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Ask a Scientist

Scientists love answering questions about the world and how it works - why not ask them a question!

Just go to contact us and write ‘Ask a scientist’ in the subject line and you can submit a question and a scientist will answer it for you. See what others have asked our scientists below!

Q. What is a scientist?

Q. What is a scientist?

A. A scientist is a person who organises what we already know about the world, and then learns more about the world by asking who, what, where, when and why questions.

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Q. How was the Hikurangi Trench created?

Q. How was the Hikurangi Trench created?

A. The Hikurangi Trench was created by the Pacific tectonic plate subducting under the Australian tectonic plate. The ocean plate (the Pacific Plate) is being pushed (converged) under the thicker Australian continent plate and creates a big gully called a trench.

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Q. What is a tsunami?

Q. What is a tsunami?

A. Tsunami is a Japanese word meaning 'harbour wave'. Tsunami are large and powerful ocean waves that can grow in size as they reach the shore. These waves can move very fast and for very long distances.

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Q. When do volcanoes erupt?

Q. When do volcanoes erupt?

A. Volcanoes erupt when magma (hot liquid rock) finds weaknesses within the earth’s surface. Pressure slowly builds up and then it releases in the form of an eruption.

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Q. What causes earthquakes?

Q. What causes earthquakes?

A. Earthquakes are caused by faults or tectonic plate boundaries moving.

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Q. What can we do to be safe?

Q. What can we do to be safe?

A. The best way to keep safe is to know what to do. If there is a big earthquake (hard to stand up in), a long earthquake (a minute or more), you see the ocean recede or you hear very loud noises coming from the sea, evacuate!

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