Earthquakes actually happen all the time. On Earth, there are about 500,000 earthquakes every day. The Richter scale measures how powerful an earthquake is by rating the amount of energy released. Most earthquakes are micro-quakes and are so small that you can’t even feel them. These earthquakes rate a three or less on the Richter scale. Very few earthquakes rate a seven or above on the Richter scale. These are major earthquakes that cause lots of damage.
When earthquake shockwaves hit a building, they cause the walls, floors, columns, beams, and connectors to shake. This movement puts stress on the building. If the supporting frame breaks, the whole structure collapses. But if a building uses materials like structural steel, wood, bamboo, and new types of plastic, the building bends without breaking!
Proper design can increase a building’s stability. If a structure is built on a flexible foundation made of steel and rubber, only the base mo.mo.mo.moves during an earthquake while the rest of the structure remains steady. Some skyscrapers have installed heavy pendulums that counter the swaying movement caused by an earthquake. As the building sways in one direction, the pendulum automatically sways in the opposite direction which stabilizes the building.
Watch Cosmo simulate a magnitude 20 earthquake in the episode above.