2006 Philadelphia Annual Meeting (22–25 October 2006)

Paper No. 8
Presentation Time: 9:45 AM


DE GROOT, Robert M., Southern California Earthquake Center, University of Southern California, 3651 Trousdale Parkway, Suite 169, Los Angeles, CA 90089-0742 and BENTHIEN, Mark, Southern California Earthquake Center, 3651 Trousdale Parkway Suite 169, Los Angeles, CA 90089-0742, degroot@usc.edu

The Southern California Earthquake Center (SCEC) has been developing groundbreaking computer modeling capabilities for studying earthquakes. These visualizations were initially shared within the scientific community but have recently have gained visibility via television news coverage in Southern California. These types of visualizations are becoming pervasive in the teaching and learning of concepts related to earth science. Computers have opened up a whole new world for scientists working with large data sets, and students can benefit from the same opportunities (Libarkin & Brick, 2002). Earthquakes are ideal candidates for visualization products: they cannot be predicted, are completed in a matter of seconds, occur deep in the earth, and the time between events can be on a geologic time scale. For example, the southern part of the San Andreas fault has not seen a major earthquake since about 1690, setting the stage for an earthquake as large as magnitude 7.7—the “big one.” Since no one has experienced such an earthquake, visualizations can help people understand the scale of such an event. Accordingly, SCEC has developed a revolutionary simulation of this earthquake, with breathtaking visualizations that are now being distributed. According to Gordin and Pea (1995), theoretically visualization should make science accessible, provide means for authentic inquiry, and lay the groundwork to understand and critique scientific issues. This presentation will discuss how the new SCEC visualizations and other earthquake imagery achieve these results, how they fit within the context of major themes and study areas in science education, and how the efficacy of these tools can be improved.