Australia is a relatively unexciting place, tectonically speaking. We’re smack bang in the middle of the Indo-Australian plate which means that our landscape is quite old (as there’s no tectonic activity reshaping it) and earthquakes are quite rare, with the few we experience being rather weak by anyone’s standards. This is quite good for builders here as this means that tall buildings like skyscrapers and radio towers don’t require additional engineering in order to protect them from those kinds of natural disasters, although we still have tropical cyclones, mass flooding and spiders the size of small horses (I’m only lying about one of those, I swear).
Other countries aren’t so lucky and should they want to build something over a certain height there’s a certain amount of engineering that needs to be done in order to make sure they don’t go tumbling down once the first earthquake hits. Japan is arguably the leader in this technology as they have to deal with large magnitude quakes as a semi-regular occurrence. Seeing it in action though is rather impressive:
A quick bit of research shows that these are mass damper protected buildings (they are the Shinjuku Nomura on the left and Sompo Japan Head Office on the right, for reference) which have a large sprung mass inside them that moves counter to the direction of the seismic waves. Now this doesn’t completely eliminate all the energy passing through the building so they still sway a significant amount. However the majority of modern skyscrapers are designed to sway by a fair amount due to regular things like wind which exert an enormous amount of pressure on buildings this tall. You wouldn’t notice that however as it happens a lot slower than what you’re seeing in this video.
What I find truly amazing though is just how stable it is inside the building (Shinjuku Center) where the filming is occurring. Indeed that building would have been undergoing the same amount of sway and flex as the rest of the buildings were but to an observer inside it looks like you’d barely be aware that anything was happening. The translated description text does say that most of the building services shut down during the quake (elevators being the main concern) so if you weren’t aware of it when it started you’d probably find out in no short order.
I had seen many videos showing off the technology behind this video but after viewing it I realised that this was the first I had seen of it in action and it’s far more impressive than I expected it to be. It’s yet another testament to how far science and technology has come, being able to tame forces of nature that were long thought to be out of our control. It might not be the most exciting thing to talk about with your friends but it does make for some damn cool watching, that’s for sure.