Thesis Info

Thesis Title
On Earthquakes (Ueber Erdbeben - Ein Versuch zur Erweiterung seismologischer Darstellungsweisen)
Florian Dombois
2nd Author
3rd Author
Number of Pages
Humboldt-University Berlin (Germany)
Thesis Supervisor
Hartmut Boehme
Supervisor e-mail
Other Supervisor(s)
Hans-Werner Schuett
Language(s) of Thesis
Department / Discipline
Cultural History
Languages Familiar to Author
German, English, Dutch
URL where full thesis can be found
Erdbeben, terraemotus, tremblement de terre, earthquake; art and science; sonification, audification
Abstract: 200-500 words
The dissertation in hand is engaged in the understanding and cognition of earthquakes. Essentially it is the attempt to draw near the natural phenomenon and to broaden our conception of it: (i) What actually is an earthquake? What makes it up? Why might it be fascinating? (ii) How were and how are earthquakes depicted in the textual and pictoral tradition in Europe? (iii) How is the form of depiction related to the content 'earthquake'? How does the phenomenon change when the form of depiction is altered? (iv) And last not least: which form seems to be most suitable for the depiction of an earthquake? According to the above questions 16 'earthquake-depictions' are sampled to investigate the relation between form and content. The attempt is made to provide a collection of great diversity in form: Today's usual manner of earthquake depiction is represented by the reaction, the earthquake of Kobe has received (§ 13 seismological article, § 14 press releases, § 15 earthquake simulator in the Natural History Museum London); then there are chosen: two samples of the Old Greek tradition (§ 1 myth of Poseidon, § 2 Aristoteles' 'Meteorologica'), further two from the Roman tradition (§ 3 Seneca's 'Naturales Quaestiones', § 4 'Aetna'), and two from the Christian tradition (§ 5 'Bible', § 6 Thomas Aquinas on Aristotle's 'Meteorologica'); furthermore there are some samples looked upon that show reaction on the Lisbon earthquake of 1755 (§ 8 shocking ballads, § 9 Voltaire, § 10 copper engravings of Le Bas, § 11 Immanuel Kant, § 12 John Michell). Last not least the science fiction novel 'Richter 10' by Clarke and McQuay (§ 16) is examined. Finally I complain that the manner of scientific depiction is 'un-sensual' and disposing. Therefore the dissertation is meant to flow into a counter-project. The last chapter scrutinizes the experience of the investigations before under a wider angle. In consequence I suggest to investigate an acoustical transponation of the earth's movements. An example of the new kind of sound that emerges from that is drawn from a 1994 earthquake in Chile. A range of further considerations show that not only the form of the acoustical transformation seems promising but also its content: far from the mainstream of seismological research the new acoustic form renders the question of earthquake prediction in a unusual but new and fairly easy way. All of this results in me hoping that the releasing of this new form of depiction triggers of a new field of scientific research at the same time.