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Seismologist Says Science Used In Movie 'San Andreas' May Not Be Entirely Accurate

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San Andreas, the new Dwayne Johnson science fiction-disaster movie showing starting May 29, boasts of state-of-the-art simulation of chain reaction of earthquakes destroying the state of California.

Directed by Brad Peyton and written by Carlton Cuse, the movie tells the story of an earthquake that is long overdue along the San Andreas Fault. When it finally hits, the result is an earthquake never before seen in California, a 9.2-magnitude one that literally rocks the characters, the buildings and everything else.

Johnson plays Ray, a search and rescue helicopter pilot who is having a phone conversation with his ex-wife Emma, portrayed by Carla Gugino, when the Big One finally strikes Los Angeles. As the traumatic earthquakes ripple through the West Coast with exploding skyscrapers, power outages and even a tsunami, Ray and Emma struggle to find their way to San Francisco to rescue Alexandra Daddario, playing the role of their teenage daughter Blake.

Lucy Jones, a U.S. Geological Survey seismologist, explained that the maximum magnitude of an earthquake that could happen along the San Andreas Fault would be an 8.3 quake. The strongest earthquake measured held a magnitude of 9.5, which occurred in Chile in 1960, sending tsunami waves across the Pacific Ocean, killing almost 2,000 people and leaving 2 million others with their homes destroyed.

Jones added that giant tsunamis crashing over the Golden Gate Bridge are not possible on the San Andreas Fault line because it is on land. An oceanic quake is a requirement to cause a tsunami. She also pointed out that, at the moment, forecasting earthquakes is nearly impossible and buildings do not explode during quakes, as, in reality, they collapse.

Jones did mention a couple of things that the San Andreas moviemakers got correct. One earthquake could trigger another close earthquake, which is what an aftershock is, and the San Andreas aftershocks were realistic. The correct reaction for people during an earthquake is also greatly displayed in the movie: "Drop, cover and hold on."

Peyton creates a worst-case scenario but says the movie has enough scientific basis delivered by consultant Tom Jordan, director of the Southern California Earthquake Center.

"We're going to show what the largest earthquake ever recorded would look like, all in a highly populated area," says director Brad Peyton.

San Andreas the movie may not be entirely accurate, but the film is primarily meant for entertainment rather than a seismology course.

It was "a lousy documentary but a good movie," Jones stated. "It was better than I thought it would be."


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