This article in Popular Science is by radiation expert Andrew Karam (Ph.D scientist, ex-navy, does nuclear terrorism consulting) and is mostly about putting the radiation that escaped the Fukushima Daiichi plant into perspective, but for me the very best paragraph doesn’t touch on that at all. It’s this one:
“At the site of the earthquake, stress had been building up in the Earth’s crust for decades. When it released, that stress caused one of the most damaging quakes on record. The earth moved more than 20 meters over a 500-mile zone and the resulting earthquake released as much energy as a 45-megaton hydrogen bomb (to put this in perspective, this is 30,000 times more powerful as the bomb that leveled Hiroshima). It was the fourth-strongest earthquake recorded since 1900 and the strongest earthquake to strike Japan in recorded history. The quake shifted the Earth’s axis by somewhere between 4 and 10 inches, altering the length of a day by nearly 2 microseconds.”
Holy crap. 4 to 10 inches. I feel like I need a cigarette, and I don’t even smoke.