Look out, California. Some of the buildings brought down by this week's earthquake in New Zealand were relatively modern, reinforcing the notion that a big quake with the right characteristics can wreak havoc even where safety codes are up to snuff, reports the Los Angeles Times. "We still have some things to learn," says a seismologist with the US Geological survey.
The quake in Christchurch caused such destruction in part because it had unusually high ground acceleration—it was measured at 2G, or twice the acceleration of gravity, explains the Times. "That's quite extreme shaking," says the seismologist. By contrast, last year's Haiti earthquake was 0.5G. Even as recently as the 1980s, scientists thought that 0.5G was the highest it could go, and buildings were built accordingly. For a lighter note, click to read about a New Zealand couple that married after their rescue. (Read more New Zealand earthquake stories.)