Third Pod from the Sun

Third Pod from the Sun

X-rays of the Earth's Gooey Center

September 03, 2019

Much like x-rays can show broken bones (or noses), seismic equipment can show us what’s going on in Earth’s interior. While seismologists can’t take quick snapshots like medical doctors can, they can provide an image of tectonic plate movements over time to help the scientific community – and local communities – understand geophysical phenomena from mountain formations to volcanoes to the earthquakes that rock their world.

Lara Wagner, a seismologist at the Carnegie Institution for Science, leads teams as they search for remote places around the globe to position their seismometers. This involves digging holes, being resourceful, and implementing equipment ranging from solar panels to duct tape, the latter of which Lara considers herself a connoisseur.

In this episode, she describes her work in South America, the process of selecting sites for seismometers, how she and her teams engage with local residents, as well as some surprising findings the sensitive equipment can pick up. Lara highlights what scientists have been able to learn about Earth’s gooey center through seismology, including weak plates that bend and break, and the impacts we experience on the surface.

This episode was produced by Katie Broendel and mixed by Kayla Surrey.