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Laptop Computers Detect and Monitor Earthquakes 78

Pickens writes "Live Science reports that 1,000 people from 61 countries have signed up with the Quake-Catcher Network to take advantage of built-in accelerometers in newer laptops that transmit data about earthquakes to researchers at UC Irvine and Stanford University. 'It's providing additional data that can be fed into the seismic networks,' says Elizabeth Cochran, a UC Irvine geoscientist. 'It also allows us to record earthquakes at a scale that we haven't been able to before because of the cost.' Cochran came up with the idea for the Quake-Catcher Network when she learned that most new laptops come equipped with accelerometers designed to switch off the hard drive if the laptop is dropped. 'I figured that we could easily tap into this data and use it to record earthquakes.' While traditional seismic monitors can detect earthquakes of magnitude 1.0 or less, the lowest magnitude the Quake-Catcher Network can detect is about 4.0, a moderate quake much like the one that hit LA on March 16. But what the network lacks in sensitivity, it makes up for in price as traditional seismic sensors cost $5,000 to $10,000 apiece. 'Ideally we would have seismometers in every building, or at least on every block. And in tall buildings, we'd have multiple sensors [on different floors],' says Cochran. 'That way, we would be able to actually get much higher detail images of how the ground shakes during an earthquake.'"
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Laptop Computers Detect and Monitor Earthquakes

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  • by oodaloop ( 1229816 ) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @04:01PM (#31588512)
    From not having to buy them at all. Users would buy them and sign up to install software and send back data. And not everyone uses a Mac, BTW. Shocking, I know.
  • Re:Take this! (Score:3, Informative)

    by troll -1 ( 956834 ) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @04:35PM (#31588900)
    1) FTA: "[t]he Quake-Catcher software program ...... runs in the background on the laptop and becomes active when the user is idle."

    2) The data is supplemental and used only for additional info gathered at the time of an earthquake.
  • Re:Easily? (Score:4, Informative)

    by penguinchris ( 1020961 ) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .sirhcniugnep.> on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @04:36PM (#31588906) Homepage

    Well, it is actually quite easy... there is a lot of software available that will capture the data from accelerometers and display it to you. The hardware is pretty simple and I guess the APIs are easy to use (I'm not a programmer I'm just assuming based on the software I've seen). When I first got a computer with an accelerometer (a Thinkpad from a couple years ago) I was even able to set it up to use the accelerometer input as a joystick in linux. Not practical, but kind of amusing to try to play a flying game by moving the whole computer around :) There are also several programs for iphones and Android devices that will output all of the accelerometer data to you (on android I recommend the free "Tricorder" program, it shows you data from all the sensors and more than you probably thought possible).

    Therefore it should be - and apparently was - fairly trivial to set up a program to run in the background logging and monitoring the data

    The neat thing is that the accelerometers really are quite high-resolution, and there is one measuring each direction (x, y, and z) which real seismometers also do.

1 Sagan = Billions & Billions