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Cheap Earthquake Warning Systems

Crowdsourced networks of low-cost sensors and cellphones could have provided life-saving seconds in Nepal

3 min read
Cheap Earthquake Warning Systems
Photo: Bulent Doruk/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

While predicting earthquakes remains a dream,scientists have developed early-warning systems that give people precious seconds to run out of buildings or take cover. Such systems are in place in Japan and Mexico. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is testing a system that gave a 5- to 10-second warning when a temblor hit California’s Napa Valley in 2014. That kind of warning might have saved hundreds of lives when a 7.8-magnitude earthquake devastated Nepal on 25 April.

Earthquake-warning systems come at a high price, though, too high for countries like Nepal and others in quake-prone zones in South Asia, the Caribbean, and Central and South America. But researchers are now working on more affordable, crowdsourced warning systems based on low-cost sensors and cellphone electronics.

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Deep Learning Could Bring the Concert Experience Home

The century-old quest for truly realistic sound production is finally paying off

12 min read
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Image containing multiple aspects such as instruments and left and right open hands.
Stuart Bradford
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Now that recorded sound has become ubiquitous, we hardly think about it. From our smartphones, smart speakers, TVs, radios, disc players, and car sound systems, it’s an enduring and enjoyable presence in our lives. In 2017, a survey by the polling firm Nielsen suggested that some 90 percent of the U.S. population listens to music regularly and that, on average, they do so 32 hours per week.

Behind this free-flowing pleasure are enormous industries applying technology to the long-standing goal of reproducing sound with the greatest possible realism. From Edison’s phonograph and the horn speakers of the 1880s, successive generations of engineers in pursuit of this ideal invented and exploited countless technologies: triode vacuum tubes, dynamic loudspeakers, magnetic phonograph cartridges, solid-state amplifier circuits in scores of different topologies, electrostatic speakers, optical discs, stereo, and surround sound. And over the past five decades, digital technologies, like audio compression and streaming, have transformed the music industry.

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