A five-story hospital in California survived a fake 8.8-magnitude earthquake last month, in a test engineers ran to show that building atop rubber bearings could help to keep hospitals functional in a real quake. After the fake shaker, equipment in the building continued to work, proving that "if the equipment had been life-support systems keeping real people alive, then the bearings would have saved their lives," says one researcher.
The mock hospital was built on a “shake table” that simulated 6.7 and 8.8 quakes, and used rubber bearings that are already common in Japan, the BBC reports. It’s the first time such a system has been tested on a full-scale building in the US, and the research was also unique in that it focused on how well the building continued to function—rather than simply whether it remained standing. The bearings protect the buildings from the motion of the ground, “like putting the building on roller skates,” says the researcher. (Read more earthquake stories.)