Here's one genius computer program you might consider pushing virally for science's sake. The "Quake Catchers" program aims to make earthquake detection a lot easier and cheaper by taking advantage of accelerometers built into MacBooks and other newer laptops, the Los Angeles Times reports.
An airplane's flight data recorder, or black box, saves stats from many different sensors so that pilots can reconstruct and analyze a trip after the fact, whether to find problems or certify that they completed a record-setting route. Now extreme-sports athletes can quantify a wicked ride the same way. Two new gadgets each pack a heap of sensors—GPS to measure direction and speed, accelerometers to measure tilt and pitch, gyroscopes to measure rotation—to record data throughout a snowboard, wakeboard or other sports session.
Keeping count of repetitions in any sporting endeavor is surprisingly challenging, be it push-ups, wind sprints, or golf shots. Trying to keep count with water between your ears leaves many swimmers pruning in the wet stuff longer than necessary. The brand new Pool-Mate watch is the first automatic lap counter, promising to help the swimming world count to ten.
How much air is big air? Just check your iPhone. The latest application for the iPhone is Hangtimer, which allows skiers to quantify just how big they went. Download the application for an absurdly cheap $10, and the iPhone's -- or iPod Touch's -- internal tri-axial accelerometer detects when your feet leave and touch the ground. After each jump, the iPhone displays your flight time, while a plot provides a running tally of your jumps and speed throughout the day.
In earthquake-prone California, where geologists say that the “Big One” is virtually certain to strike before 2040, a few seconds of warning could save lives. Allowing more time to duck and cover is one of the major goals of the new Quake-Catcher Network (QCN), an affordable, citizen-based earthquake-detection system that turns idle laptop computers into seismic sensors.