September 29, 2008 Leave a comment
This is a really interesting use of the accelerometers that are being built into more and more laptops these days. From an article in the Economist:
A group of researchers led by Jesse Lawrence of Stanford University are putting the same accelerometer chip to an intriguing new use: detecting earthquakes. They plan to create a network of volunteer laptops that can map out future quakes in far greater detail than traditional seismometers manage.
What is interesting to me here is the use of lots of (cheaper) devices to do the work of a few expensive devices (Seismometers in this case):
On its own, an accelerometer chip in a laptop is not very useful for earthquake-detection, as it cannot distinguish between a quake and all sorts of other vibrations—the user tapping away at the keyboard, for example. But if lots of these chips are connected to a central server via the internet, their responses can be compared. And if a large number in a particular place register a vibration at almost the same time, it is more likely to be an earthquake than a bunch of users all hitting their space bars.