Sunday, September 28, 2008

Shaking Not Stirred: The Quake-Catcher Network

The Quake-Catcher Network

is a collaborative initiative for developing the world's largest, low-cost strong-motion seismic network by utilizing sensors in and attached to internet-connected computers.

The Quake Catcher Network (QCN) will soon employ existing networked laptops and desktops to form the world's largest high-density, distributed computing seismic network. Costs for this network will be low compared to traditional networks because the QCN will use 1) strong motion sensors (accelerometers) already internal to many laptops and 2) nearly identical low-cost universal serial bus (USB) accelerometers for use with desktops. The Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing (BOINC!) provides a free, proven paradigm for involving the public in large-scale computational research projects.

As evidenced by the SETI@home program and others, individuals are especially willing to donate their unused computing power to projects that they deem relevant, worthwhile, and educational. The client- and server-side software rapidly monitors incoming seismic signals, detects the magnitudes and locations of significant earthquakes, and may even provide early warnings to other computers and users before they can feel the earthquake.

The open-source software will provide the client-user with a screen-saver displaying seismic data recorded on their laptop, recently detected earthquakes, and general information about earthquakes and the geosciences. Furthermore, this project will install USB sensors in K-12 classrooms as an educational tool for teaching science. Through a variety of interactive experiments students will learn about earthquakes and the hazards earthquakes pose. For example, students can learn how the vibrations of an earthquake decrease with distance by jumping up and down at increasing distances from the sensor and plotting the decreased amplitude of the seismic signal measured on their computer. We hope to include an audio component so that students can hear and better understand the difference between low and high frequency seismic signals. The QCN will provide a natural way to engage students and the public in earthquake detection and research.

Researchers Create a Distributed Earthquake-Detection Network /
Lawrence Biemiller / Chronicle of Higher Education / October 28 2008

Scientists seek volunteers to monitor for quakes / Alicia Chang / Associated Press / September 25 2008

The Quake-Catcher Network (QCN) is a collaborative research project between UC Riverside and Stanford University.



Taylor said...


I teach Community Engagement in the GSLIS program at UIUC. I just sent this notice to my students:

Lyndsey and others,

You may recall that David Cohn talked about his work on a journalism crowdsourcing or "pro-am" journalism project, Assignment Zero led by Jay Rosen, NYU. Assignment Zero used crowdsourcing methods to produce stories on crowdsourcing. Jay offered his reflections on Assignment Zero on Wired (where David worked) and, as I think we discussed earlier, another colleague of David's at Wired has written a book, Crowdsourcing: Why the Power of the Crowd is Driving the Future of Business. Of course, Jeff also writes the expected blog to accompany his book and even gives David a nod in one of his postings even as he critiques Citizen Journalism.

Now, Gerry Mckiernan, a librarian and grad of UIUC GSLIS has started a blog on CrowdSource Power. This blog "is devoted to documenting community-based contributions and potential solutions to any and all economic, scientific, social, and technological issues, problems, and situations, primarily via, but not limited to, a digital environment." It's not a very active blog so far (I can relate to THAT difficulty) but the first substantive story about the Quake-Catcher network and its potential to amplify unused computing power to capture seismic data and its potential to engage youth in capturing geologic information while learning about science is pretty cool. Definitely worth checking out and I hope that Gerry keeps up the posting.

Gerry said...


Thanks for promoting the CrowdSource blog !!!

I do have significant content that I plan to post over the coming weeks.

I have a particular interest in Citizen Science (CS) and will focus on various CS projects in these postings.



BTW: Yes. I am a graduate of the UIUC Library program (1975) [Yikes!] [:-)]



P.S. I highly recommend Jeff Howe's _Crowdsourcing_ book ! It's exceptionally well-written and full of many case studies.

Site Meter