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Brian Stump originally wanted to use seismic wave analysis to detect underground nuclear explosions. While developing more sophisticated instruments for interpreting seismic waves, Stump also has discovered more about the Earth.

"Because seismic waves are useful, the Department of Defense has spent a lot of money placing seismographs all over the world," says Stump, a seismologist and professor of geological sciences in Dedman College. "These instruments have opened the door for modern seismology and geophysics by enabling us to identify earthquakes of relatively small magnitude and to understand the structure of the Earth in more detail. As we began to make maps of quake activity, we began to understand plate tectonics and the idea that earthquakes occur along plate boundaries."

Stump's research focuses on the spread of seismic waves from explosions and natural geological events. He uses controlled mining explosions and earthquakes to study the Earth's structure, as well as the physics of an event that generates waveforms that are propagated worldwide.

His research has led to three important developments:

  • Mathematical and theoretical models for representing the sources of seismic waves and some of their characteristics;
  • A better understanding of high-frequency waves; and
  • Pinpointing the characteristics of waves generated by mining explosions and how they differ from earthquakes and underground nuclear explosions.

Stump and other scientists are trying to ensure that small mining explosions are not misread as nuclear tests. Stump's recent research focuses on the characteristics of explosions, including quantification of single-fired nuclear and chemical explosions and multi-fired chemical explosions commonly used by the mining industry. What he is learning about the spatial and temporal effects of mining explosions and their signature in regional waveforms has applications for monitoring a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty where even small explosions will be identified using their seismic signatures to ensure compliance.

Stump received his Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley. He joined the SMU faculty in 1983, and is a member of the Air Force Technical Applications Center Seismic Review Panel. He served as scientific adviser to the U.S. delegation to the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, Switzerland, from 1994 to 1996 and has been a consultant and staff member at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

For more information: Brian Stump
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