This photo, captured through a polarizing filter, shows the buildup of stress along a modeled fault line at Los Alamos National Laboratory, where a team of scientists is trying to figure out how to forecast earthquakes.

The artificial fracture was created by sliding two semi-rigid plastic plates against each other, with a layer of small nylon cylinders between them. Take a closer look at the experimental setup:

By simulating the movement of Earth’s tectonic plates, scientists represent the structure and dynamics of geological faults and demonstrate a mechanism by which earthquakes can influence the triggering of other earthquakes. Here is a brief explanation of the experiments:

[Los Alamos National Laboratory]