While all new smartphones today have accelerometers, it's still a rarity for laptops; but researchers are putting those laptops, as few as there are, to use by turning them into tremor detectors.
PC laptops such as ThinkPads and all Apple MacBook Pro laptops feature an accelerometer that's used to park the heads of hard drives in case of sudden movement. It's a safety feature that helps to keep your data from a scary hard drive crash, but researchers are putting that technology towards earthquake detection.
A report from NPR has put the spotlight on Quake-Catcher Network, a project from StanfordUniversity that uses the combined data from accelerometer-packing laptops that are connected to the internet.
A user of a ThinkPad, MacBook Pro, or anyone with an external USB detector, can download the software for free to help aid in earthquake detection. Of course, the sensors inside a laptop aren't designed to pick up minute movements in the earth – in fact, they can only pick up tremors of about magnitude 4.0 and above – but it would still be valuable information for warning surrounding areas.
"If you can detect an event fast enough, then you can potentially provide advance alert to surrounding areas, and those areas could react in several seconds and get to safety," one of the researchers explained.
So all I have to do to prank a whole town is get a few friends to shake their laptops with me?
This idea has an undertone of sensibility, but come on!
It will send out a warning so that people 2 and a half seconds away have that 2 and a half seconds to get to safety? This just doesn't make sense.
Damn strait. Get this though it detects earthquakes like 3 seconds before they happen. Useless.
This is true, and although this sort of software isn't very helpful, the point is it provides some amount of detection since none of us have personal geologists following us around.