Earthquakes, Power Laws and Sparklines

By | April 17, 2005

The Asian tsunami, and the quake near Nias, bring home how volatile the region is, particularly Indonesia. (Another quake this morning sent Nias residents fleeing into the hills in panic.) But I thought an interesting way of illustrating this volatility might be to do a sparkline of earthquakes and their magnitude around the world in the last week, highlighting those in Indonesia (most, but not only, around Sumatra) in orange:


Of course, it would be better to show their depth as well, but the sparklines tool I’m using, the excellent SparkMaker from Bissantz, is not yet up to the task. Data is from the USGS Earthquakes Hazards Program.

That’s more than 140 quakes in a week, more than half of them in Indonesia. And each one is of a size not to sneeze at, obeying, I guess the power law that, according to John Gribbin in Deep Simplicity, determines there is no single trigger for a major earthquake: An earthquake of any size is governed by the same rules. (This implies that another tsunami is not necessarily a long way off, just because there was one recently.) But if nothing else the sea of orange indicates how many Indonesians live in a state of almost permanent shock.

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