• mary-stinnett-slider.jpg?fit=500%2C500
    Mary Stinnett presents a slideshow during her free lecture. Kaya Maliglig / The Mainstream

Professors Caroll and Stinnett dive into unknown world of caffeine and earthquakes

in Campus Life by

You may have heard of a caffeine high, but how about a caffeine quake?

Associate professor of geology Karen Caroll, alongside associate professor of mathematics Mary Stinnett, addressed the mathematical relationships between caffeine and earthquakes and tsunamis in the Pacific Northwest at the Faculty Lecture Series in the Centerstage Theatre on Jan. 19.

In her free lecture titled “The Mathematical and Not-So-Mathematical Relationships between Tsunamis and the Pacific Northwest,” Caroll described how the Juan de Fuca plate that sits below the Pacific Ocean is converging with another in an area known as the Cascadia Subduction Zone.

Experts expect a substantial earthquake within the next 50 years in this area lying off the coast of Oregon, Washington and Northern California.

According to a study from Oregon State University’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences, when an earthquake does occur, it will have the potential to reach magnitudes similar to that of the Tohoku quake that destroyed the coast of Japan in March 2011.

Caroll gave the mathematical equation for earthquake projection: for every 10,000 years, divide by 41 earthquakes. That leaves 244 years between each earthquake. The last major earthquake occurred 317 years ago, meaning one is well overdue. This formula was constructed with research from core sampling, ghost forests, paleo tsunami, tree ring and carbon dating.

Caroll enjoys sharing her expertise beyond her UCC classes. “It’s fun to share with people outside of the classroom and to just get more people involved. I think the best part of it is introducing students that might not be in my classes to some of the stuff that I may teach or like talking about,” Caroll said

Need coffee yet? Stinnett followed Caroll’s math with a fun fact on the half-life of caffeine and its relationship to an earthquake.

Stinnett explained that it takes six hours for caffeine to reach its half-life, decreasing exponentially every six hours and so on.

“Constant caffeine drinkers can have an infinite amount of caffeine in them,” Stinnett said, while explaining how caffeine levels work in the human body. From the energy of caffeine, she then transitions to the energy of earthquakes.

With the use of a Richter scale, scientists are able to measure the energy released by an earthquake. According to the U.S. Geological Survey “The magnitude of an earthquake is determined from the logarithm of the amplitude of waves recorded by seismographs.”

After establishing the decay of caffeine as an exponential equation and the energy of an earthquake’s waves as a logarithmic equation, Stinnett excitedly concluded that exponential equations are inverses to logarithmic functions and vice versa.

Stinnett finished with asking the audience what they had learned. Some audience members laughingly replied to not give infants or children caffeine being that the half-life of caffeine in a child is thirty hours. The audience ended the lecture with applause.

According to UCC’s school website, “The 2016-17 Faculty Lecture Series gives UCC’s faculty members an opportunity outside of the classroom to share their passion and do what they do best: inspire, question, and motivate thought about the subjects they have dedicated their lives to researching and teaching.”

The series began in the 2014-2015 school year after Jan Woodcock, associate professor of social science, first had the idea to open a new platform outside the classroom for faculty to share more of their knowledge and experiences.

“The biggest thing is connecting with the community and getting people to come to campus who may normally not come here and kind of see what we do here,” Caroll said.

“The biggest thing is connecting with the community and getting people to come to campus who may normally not come here and kind of see what we do here” —Karen Caroll, associate professor of geology