Introduction to Logarithmic Functions

What you’ll learn to do: Evaluate logarithms and covert between logarithmic to exponential form

Photo of the aftermath of the earthquake in Japan with a focus on the Japanese flag.

Devastation of March 11, 2011 earthquake in Honshu, Japan. (credit: Daniel Pierce)

In 2010, a major earthquake struck Haiti destroying or damaging over 285,000 homes.[1] One year later, another, stronger earthquake devastated Honshu, Japan destroying or damaging over 332,000 buildings[2] like those shown in the picture below. Even though both caused substantial damage, the earthquake in 2011 was 100 times stronger than the earthquake in Haiti. How do we know? The magnitudes of earthquakes are measured on a scale known as the Richter Scale. The Haitian earthquake registered a 7.0 on the Richter Scale[3] whereas the Japanese earthquake registered a 9.0.[4]

The Richter Scale is a base-ten logarithmic scale. In other words, an earthquake of magnitude 8 is not twice as great as an earthquake of magnitude 4. It is [latex]{10}^{8 - 4}={10}^{4}=10,000[/latex] times as great! In this lesson, we will investigate the nature of the Richter Scale and the base-ten function upon which it depends.


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