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How to Engineer Buildings That Withstand Earthquakes

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Our planet is covered by tectonic plates that are slowly moving around, pushing into or sliding past one another along boundaries called faults. Friction sometimes causes two of these plates to get stuck to each other spots along a fault. Tension builds up over years, decades or even centuries until suddenly the fault snaps. The two sides lurch past each other, unleashing an earthquake.

From the place where the fault ruptures, seismic waves ripple outward in all directions. When they reach Earth’s surface, they can set buildings or any other structures shaking—violently and destructively if the quake is strong and close enough, as were the two massive temblors that struck Turkey and Syria on February 6, which was followed by a large aftershock on the same day.

These quakes killed more than 45,000 people, many of them in collapsed buildings. Though earthquakes can’t be prevented or predicted, science does have some ways to protect buildings—and the people inside them. Scientific American spoke with several earthquake engineering experts to learn more about how using the…

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