Stanford Wants to Install an Earthquake Sensor on Your Computer

earthquake2.jpg
My sensor saw it coming.
The bad news: The Big One is coming. The good news: At least you can measure it. 

Geophysicists are looking for "citizen seismologists" in the Bay Area to install a tiny earthquake sensor in their home, classroom, or office this weekend as part of building the densest network of seismic sensors ever to learn about earthquake activity. The network is part of the Quake Catcher Network, based at Stanford University, which has already installed a web of sensors in earthquake-prone Chile and New Zealand, according to news reports.

The project will last three years, though the organizers say anyone willing to host a sensor for at least a year can volunteer.

Volunteers from the project hope to install 200 sensors in the Bay Area this weekend -- you can sign up online -- and hope to get 500 Bay Area sensors up and running by the end of the year. The scientists are especially interested in installing the sensors near the Hayward Fault in the East Bay, since it is the spot that's most likely to generate a major earthquake in the Bay Area within the next 30 years.

To sign up, you need a computer less than five years old, running on a Windows or Mac operating system. The computer needs a free USB port where the sensor can be connected, and preference will be given to those with 24/7 computer usage with battery backup -- given that the sensors only work when the computer is on. You also need to provide a space on your floor the size of a Post-it Note to mount the actual sensor.

The installation takes only minutes. In addition to ground-floor buildings, the scientists also would like to study the impact of earthquakes on high-rises, so people with offices or apartments can also volunteer. The scientists would like to install half of sensors in K-12 classrooms as part of class projects.

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