According to the USGS, the total energy from an earthquake includes energy required to create new cracks in rock, energy dissipated as heat through friction, and energy elastically radiated through the earth. Of these, the only quantity that can be measured is that which is radiated through the earth. It is the radiated energy that shakes buildings and is recorded by seismographs on the Richter scale.
Even though it usually destroys homes and other structures that are built to stand on solid ground, the sheer amount of kinetic energy produced by an earthquake makes scientists very excited.
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