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Researchers in Taiwan to use volunteer computing to visualise earthquakes

Researchers in Taiwan are planning to use volunteer computing to visualise the motion of earthquakes after they occur. They hope this will cut the time of creating ‘shake movies’ from a few hours to just minutes, providing valuable information to rescuers once an earthquake has occurred.
As recent events in Japan have shown, earthquakes and their effects can have devastating consequences. For those countries located on the so-called Ring of Fire, detailed information on seismic events is vital for rescue efforts, education and outreach as well as for research into future events.

Shake movies play an important part in this effort. As animations which show the ground motion of seismic events, shake movies simulate what you feel on the ground during an earthquake. They provide information as to where the strongest shaking has occurred, helping to ensure rescue efforts and resources are directed to where they are most needed.

Researchers create shake movies by performing calculations on models of earthquakes as well as the earth’s structure. However the production process is computationally intensive, taking a few hours to create a movie on a large computing cluster.

In order to cut down the time taken to create these movies, researchers at the Institute of Earth Sciences at Academia Sinica, Taipei, plan to use volunteers to donate idle computing cycles through a new initiative called called Shakemovie@home. The initiative follows in the footsteps of other successful volunteer computing projects such as SETI@home, which searches for extra-terrestrial signals among radio telescope data.

In Shakemovie@Home volunteers’ computers will be used to retrieve essential functions needed to create new shake movies. Called Green’s functions, these elements are a key part of creating shake movies but can take a long time to calculate for every event. However as Green’s functions depend only on the earth’s model, not on the earthquakes themselves researchers can compute, save and store them in advance, simply retrieving them as and when they are needed.

As the retrieval process is simple to carry out, Academia Sinica researchers plan to farm this out to volunteers who have signed up to Shakemovie@Home. By simply retrieving, rather than calculating the Green’s function every time a new shake movie is made they will cut down the time taken from a few hours to just minutes.

“Shake movies need to be both accurate and fast so that rescue efforts can be better directed and resources better allocated. By distributing this task to volunteers to computers at home we can get a better and faster way of making shake movies. Now we have shake movies in a few hours but with volunteer computing we could have it in minutes.” says Professor Li Zhao of the Institute of Earth Sciences, Academia Sinica and leader of Shakemovie@home.

For further information please contact:
Vicky Huang
Dissemination Team
Academia Sinica Grid Computing Centre (ASGC)
Institute of Physics
Academia Sinica
Tel: +886-2-2789-8308
Fax: +886-2-2783-5434

Notes for editors:

About the Institute of Earth Sciences, Academia Sinica:
The Institute of Earth Sciences (IES), founded in 1982, is one of the thirty research institutes of Academia Sinica. The research programme is divided into two parts: basic research and applied research. Basic research is to improve our understanding of the earth system and applied research is to conduct natural hazard mitigation and resource management. Therefore, IES emphasises research domain in geochemistry, tectonophysics, mineral physics and seismology.

About e-ScienceTalk
e-ScienceTalk brings the success stories of Europe's e-infrastructure to a wider audience. The project coordinates the dissemination outputs of EGI and other European e-Infrastructure projects, ensuring their results and influence are reported in print and online. E-ScienceTalk produces e-ScienceBriefings, short, full-colour policy articles illustrating the scientific results and impacts arising from grid computing. The GridCafé website provides an introduction to grid computing and e-science for the general public. The GridGuide website gives a human face to e-Infrastructures, allowing users to listen to podcasts from grid sites worldwide and read interviews with researchers. The Real Time Monitor is a visualisation of current activity on the grid overlaid on an interactive 3D globe. International Science Grid This Week (iSGTW) is a free weekly online newsletter that promotes grid computing and e-research around the world by sharing stories of science and scientific discoveries, reaching over 7000 readers.

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