School of Earth and Environment

The Green Lecture 2019: “Getting information from noise”

Time and place

The 2018 Green Lecture takes place on at 18:00 on Wednesday 22 May, followed by a wine reception.

The event will be hosted at University of Leeds, at the Business School Western Lecture Theatre.  For more information on getting to the University, visit the University's directions page.

About the Green Lecture

The University of Leeds Green Lecture is an annual public lecture given by a world-leading researcher in the field of Earth science. It is open to anyone to attend and is designed to be accessible to a very wide range of people, especially non-scientists, including those at school studying for their GCSEs and above. It exists to show the public the exciting and fascinating world of the study of the Earth.

The speaker

This year's speaker is Professor Roel Snieder of the Colorado School of Mines.

The lecture

“Getting information from noise: Damaging and healing of rocks, buildings, and dams”

Abstract:  What is noise?  The usual definition is something unwanted that interferes with our way of sensing the world.  Traditionally, we would have liked to exist in a scientific realm of perfect silence.  Yet we now realize that instead, noise is useful.  Making use of noise has led to surprising discoveries.

For instance, you might think that the properties of rocks, and man-made structures such as buildings and dams do not change with time. But geophysicists are now able to measure how strong or stiff these materials are with a very high accuracy. Doing these measurements became possible because we can now use seismic waves (vibrations like sound waves) generated by noise, instead of waves generated by sources such as dynamite or earthquakes, as was more usual. Because noise is always present, it is now possible to measure the mechanical properties continuously with time. It was a surprising finding that rocks, buildings, and dams not only become softer after they are shaken, they also heal again after the shaking stops and become strong again—just like our bodies do!

In this lecture we will look at the methods used by geophysicists to get information from measurements of noise, examples of the variations of the stiffness in rocks, buildings, and dams, and the ways in which these materials and structures heal over time. This knowledge can be used in future to make safer structures in order to reduce the impact of natural disasters, and to study the fundamental way in which volcanoes, earthquakes and the wider world work.


Entry is free.  Please reserve your place by registering your attendance at the event's Eventbrite page.  Places are available on a strictly first-come, first-served basis, so register early to avoid disappointment.  The lecture is followed by a complimentary drinks reception.