I love this story. I’m almost afraid to print it today; you will think it is an April Fools’ Joke, but it is not.
My Dad, God rest his soul, was an amateur radio operator, with connections all over the globe. Amateur radio operators, monitoring the radiowaves, provided help and rescue to many a tragedy bound situation. I love the idea of Macs uniting in the same way, interconnecting, to help monitor and prevent earthquakes. You can read the entire article at WIRED.com
Everybody knows you can’t predict an earthquake. The only way would be to get inside a time machine, go into the future, and send back a message.
So seismologist Elizabeth Cochran of the University of California at Riverside will use thousands of computers to do just that.
Well, it’s not exactly a time machine. Cochran and Stanford seismologist Jesse Lawrence have made use of the sensors built into many new laptops that sense when the computer is being dropped, and turned them into earthquake monitors. They hope to sign up thousands of users to act like a grid of detectors that can sense an earthquake before it does too much damage.
Like many earthquake early warning systems around the world, when a quake strikes, this system will send a warning to people living in large cities. Because electronic communication systems (in this case, the internet) are much faster than seismic waves, the warning should arrive before the shaking, giving people 10 or 20 seconds to take shelter.
“We can measure the seismic waves and then get a warning out to people before the seismic waves get to them. That to me is physically possible,” Cochran says.
Cochran’s system makes use of the accelerometers — tiny motion sensors — built into many modern notebooks, including Apple’s MacBook and Lenovo’s ThinkPad, as well as the iPhone and Nintendo’s Wii. Accelerometers detect movement and translate it into digital signals. In notebooks, they function as safety devices: When the accelerometer detects that the notebook is in free fall, the computer moves the hard drive head to a safe position in order to minimize the risk of damage when it hits the ground. But the accelerometers are also accessible to software, so they can be used for games or other applications.
As it turns out, one field that already makes extensive use of accelerometers is seismology. Usually these sensors are buried underground, generating much of the data seismologists use to model earthquakes. So in 2006 when Cochran saw a program called SeisMac, a light went on. SeisMac uses the accelerometers in Mac computers to let people shake their computers and watch the motion translated on screen into a graph. Cochran wondered if the same technology could be used in earthquake sensing, and suggested the idea to colleagues at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, where she was working at the time.
“I sort of said, ‘Hey, what do guys think if we take this accelerometer and make a seismic network out of it?’ And of course Jesse was like, ‘That’s the coolest idea I have ever heard.'”
Thus was born Quake Catcher Network. The two scientists — joined by Carl Christensen, a programmer with experience in distributed computing — started in September 2007.
Distributed computing was made famous by extraterrestrial-scanning network SETI@home, and Cochran uses the same platform, called BOINC, to collect data from the laptops in her project’s network.
There is a miracle in Kuwait. Suddenly, there are trees a bright, Easter-basket-grass green.
“What kind of miracle is that?” you might ask, you who live in other climates.
That bright spring-green is a miracle in a land where the true blue of the blue sky is often screened with haze, where the dominant color is a white beige sand, and, most important of all, where there has not been a truly significant rain the entire rainy season here.
The color is painfully beautiful, the eye seeks it out and feasts on its vibrancy in an otherwise dull landscape. The tree that is showing the vibrant green is a little willowy, graceful. The green is probably only for a day or two before it fades into a duller green – still welcome because it IS green.
The second tree is my favorite tree in Kuwait, but I don’t have a single Kuwaiti friend who can tell me what it is. They tell me it is a very old tree, a tree that can live a long time on very little water, a tree often used to screen houses and provide both shade and privacy. I love the laciness on its leaves, the delicacy of its foliage. In contrast to the spring-green tree, the foliage is a more grey-blue-green, and it is a much taller tree. There is a delicacy about this tree, an elegant restraint and a timelessness that fascinates me. If I were Kuwaiti, if I had my own compound, I would grow this tree, I would grow many of them and watch their lacy branches sway in the slightest breeze.
Can someone tell me the names for these trees?
(PS I had to look up it – it’s + Possessive to be sure I got it right, above. I didn’t get it right at first, but it is right now. If you have any confusion, don’t be alarmed – it confuses all of us. If you click on the blue type, there is a very simple way to remember when to use it and when to use it’s.)
No, there is no trick. It is only an April Fool’s sunrise because of the date – April 1st – and because it was never clear whether the sun would really appear or not, with the thick clouds. I’ll take clouds over that haze of pollution any day. Or it may be that the clouds are obscuring the haze of pollution, which seems to be a daily occurence, so I won’t rule it out. I can’t SEE it, however, so I have no evidence of it being there, and I will be a great big April fool and tell myself if I can’t see it, it doesn’t exist.
At 0700 the temperature is 75°F / 24°C and there are thick fluffy clouds that – I wish – look like they could turn into rain clouds.