Overcoming the troubles of Japan's tsunami and earthquake
A woman lights candles during an event for the victims of the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami at a park in Tokyo, March 11, 2013. Japan marked the second anniversary of a devastating earthquake and tsunami that left nearly 19,000 people dead or missing. Itsuo Inouye/AP
The tsunami-devastated Natori city in Miyagi prefecture is seen in this combination photo taken March 11, 2011 (top) and March 6, 2013 on the two-year anniversary of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. Kyodo News/Reuters
Journalists wearing protective gears are escorted to the damaged No. 4 reactor building and an under construction foundation (center, r.) which will store the reactor's melted fuel rods, at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in Okuma town, Fukushima prefecture, northeast of Tokyo, March 6, 2013, ahead of the second anniversary of the March 11, 2011 tsunami and earthquake. Issei Kato/AP
Hide Sato, who survived the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami, smiles as she sits inside her room at a temporary housing complex in Rikuzentakata, Iwate Prefecture, northeastern Japan, Feb. 23, 2013. Like tens of thousands of other Japanese who lost everything in the tsunami, Sato is living in one-room temporary housing and longing for a home of her own. Junji Kurokawa/AP
A man prays to mourn victims of the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami as a ship brought ashore by the disaster is seen in the background, in Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture, March 11, 2013. Kyodo/Reuters
Workers who survived the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, take lettuce seedlings to plant at a domed greenhouse in Rikuzentakata, Iwate Prefecture, northeastern Japan, Feb. 22, 2013. One of the few projects to start up in the worst hit areas of the disaster zone so far, Granpa Farms, is an agrotechnology company that has built eight high-tech greenhouses for hydroponic farming. Junji Kurokawa/AP
Farmer Naoto Matsumura feeds ostritches at his farm in Tomioka, inside the nuclear exclusion zone surrounding the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant, in Japan, March 6, 2013. Matsumura is the only resident to have stayed in Tomioka for the two years since an earthquake and tsunami caused the plant to spew radiation into the air, contaminating a large area surrounding it. Greg Baker/AP
Workers dump radiation-contaminated leaves and soil into a bag during a clean up operation in the town of Naraha, which was previously inside the exclusion zone surrounding the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant, in Japan, March 6, 2013. Decontamination operations continue in areas outside the zone, though few residents have returned to the town since it was re-opened. Greg Baker/AP
Members of United Kennel Club Japan (UKC Japan) care for pets rescued from inside the exclusion zone around the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, at the group's animal shelter in Samukawa town, Kanagawa prefecture, January 25, 2012. Dogs and cats that were abandoned in the Fukushima exclusion zone after the nuclear crisis have had to survive high radiation and a lack of food, and the region's freezing winter weather. Issei Kato/Reuters
Wakana Nemoto, 3, standing next to her mother Naoko, receives a radiation exposure screening outside an evacuation center in Fukushima, northeastern Japan, April 16, 2011. Hiro Komae/AP
Seismologist Bernd Weber of Germany's Geoscientific Research Institute GFZ in Potsdam poses for the media as he points on a graph with the magnitude of the earthquake in Japan on a monitor in Potsdam, March 11, 2011. Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters
A massive tsunami sweeps in to engulf a residential area after a powerful earthquake in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture in northeastern Japan, March 11, 2011. The biggest earthquake to hit Japan in 140 years struck the northeast coast, triggering a 10-meter tsunami that swept away everything in its path, including houses, cars, and farm buildings on fire. Kyodo/AP
The 2011 earthquake that devastated northern Japan slid along a thick layer of nearly frictionless clay called 'smectite', say scientists who made the first-ever friction measurements of an earthquake.
Japan's massive 2011 earthquake was lubricated by a thick layer of nearly frictionless clay, according to a series of articles in the current issue of Science. The clay itself has been thoroughly described, but it's the other piece – the friction measurements – that may have broader implications for the future of earthquake physics.