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Trucks are known for their many capabilities, whether it’s towing a heavy load, driving off-road, or the various utility features. Now, you can add another impressive capability to the list. A huge truck in Texas called “T-Rex” can make artificial earthquakes.

Large Mobile Shaker truck at the University of Texas used for earthquake research

T-Rex Large Mobile Shaker truck at University of Texas that can make an earthquake
“T-Rex” Large Mobile Shaker truck | Tom Scott via YouTube

Texas is not a state that typically has large earthquakes. The largest one in recorded history was in 1931 in Valentine, Texas, and had a magnitude of about 6.0 on the Richter scale. Compared to earthquake-prone California, earthquakes are much smaller and less frequent in Texas.

In lieu of this, scientists at the University of Texas turned to an unusual source to study tremors: a massive truck. The official name of the truck is Large Mobile Shaker, but the Texas scientists affectionately call it “T-Rex.” 

As detailed by Carscoops, the huge truck got its name from a scene in Jurassic Park. In the movie, as the Tyrannosaurus rex dinosaur approaches, its pounding steps create ripples in a water glass. In a similar way, the T-Rex truck pounds the ground and causes it to shake. 

T-Rex truck can deliver 60,000 pounds of force to the ground

T-Rex Large Mobile Shaker truck at University of Texas pounding the ground to create an earthquake
“T-Rex” Large Mobile Shaker truck | Tom Scott via YouTube

Like a real earthquake, the T-Rex truck is a force to be reckoned with, for it delivers up to 27 metric tons (around 60,000 pounds) of impact to the ground at a rate of 30 times per second. That will certainly wake up the neighbors. Also, the Large Mobile Shaker has three modes of impact: vertical, horizontal, and transverse. 

Tom Scott, who filmed the T-Rex at the University of Texas, said that for the “lower settings, it feels like a small earthquake moving the ground underfoot, making everything feel a little uneven.” However, that’s the highest level that the scientists can use on campus.

Also, as learned from a previous incident, scientists must be careful about not setting the impact too high for the Large Mobile Shaker. Ken Stokoe, a professor at the University of Texas, said that when the T-Rex was accidentally set too high at the UCLA campus, the impact on the ground was so powerful that students ran out of a nearby building, terrified into thinking that there was a real earthquake. Stokoe said, “That got us in trouble.”

Practical use of the Large Mobile Shaker truck for building construction

Along with creating an artificial earthquake by pounding the ground, the Large Mobile Shaker truck can bury sensors underground. This enables the Texas scientists to measure how waves of force travel through the ground. With this capability, scientists can study how well the earth in a specific location will stand up to the force of an earthquake. When constructing buildings, such as power plants, in which the design is critical, this is very useful information.

Recently, the University of Texas earthquake team went to Wyoming to study how earthquakes could affect new power plants in the state. Along with providing useful information for the new power plants, the T-Rex truck saved them money — since they could evaluate various things without having to drill boreholes into the ground. 

Stokoe said, “We could evaluate the stiffness profile down to a half a mile with no boreholes. That is really a true accomplishment and a very, very cost-effective addition to the design of the plant.”


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