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An earthquake is one of the most terrifying phenomena that nature can dish up We generally think of the ground we stand on as rock-solid and completely stable An earthquake can shatter that perception instantly and often with extreme violence Up until relatively recently scientists only had unsubstantiated guesses as to what actually caused earthquakes Even today there is still a certain amount of mystery surrounding them but scientists have a much clearer understanding There has been enormous progress in the past century Scientists have identified the forces that cause earthquakes and developed technology that can tell us an earthquakes magnitude and origin The next hurdle is to find a way of predicting earthquakes so they dont catch people by surprise An earthquake is a vibration that travels through the earths crust Technically a large truck that rumbles down the street is causing a mini-earthquake if you feel your house shaking as it goes by but we tend to think of earthquakes as events that affect a fairly large area such as an entire city All kinds of things can cause earthquakes Volcanic eruptions Meteor impacts Underground explosions an underground nuclear test for example Collapsing structures such as a collapsing mine But movements of the earths plates cause the majority of naturally occurring earthquakes We only hear about earthquakes in the news every once in a while but they are actually an everyday occurrence on our planet According to the United States Geological Survey more than three million earthquakes occur every year Thats about 8000 a day or one every 11 seconds The vast majority of these 3 million quakes are extremely weak The law of probability also causes a good number of stronger quakes to happen in uninhabited places where no one feels them It is the big quakes that occur in highly populated areas that get our attention Earthquakes have caused a great
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