Making Artificial Earthquakes with a Four-Tonne Steel Ball

  • Published on Feb 12, 2018
  • In Göttingen, Germany, there's a four-tonne steel ball that can be raised up a 14-metre tower -- and then dropped in less than two seconds, crashing back to earth. It makes tiny, artificial earthquakes: here's why.
    Thanks to all the team at Wiechert'sche Erdbebenwarte Göttingen! You can find out more about them here:
    Three things I had to cut out of this video, because they didn't quite fit into the story or because I couldn't film them:
    The reason the steel ball survived two world wars is because the university's records listed it by use as a "rock-ball", not by composition as a "steel ball" - so no-one melted it down for weaponry.
    The observatory team refill that pit every year to make the ground flat, and the ball just digs a hole again. The rock's just being compressed underneath. They joke that, somewhere in Australia, there's a slowly growing hill...
    And finally, the ground steams for a little while after the ball hits: it gets rather warm...
    Edited by Michelle Martin (@mrsmmartin)
    I'm at
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Comments • 538

  • dasBunny
    dasBunny Day ago

    My physics teacher lives like next door from this....

  • Tepp Sco
    Tepp Sco Day ago

    There seem to be loads of Germans in the comments here. Do any of you know if there is a German equivalent to Tom Scott's Might Not Have Known videos? I'd like to broaden my subscriptions.

  • swiss
    swiss Day ago

    Now imagine what it must feel like if the 7100 kg AP projectile from the 800mm railway gun "Schwerer Gustav" impacts the ground next to you. No explosion, just over 1.5 Giga-Joules of pure kinetic energy penetrating the ground up to a depth of 32m.

  • Steve Chisnall
    Steve Chisnall 2 days ago

    You mentioned P waves and S waves, but what about L waves?

  • Andy Parsons
    Andy Parsons 2 days ago

    How did you get it back to the UK 😉😉

  • Matthew Ireson
    Matthew Ireson 3 days ago


  • Hashterix
    Hashterix 3 days ago

    Did you set off that earthquake in the Bristol channel earlier, Tom?

  • Wario Number One
    Wario Number One 3 days ago

    I expect a video on జ్ఞా soon enough

  • St Merkel Of Migrant

    Actually thats a WW2 torture device

  • Steven Littleton
    Steven Littleton 4 days ago

    You used rope to pick it up?

  • Timo
    Timo 4 days ago

    Just recently discoverey your channel and I gotta say, good thing I did. Don't think I ever learned so many interesting things in such a short time, even about my home county (germany). Kudos to you, looking forward to more of your videos.

  • Valentin Windel
    Valentin Windel 4 days ago

    i live about 10 minutes away from that facility

  • MrTichoify
    MrTichoify 4 days ago

    4 ton ball with what looked like thin rope??? 🤔

  • Admiral Percy
    Admiral Percy 4 days ago

    That was the license to print money?

  • Explosiveman
    Explosiveman 4 days ago

    You should do a video on surround sound. 5.1, 7.1 etc. What Windows Sonic and Dolby Atmos does and all that.

  • Jeff Warnica
    Jeff Warnica 4 days ago

    There is a story here about Benkelman Beam, and Dynaflect, perhaps even Porctor. But those may be for @engineerguy or @practical engineering

  • Rufius Millennium
    Rufius Millennium 5 days ago


  • sdrawkcab190
    sdrawkcab190 5 days ago

    How come you didn't show the impact from the third camera view as well? :(

  • Frank Harr
    Frank Harr 5 days ago

    It's too bad it's metric tonnes. Lone tons would have been heavier.

  • Shmacked Muffins
    Shmacked Muffins 5 days ago

    Stop tea bagging mother earth.

  • Jessie Bullock
    Jessie Bullock 5 days ago

    Congrats on trending!

  • Evan Greenlee
    Evan Greenlee 5 days ago

    That ball is dented asf

  • Tori Hehehehe
    Tori Hehehehe 5 days ago how do I incorporate this into my life ?

  • Michael Bryant
    Michael Bryant 5 days ago +1

    My gf makes artificial earthquakes.
    She’s huge.

  • Kate Peterson
    Kate Peterson 5 days ago

    The "I told you so" at the end has me dying xD

  • Rexmu
    Rexmu 5 days ago

    Why are you damaging the Earth on purpose?

  • Salt!and Pepper
    Salt!and Pepper 5 days ago

    that ball looks like that match ball made out of like 43,000 matches that All is Art set on fire.

  • savage t Aesthetic Knight


  • zanderboy
    zanderboy 6 days ago

    after all that waiting you didn't even get any good footage of the thing falling and hitting the ground.

  • Unity
    Unity 6 days ago

    Look into HAARP, they can make news worthy earthquakes and hurricanes, we’ve had that technology for a long time now.

