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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How Nanotech Can Foil Counterfeiters

These tiny mechanical ID tags are unclonable, cheap, and invisible

10 min read
University of Florida

What's the largest criminal enterprise in the world? Narcotics? Gambling? Human trafficking?

Nope. The biggest racket is the production and trade of counterfeit goods, which is expected to exceed US $1 trillion next year. You've probably suffered from it more than once yourself, purchasing on Amazon or eBay what you thought was a brand-name item only to discover that it was an inferior-quality counterfeit.

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