Laptop Accelerometers Used to Study Earthquakes, Desk "Bumping"

Seismologists at Stanford are learning from their roommates over in the biology department and rigging up a distributed computing system to gather quake data from laptops with accelerometers. It's used to save resources for scientists by using assets (your laptops) that are already deployed in a widespread area. They're rolling this out primarily in quake-heavy areas like SF and LA, but should be spreading to other zones later.

If you've got a MacBook, iBook or Powerbook made after 2005, you too can join the effort to tell people about quakes after it already happened, or maybe even act as a warning system. "Even just a few seconds of warning may be enough time for people to take cover and automated systems could slow trains and divert traffic from vulnerable bridges." And if you think that your constant table bumping from your activities at your computer will trigger The Big One over at EarthquakeHQ, "the Quake Catcher Network's software will analyse shakes sensed by a computer's accelerometer and report only big movements to the central server, ignoring the vibrations from a passing truck, a bump to a table, or even a minor earthquake." [Stanford via Technology Review]