Did You Feel It?

It may come as little surprise that staffers at CHF love data. That’s why I spent the morning playing – I mean, doing research – with all the pretty maps and graphs over at the United States Geological Survey’s website. Because oh yeah, a 5.8 magnitude earthquake forced us all to evacuate the building yesterday. You didn’t know? Maybe that’s because you weren’t on the 5th floor of CHF as it swayed like a concrete palm tree. Growing up in Minnesota, I am well-prepared for tornados (basement, bathtub, mattress), but I interpreted the shifting feeling in the floor Tuesday afternoon as a hallucinatory experience, some trick of brain chemistry, before I thought of the correct word: “EARTHQUAKE!!!!!”

That’s why I like the “Did You Feel It?” feature of USGS, which asks users to submit their experiences of the event. It echoes the question of every evacuee on the street – the need to confirm the extraordinary – and provides large, immediate quantities of data in an earthquake’s aftermath. It’s a nice, if limited, example of citizen science – a movement in informal science education for non-specialized volunteers to participate in substantive research. Before anyone raises the issue of citizen science vs. crowd sourcing, let me just tell you: I don’t care. I’ve translated my excitement, fright, and wonder into a little data point for USGS, and it makes me want to do more. And don’t worry, if you didn’t feel the trembling yesterday, the project still wants to hear from you. (Did you feel it? …No.)

The East Coast is so fortunate, of course, that no life was lost and minimal damage exacted from the earthquake; instead of rescue and recovery Philadelphians can just write blog posts about it. But maybe we can sustain some research as well.   

Science for Citizens
Citizen Science Alliance
Why the East Coast Earthquake Was Felt So Far Away [Wired Science]

Posted In: Education

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