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Quake Alert:

Photonics Spectra
May 1997
Laser Ranging Gives Japanese an Early Warning

George Poropat, Electro Optic Systems, Queanbeyen, Australia

At 5:45 p.m. on January 17, 1995, school children busily jumped rope and played hide and seek near their homes in Kobe, Japan. Mothers handled the business of the home and fathers put the finishing touches on another workday. At 5:46, the ground began to shudder as the worst earthquake in more than 70 years struck the Akachi prefecture, killing 5,500 people, injuring another 35,000 and razing 200,000 buildings in 14 Japanese prefectures. Because of tragedies like the Kobe quake, seismologists continue to search for a way to predict one of the Earth’s deadliest forms of natural disaster.
By using advanced photonics in satellite laser range finding capable of measuring distances between objects in space and the earth’s gravitational center to within 1 mm, we believe it may be possible to one day read the minute early warning signs that foreshadow an earthquake, giving people time to prepare. Hopefully, Japan’s Key Stone Project will demonstrate how the application of advanced photonics could help minimize the effects of such natural disasters…


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