Grounded (con't)

What happens in SIMA is this:

  • An earthquake occurs, perhaps on the opposite
    side of the globe.
  • After several minutes, the seismometers note a very slight ground action, which is the seismic
    signal from this event.
  • The motion generates a small electrical current that is sent to an amplifier, which boosts it by a factor of 10,000 times or more.
  • The amplifier sends the enhanced signal to a TINI microprocessor that converts it and speaks over the Internet to a server computer on the SIMA network. (Each seismometer’s amplifier is homemade, too.)
  • Information from the server is broadcast over the Internet and can be viewed by SIMA clients anywhere in the world.

When Joe describes one element in this chain as “a tiny microprocessor,” you may think he means a very small one. But it turns out that its brand-name is TINI—and its capabilities are huge. Joe has two at work in his lab right now: TINI-1, which connects to his server at the College, and TINI-2, which sends the signal to a server in the Czech Republic.

The computer code that made the Czech server possible was written in 2002 by Michael Sands ’02, a precocious student who entered the College at 14 and graduated at 18. (He now works as an applications programmer for Essent Corp. in Easton.) It was then fine-tuned by David Skoupil, a former Merrill Scholar (Czech exchange student) who teaches computer science at Palacky University in Olomouc, Czech Republic. David returns to Moravian every summer to work with gifted high school science students at an educational camp run by Johns Hopkins University at the College.

Joe now has a small network—just two stations—located in the eastern Pennsylvania/New Jersey area but would like to have widely separated stations all over the world. He has worked with Richard Kroll of the geology/meteorology department of Kean University, Union, N.J., as a “beta test site” to check the components and long-distance reliability of the system.

“ It works!” Joe says. “Both stations have been online for more than a year.”

In October, he and Kroll presented the project at the conference of the Geological Association of New Jersey, which received it favorably. An article by Joe and Michael Sands, describing the project and the software, has been accepted for publication in the March issue of the Journal of Geoscience Education.

Joe says he is proud that both independent study projects by his students have been published in professional journals. The project is being continued with a current student, Tyler Worman ’07, who may also factor into the full story of SIMA whenever it is written.

For additional information on the genesis of the SIMA project, see:

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These screen shots show the difference between what Joe’s seismometers record most of the time and what happens when they feel an earthquake.

The upper screen shows the background “noise” of everyday activity. The green, red, and blue lines are the traces of the three seismometers in the basement. (Green is the record of up-down movement, red is north-south, and blue is east-west.) They show the ordinary rumble of the furnace in the basement, traffic on the street, and the wind shaking the Hall of Science. The white line is recorded by the seismometer in the earth science lab, also oriented north-south, which is sensitive to all these factors, plus such things as people walking around the lab (or jumping up and down to show the effect).

The lower screen is the record of the San Simeon earthquake in California on December 22, 2003, which measured 6.5 on the Richter scale, destroyed or damaged 40 buildings, and killed three people. The earthquake began at 11:15:56 a.m. local time, (or 19:15:56 in scientific Coordinated Universal Time); its waves began to reach Moravian about 17 minutes later and provoked every seismometer into a frenzy of activity.