Something quite remarkable happened last week to those of you who live in North America. On Wednesday night the Earth slowly heaved you, your neighbors, the surrounding countryside — in fact, millions of square miles of the Earth’s crust — up and down several times by a fraction of an inch. It did no damage and, unless you happen to live in western Canada or the Pacific Northwest of the United States, you probably didn’t feel a thing. But for a few moments the Earth moved you.
Welcome to another edition of “One Week on Earth”, which brings extraordinary moments like these within range of our senses for the first time. This week’s program begins with the Earth bathed in the luscious oceanic background ambience — a wash of seismic vibrations that ebbs and flows gently through the week, as weather systems pass across northeastern North America and out into the Atlantic Ocean. Whispering through this veil of sound are a few distant and minor earthquakes. Midweek, the calm is broken by a large earthquake (6.6) in British Columbia, Canada, whose powerful surface vibrations wrap swiftly around the planet. Here in New England the ground sways slowly by almost an eighth of an inch as these waves sweep past. (If this fact seems remarkable in itself, consider that these sorts of occasional bursts of slow undulations are, in fact, commonplace everywhere on Earth. We are routinely heaved to and fro by the Earth as we go about our lives. But because our senses are simply not tuned in to this motion, we easily fall for the illusion of a stable and dependable Earth. The Earth is restless by nature.)
After those undulations pass, the ground quiets down once more, and the week continues much as it began, with the endless restless swirl of the Earth’s background ambience. You’ll enjoy this part best if you listen with headphones.