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C. Researchers Prepare for the Next Big Quake in California

Narrator: When will the next big earthquake strike California ? This is Science Today. Some experts say an earthquake of magnitude 7 or higher is due to hit the Golden State within the next twenty years. Rather than predict what's to come or wait for an event to happen, civil and environmental engineer, Ayman Mosallam of the University of California , Irvine says they look to the past to see how structures will hold up in the future.

Mosallam: So what we do, we simulate that ahead of time. So we know the weakness in each system and different types of structures, different types of buildings and even equipment, even furniture. And we simulate different past earthquake signals.

Narrator: By entering data through a computer, the researchers have replicated signals from past earthquakes including the Mexico temblor of 1984 and the Kobe, Japan and Northridge , California quakes. These signals are then sent to a 10 by 12 foot concrete slab called the shake table. Mossallam says their goal in engineering terms is to make buildings tougher.

Mosallam: And that's exactly our slogan. We want out buildings and structures to be tough.

Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.