismograph Station and Adjunct Professor of Physics

Course Description

In Earthquakes, Seismology, and Some Surprises we will start by looking at some of the most famous, and infamous, earthquakes of the 21st century.  Then we will explore the geological structure of the Earth that causes earthquakes and why quakes are concentrated in certain parts of the globe.  We will take a more careful look at the San Andreas Fault in California and at quakes in the Western New York area.  Other topics include: how to improve building design and stay safe in an earthquake, how a seismograph station functions by taking a tour of our station at Canisius, how instruments and recording devices have changed over the years, and a short history of our station with ideas on where the future of seismology will lead us.  There are suggested readings to initiate and supplement the in-class discussions.  Links to high-quality seismology-related web sites will also be provided.

"Class by class topics:

  • An international look at important earthquakes of the 21st century, including Assisi, Tohoku (Japan), Mexico City, and San Francisco.  We will search for earthquakes that are recommended by and important to the students.
  • An overview of the general science and geology of earthquakes, why quakes happen where they do, why some regions have very large earthquakes and others only small quakes, and how the tracking of earthquakes helped discover plate tectonics.  
  • A tour of the Braun-Ruddick Seismograph Station with an emphasis on how the equipment detects and records earthquakes and on how the design of the equipment has evolved over the years.
  • A photographic fly-over of the San Andreas fault with accompanying maps that highlight its most dangerous regions, followed by a look at the multiple, small earthquakes that regularly but not often affect the Western New York area.  
  • How building design is improving to protect us from earthquakes, what each of us needs to do to protect ourselves from the danger of earthquakes, and the real but minimal danger from earthquakes in WNY.
  • The history of the seismograph station at Canisius and its involvement in the Jesuit Seismological Society, and a look at possible future developments in seismology and even earthquake prediction."

Professor Bio

Mark Castner, adjunct professor of Physics, has spent almost 30 years working in seismograph stations, including the past 12 years as Director of the Braun-Ruddick Seismograph Station at Canisius College.  Over a 45+ year career in education, he has taught a wide variety of courses in mathematics, information systems, information technology, and most recently a course on earthquakes and seismology. He has given seismology talks to numerous local organizations including the Buffalo Association of Professional Geologists and the Buffalo Geological Society, as well as many years of seismology demonstrations on Earth Science Day at Penn Dixie Fossil Park and Nature Reserve.

Mark Castner