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Did you know that your smartphone's accelerometer is able to sense earthquakes?

Did you know that your smartphone's accelerometer is able to sense earthquakes?
In April 2013, a pair of seismologists from the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology in Italy concluded that the typical accelerometer found in smartphones at the time can be useful for strong motion seismology. The scientists put up some readings from an actual seismometer for reference, then placed the LIS331DLH accelerometer chip, used in the iPhone 4 and 5, on a vibrating table that's typically used in seismology studies.

They found out that the chip had "excellent frequency and phase response, comparable with that of some standard FBA accelerometers used in strong motion seismology", but that wasn't the be all, end all of the study. Apparently, the chip was not sensitive enough to pick up earthquakes of magnitudes of 5 or under, and also has to be set near the epicenter. However, earthquakes under 5 on Richter's scale, the ones incapable of causing severe structural damage, can still be detected by smartphone accelerometers, hence the scientists are pondering organising handset-driven emergency response networks. According to them, the main advantage of these MEMS sensors is, indeed, their common use in smartphones.

This isn't the first time scientists have come up with such findings, however. Prior to the aforementioned study, a team of seismologists from the University of California compared the sensors in iPhone and Android devices. They determined that the sensors can tell the difference between normal activities, such as walking and running, and earthquake tremors.

Unfortunately, the so-called earthquake detector apps for Android and iOS are merely practical jokes, so we can't recommend messing around with them, especially in real life occasions.

source: Wired
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