Hands-On Building Vibration Simulation

The Perot Museum in Dallas has a shake table that lets you experience simulated earthquakes. Having moved from Dallas to San Francisco, I have to wonder why they have this Dallas, but not at the Exploratorium. 

Anyway, for me the more interesting exhibit isn't the one that lets you stand on a shaking floor; its the one that lets you build up a 3D model of a building and see how it moves around.

 
 

You basically build up little stick structures, and then carry them over to a shake table. The table is computer-controlled with a pretty slick interface that lets you vary base excitation frequency and amplitude. And the text does a good job of making you ask the right questions:

Our firm doesn't do any seismic work, but this is a great illustration of how lateral vibrations work in real buildings. Unlike vertical vibrations -- which are highly localized within structures -- horizontal vibrations are a global phenomenon.