  • Theo Kirkley
    Theo Kirkley 6 days ago

    Check out the flat earth theory

  • Little Prince
    Little Prince 6 days ago


  • Little Prince
    Little Prince 6 days ago


  • CooterCoy
    CooterCoy 6 days ago

    This reminds me of when my balls dropped.

  • Dutch Plays Games
    Dutch Plays Games 6 days ago

    a good representation of my balls dropping.

  • Kyle P
    Kyle P 6 days ago

    Really rude to drop Amy Schumer just for a science experience.

  • Daniel Estrada
    Daniel Estrada 6 days ago

    Why didn’t you show the ball drop from the camera angle that had you in view??? 🤔

  • 0MindSwept0
    0MindSwept0 6 days ago

    It certainly beats the New Year’s ball drop, I've never actually watched the whole thing, but of what I’ve heard it doesn’t sound terribly interesting. I would like to have seen more angles and results of the drop though, that would’ve made it all worthwhile.

  • godhead
    godhead 6 days ago

    drop it on your head

  • Psychotic Dog
    Psychotic Dog 6 days ago


  • yetinother
    yetinother 6 days ago

    Good !

  • Dominik Hyde Haverla

    Now Imagine 4000 tons.

  • Arron Harris
    Arron Harris 6 days ago


  • 刘旭栋
    刘旭栋 6 days ago


  • Jay Lastname
    Jay Lastname 6 days ago


  • Daniel Berry
    Daniel Berry 6 days ago

    You've consistently trended each week with each video. Congrats. I've loved this channel for years. Found it via Computerphile.

  • Jack Shyt
    Jack Shyt 6 days ago

    Too bad it doesn't cause a real earthquake.

  • Garrett Sobol
    Garrett Sobol 6 days ago +1

    Really dropped the ball on that camera placement

  • grantspassage
    grantspassage 6 days ago

    Why is a S wave slower than a P wave
    If they are from the Same source???

  • Gary Hind
    Gary Hind 6 days ago

    The oldest seismic station in the world is actually in Perthshire in Scotland, it’s called ‘earthquake house’ and began monitoring in 1780, it was renovated in 1988 and is hooked up to the modern seismic network to record the hundreds of earthquakes that rattle up and down the UK every year!

  • Morgan Elzey
    Morgan Elzey 6 days ago

    Could you not that nocks the world off its axis

  • Petra Baum
    Petra Baum 7 days ago

    congrats on the 1 million :)

  • Robert Schaeffer
    Robert Schaeffer 7 days ago

    4 ton??? use an atomic bomb.... it's all the latest...

  • satellite964
    satellite964 7 days ago

    And finally, the ground steams for a little while after the ball hits: it gets rather warm...
    Damn son!

  • A. Malikstotle
    A. Malikstotle 7 days ago

    If this it possible, imagine the technology the government has to create earthquakes......

  • Ckasp
    Ckasp 7 days ago

    Is it possible to calculate how big a steel ball I'd have to find to mess with my local seismologists?

  • JD
    JD 7 days ago

    So it's lke a form of echolocation. Cool

  • Alec Steele
    Alec Steele 7 days ago

    Awesome video!!! Loved the build up!

  • John E
    John E 7 days ago

    If they ever manage to make it drop (free fall, under gravity) in more than 2 seconds, be sure to let us know.

  • Silver_Skree
    Silver_Skree 7 days ago

    A 4-ton weight? Whew, did it take you 5 minutes to drop it?

  • Twitch.Tv/ KKonaBruh

    Tom really let himself go dansgame

  • Zenovo
    Zenovo 7 days ago +1

    I have 2 of those balls in my pants

  • x c
    x c 7 days ago


  • Supernatural Swamp AIDS

    I just realized how much I hate your laugh

  • Supernatural Swamp AIDS

    Smoked paper is pointless outside of historical context with today’s tech

  • Nick DeBusk
    Nick DeBusk 7 days ago +1

    The perspective your audience is looking for is a camera angle and position that is detached and separate from the chaos... Perhaps a camera on a tripod 100 m away.

  • Frappuccino Caramel
    Frappuccino Caramel 7 days ago


  • Darren Rainey
    Darren Rainey 7 days ago

    If that camera was just a little closer it would be thinner than an iPhone

  • Jak Jonsonn
    Jak Jonsonn 7 days ago +1

    So...these assholes are willing to risk the safety of all of the other people in the area,so that they can see what they can shake.Damn

  • Gen Meow
    Gen Meow 7 days ago

    Worth it just to see the ball drop.

  • Mike Wright
    Mike Wright 7 days ago

    8000lbs on that rope? Doubt it!

  • Quixy Lados
    Quixy Lados 7 days ago

    Tom Scott again folks, Never not interesting!

  • El Nino
    El Nino 7 days ago +3

    Everything is artificial in these days

  • 加藤みずっち
    加藤みずっち 7 days ago

    Scienza !

  • Godwin Robinson
    Godwin Robinson 7 days ago

    Ohhhh I think I felt that...

