French scientists are researching a new way to defend against earthquakes

A group of French scientists has developed a method of shielding cities from the force of an earthquake, and after devastating earthquakes in Chile, the idea is drawing some much-deserved attention. It works on the principle of refraction, planting an array of boreholes to redirect the reverberations around the city and into areas where they will do less damage. If the system works, it could be a new way to shield populated areas from the devastating effects of an earthquake.

This week a massive quake off the coast of Chile killed six and forced hundreds of thousands to evacuate in fear of a tsunami. The shaking evoked memories of the events off the coast of Japan in 2011 that triggered meltdowns at a nuclear power plant that the country is still struggling with. Scientists have long dreamed of ways to predict and even protect regions from such devastation. Now a group of French scientists hopes to help, building on work that showed how light can be manipulated to make objects invisible. The cloaking technique renders an object invisible by bending light of specific frequencies around the target. In theory, the same principles might be used to deflect incoming seismic waves. A precisely tuned array of boreholes around a city or a nuclear power plant that resonate at the frequencies characteristic of quakes could thus dampen the vibrations and shield objects.

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