Most people use their laptops for work and Web browsing. Now you can add one more task to that list: earthquake detection.
From the recent early-morning 4.4-magnitude jostle in Los Angeles to February’s magnitude 8.8 disaster in Chile, ordinary laptops are increasingly acting as miniature seismic stations. They’re part of a volunteer army known as the Quake-Catcher Network, which takes advantage of built-in accelerometers in newer laptops to transmit data about earthquakes to researchers at UC Riverside and Stanford University.
About 1,000 people from 61 countries have signed up so far. If the network gets large enough, researchers say, it could act as a low-cost earthquake warning system.