All Together Now April 11, 2010Posted by bobv451 in education, inventions, science, sense of wonder, web & computers, writing.
I came across this is Popular Mechanics about using lots and lots of iPhones and their built-in accelerometers for use–en masse–to detect earthquakes. After all, they are communications devices, so why not scientific monitoring stations, as well? Everyone a scientific listening post.
A while back the SETI project had a similar idea where your sleeping computer could be used to listen for the aliens broadcasting their version of American Idol to the stars and us. (That’s something you don’t want to think about everyday–the SETI signals wouldn’t be to contact us but to sell us vitamins, diet pills and tentacle cream) I always had a problem with turning my computer over to outside control, even for a good cause like chatting up aliens or listening to their lawyers threaten to sue us for radio wave pollution. But the iPhone is more compelling.
Could such a network give advance warning of an earthquake? That might save millions of lives. Or put in a small barometer and get widespread atmospheric readings to better predict the path of storms, warn of tornadoes and hurricanes? Miniaturizing the equipment isn’t hard. And entire spectrographic analysis lab was squeezed into something less than the size of a football and sent to mars back in ‘74 on a Viking probe. That was an active analysis device, not a passive data collection gizmo.
I can see group projects organized around the iPhones. Interferometry? Contests to see who can place their iPhones in the most obscure places (mine’s at the bottom of the Marianas Trench! Well, mine’s in orbit!) to collect data. Every user a scientist, or at least a lab assistant. And it wouldn’t even have to interfere with texting.