Video: Popular music app helps with earthquake research at Stanford


SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — Shazam for Earthquakes is a new technology developed at Stanford, which promises to help scientists better understand the shaking under your feet, even when there is a quake that you might not even feel.

A random song led to sudden inspiration, as a Stanford professor had a Eureka! moment when he heard a song on the radio and wanted to know what it was. So, said he pulled out Shazam, a popular music app, and realized this technology not only knows thousands of songs, but it can ignore background noise.

“And I realized quickly that this technology had the potential to solve the kind of problem I previously thought was impossible to solve,” Prof. Greg Beroza said.

The problem was sorting through the huge amount of data seismologists constantly receive about the earth.

Beroza realized that Shazam’s technique could be a big breakthrough for detecting small earthquakes, the ones that happen every day, but no one actually feels.

Just like a person has an individual fingerprint, the new technology gives ground movements a binary fingerprint that can be easy sorted and compared.

In just one week, Beroza and his team of grad students found 100 tiny, unnoticed earthquakes.

And while discovering tiny earthquakes does not compare to predicting the big ones, Beroza said there is no clear path to figuring out that problem.

And his program will help many scientists figure out how and when faults are active.

“It’s useful from the laboratory scale to the global scale,” Beroza said.

Just like Shazam can find your song in less than ten seconds, this new earthquake algorithm is lightning fast.

A process that used to take nearly 10 days now happens in an hour-and-a-half.

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