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Taipei 101 Tower Causing Earthquakes?

Taipei 101, the tallest building in the world, may be causing small earthquakes in the Taipei basin. According to geologist Lin Cheng-horng, a member of Taiwan's most prestigious think tank (the Academia Sinica), earthquake activity has been up since the construction of the tower. The ordinarily stable area has felt about two micro-quakes per year during the construction period (1997-2003); two larger quakes of magnitude 3.8 and 4.2 have occurred directly beneath the tower since the project has been completed.


(Taipei 101)

Lin states that the steel and concrete used to build Taipei 101 weighs 700,000 tons and estimates that the stress from vertical loading (700,000 tons over 3.7 acres) exerts a pressure of 4.7 bars on the ground below.

Special construction techniques used in the building heighten the effect:

"The construction of Taipei 101 is totally different to many other high-rise buildings because it used hybrid structures made of both concrete and steel, to give it added protection from earthquakes and fire. Therefore it has a huge vertical loading on its foundation," says Dr Lin.

In his paper, published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, Dr. Lin suggests that stress might be transferred into the upper crust due to the soft sedimentary rocks beneath the Taipei basin. Other geologists express skepticism, citing the relatively short period for which data is available, and the depth of the recent quakes (about 10 kilometers).

As it happens, an early science fiction author wrote a (black humor!) story about the perils of a point load on the earth's surface. William Livingston Alden (1837-1908) wrote in his 1907 short story The Earthquake about an eccentric scientist who figured out how to store gravity in a manner analogous to the storage of electricity. He stored enough gravity in a forty-five foot high conical structure to actually pull the moon down from the sky. Regrettably, the device causes the San Francisco earthquake. Not to be deterred, the inventor moves his apparatus to Valparaiso, Chile and reloads it - with similar results.

Should you find yourself on the upper levels of Taipei 101, you might take comfort in the fact that it has the world's fastest elevator; read more about The skyscraper that may cause earthquakes.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 12/4/2005)

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