Dr. Dobb's is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Channels ▼


Volunteer Computing for Earthquake Detection

An [email protected] workshop took place at Academia Sinica in Taipei last week, bringing together Taiwanese and international experts in earthquake science and in distributed computing. On the agenda was the use of ordinary consumer electronics — PCs, laptops, and even smartphones — to build earthquake sensor networks in homes, schools, and offices to provide scientists with valuable data about future seismic events in Taiwan and SE Asia.

The recent earthquakes in Japan and New Zealand are a reminder of the destructive forces that underlie the "Ring of Fire" extending around the Pacific. Getting a better understanding of how earthquakes will affect different regions requires more data and more computing power. Both can be provided by volunteers from their homes, thanks to "volunteer computing," which Academia Sinica has been pioneering in Taiwan through a series of [email protected] workshops over the last three years.

At the workshop, researchers David Anderson (UC Berkeley), Carl Christensen (UC Berkeley), and Elizabeth Cochran (UC Riverside), presented results from their Quake-Catcher Network project (built through UC Berkeley's BOINC open-source software for grid computing framework). The project uses built-in or USB motion sensors on ordinary computers to form a new type of sensor network.

The researchers also discussed with their Taiwanese and SE Asian counterparts how home computers might help to calculate the impact of earthquakes in advance, helping authorities to better plan for seismic events.

Information about joining the Quake-Catcher Network can be found here.

[Click image to view at full size]
Aftershocks off the coast of Japan, all at more than magnitude 4, captured by the Quake-Catcher Network (Courtesy of Carl Christensen, Quake-Catcher Network project).

Related Reading

More Insights

Currently we allow the following HTML tags in comments:

Single tags

These tags can be used alone and don't need an ending tag.

<br> Defines a single line break

<hr> Defines a horizontal line

Matching tags

These require an ending tag - e.g. <i>italic text</i>

<a> Defines an anchor

<b> Defines bold text

<big> Defines big text

<blockquote> Defines a long quotation

<caption> Defines a table caption

<cite> Defines a citation

<code> Defines computer code text

<em> Defines emphasized text

<fieldset> Defines a border around elements in a form

<h1> This is heading 1

<h2> This is heading 2

<h3> This is heading 3

<h4> This is heading 4

<h5> This is heading 5

<h6> This is heading 6

<i> Defines italic text

<p> Defines a paragraph

<pre> Defines preformatted text

<q> Defines a short quotation

<samp> Defines sample computer code text

<small> Defines small text

<span> Defines a section in a document

<s> Defines strikethrough text

<strike> Defines strikethrough text

<strong> Defines strong text

<sub> Defines subscripted text

<sup> Defines superscripted text

<u> Defines underlined text

Dr. Dobb's encourages readers to engage in spirited, healthy debate, including taking us to task. However, Dr. Dobb's moderates all comments posted to our site, and reserves the right to modify or remove any content that it determines to be derogatory, offensive, inflammatory, vulgar, irrelevant/off-topic, racist or obvious marketing or spam. Dr. Dobb's further reserves the right to disable the profile of any commenter participating in said activities.

Disqus Tips To upload an avatar photo, first complete your Disqus profile. | View the list of supported HTML tags you can use to style comments. | Please read our commenting policy.