Mental Floss

Earthquake simulator reduces stress ... huh?

Ransom Riggs

The first thing you think when you see the earthquake simulator is: I want one! These small, prefab houses sit on top of a motorized, mechanical platform called a "shake table," which is controlled by a dial inside the house. The whole rig costs about $500,000 -- or about the cost of a small, prefab house in Southern California (albeit without the shake table). They were developed by British and Turkish researchers looking for ways to help earthquake victims deal with post-traumatic stress, and apparently, they really work. The strange thing is, though, that they work after the fact; rather than helping potential earthquake victims get used to the shake, rattle and roll of a Big One, it helps those who've already lived through the nightmare to conquer their fears.

Participants determine the speed and intensity of the shakes. "This treatment is based on an old technique called progressive desensitization," said psychologist Leslie Carrick-Smith, "where you gradually reintroduce someone to a situation they are uncomfortable with." Before they started the treatment, a number of the researchers' test subjects had trouble simply being inside a building, or being asleep at the same time as the rest of their family, lest no one be awake to watch for quakes and other problems. But whether it's a revolutionary new technique or a new twist on an old psychological standby, I still think it looks like great fun!