# Pasta Quake: Exploring Earthquake Magnitude

Initial Publication Date: May 24, 2018 | Reviewed: March 6, 2019

#### Summary

This short activity provides an intuitive introduction to earthquake magnitude using an everyday item--spaghetti. Learners are introduced to the earthquake magnitude scale by breaking different amounts of uncooked noodles. Visual scale of the pasta emphasizes the relative differences between magnitudes steps. For older students, the demonstration helps students understand why seismologists use the nonlinear logarithmic scale to best graph the huge range of quantities.

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## Context

#### Audience

This activity could be done with introductory geoscience learners from late elementary through secondary or even early college. It can also work for informal education or public outreach venues as a demonstration or interactive.

#### Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Learners should already know what earthquakes are.

#### How the activity is situated in the course

Use this activity mid-way through a Plate Tectonics Unit, to introduce earthquake magnitude, and prepare learners to understand the difference between magnitude and intensity.

## Goals

#### Content/concepts goals for this activity

Learners will be able to

• Define the difference between Richter Magnitude, Moment Magnitude, and Intensity
• Explain the energy difference between different Moment Magnitude steps.

#### Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

• Modeling with mathematics, reasoning quantitatively

#### Other skills goals for this activity

• Older students will be able to learn a practical application of logarithmic scales.

## Description and Teaching Materials

The severity of an earthquake can be described using two different scales: magnitude and intensity. The magnitude is a measure of the amount of energy released in the earthquake, whereas intensity is a measure of the impact of the earthquake, in terms of shaking and destruction caused. This activity focuses on the magnitude scale, providing a visual model that illustrates that the scales used to measure earthquake magnitude are non-linear. Comparing the number of deaths that occurred in several large destructive earthquakes that have occurred worldwide since 1960 allows learners to begin to ponder what other factors besides earthquake magnitude contribute to the intensity of earthquakes and the damage caused.

#### Activity

See files for educator notes, NGSS alignment, links to supporting resources, student exercise, and answer key.
Pasta Quake Activity Educator Notes and Student Handout (Acrobat (PDF) 1.8MB Sep10 22)
Video demonstrating how to teach the Pasta Quake activity (MP4 Video 10.2MB Sep10 22)