  • Herr Schmidt
    Herr Schmidt 7 days ago

    How long did it take you in the concept phase to abandon the tempting idea of lifting the ball and letting it fall in a single take with you talking in the foreground?

  • JakoBiene
    JakoBiene 7 days ago


  • UnclearKibbles 2
    UnclearKibbles 2 7 days ago

    Hey so did u find a dead hanging Japanese?

  • Meptinity
    Meptinity 7 days ago +2

    *Er ist in Deutschland!*

    Der ROFLCOPTER 7 days ago +2

    Cool, I didn't know that ;)
    I live 40 Minutes of driving away from Göttingen thought :D

  • Ilana Signal
    Ilana Signal 7 days ago

    Tom, your videos are such a great mix of fun and educational. Really good work!

  • cpt nordbart
    cpt nordbart 7 days ago

    Above the door:
    "Ferne Kunde bringt Dir der schwankende Fels. Deute die Zeichen!"
    Something like
    "News from afar brings the moving rock. Interpret the (his) signs!"

  • Mikosch2
    Mikosch2 7 days ago

    4 tons? Take this, Miley Cyrus!

  • adavidmon
    adavidmon 7 days ago

    You should have used a drone to capture it so that the camera would not be affected by the impact🤔

  • Eric Taylor
    Eric Taylor 7 days ago

    I thought the P and S waves stood for Pressure and sine.

    • albedoshader
      albedoshader 6 days ago

      I’m well aware that longitudinal and transverse waves have different ‘shapes’.
      It’s just rather unlikely that secondary/shear waves are named after a rather superficial similarity to “sine” waves than after their main physical characteristic of being shear stress waves. Relaxation of shear stress is the main characteristic of an earthquake, after all.
      The comparison to a fluid is not that great in this context, because even plastic behavior of rock under high pressure is very different from the behavior of water, isn’t it?

    • Eric Taylor
      Eric Taylor 6 days ago

      P waves and S waves have completely different shapes.
      With a P wave, you have an S wave only when you chart the pressure of time. Think of it this way. A ship on the sea would feel no motion from P waves. Only S haves will move the ship.

    • albedoshader
      albedoshader 6 days ago

      I like the idea, but it wouldn’t make much sense. Pressure over time could describe a sine wave as well. But in the end neither of both waves would likely be sinusoidal.

  • volvo245
    volvo245 7 days ago

    Showing of your narration skills with that ball rising in the background...Applying for a job at the BEE BEE CEE?

  • Jeremy Ardley
    Jeremy Ardley 7 days ago

    When I did that in my geophysics course we just used a sledgehammer on a steel plate. Later we got to play with explosives which were much more fun

  • RBRat3
    RBRat3 7 days ago

    You sure it's still 4 tons cause it looks like that ball has seen better days, Whole side of it is completely flattened...

  • Char Lotte
    Char Lotte 7 days ago

    You were in Göttingen? It would have been awesome to meet you.

  • sahil89
    sahil89 7 days ago

    Stop getting old so quickly, feels like you will be 60 by 2020

  • 607
    607 7 days ago

    Very interesting, I love his presentation!

  • TJ Suydam
    TJ Suydam 7 days ago

    That building is awesome, forget the metal ball. That place is gorgeous. No wonder why Germans love their country so much.

  • MGMX
    MGMX 7 days ago

    I'm mexican. Don't talk me about earthquakes.

  • Ian Schimnoski
    Ian Schimnoski 7 days ago

    Horshoe Crabs
    Japanese Maples
    Dawn Redwood
    ....(add to the list... ....I wanna see 'em all) (It's completely unrelated to the video; I was recently watching PBS Eons, and then I guess my mind wandered...)

    • Ian Schimnoski
      Ian Schimnoski 7 days ago

      Living fossils seem more ornamental than creatures with mire common body plans to me; I think that's because humans find less common forms of symmetry to be visually striking (if all Gyarados were red; the blue ones would be highly saught after)

  • joe3000abc!
    joe3000abc! 7 days ago

    Orchestras take note for Mahler 6.

  • 王者令之烈
    王者令之烈 7 days ago

    Thanks, I have learn something new again today.

  • Felix-The-Ghost
    Felix-The-Ghost 7 days ago

    That ball must be _really dense_ just like many people on TVclip

  • that_G_EvanP
    that_G_EvanP 7 days ago

    So what's the point of the "sooted paper". Never heard it explained in the video.

    • Tevildo
      Tevildo 3 days ago

      that_G_EvanP - It's so the stylus can make a visible mark without having to put a significant amount of pressure on the paper. If the apparatus used a pen, much more force would be needed to move it across the paper, making the instrument much less sensitive. Remember that this is a purely mechanical system.

  • TheAndrew0085
    TheAndrew0085 7 days ago

    The interview subject has an almost Tom Baker esque expressiveness. I feel like he could smile super wide.

  • Abigail 000
    Abigail 000 7 days ago

    subtitles for Boss Nass pls