Pasadena, live seismic sonification

It's amazing how the earth is alive and constantly moving. This project was inspired by the love and appreciation to our planet earth. Living in Southern California I heard a lot about earthquakes and I got excited when I learned that the data recorded by seismology research center can be found online.

The first valuable tool is this page that can be used to find every single seismological observatory on the map:

Showing the seismological stations using Google Map Service, on

After finding the station you would like to retrieve data from, can visit this page to learn about the tools available for downloading the data from a selected station.

Several free tools are provided to access the recorded data.

Using the URL Builder of the timeseries web service, I was able to quickly plot and download some timeseries.

The downloaded data can be import into Audacity, and treated as audio data. After asking Audacity to playback the sound at a higher speed the result sounds like this:

Based on this work, I created an app for iPhone and iPad, Earth-Sound. The app shows the Los Angeles map and the user can select one of the four stations and listen to the pre-recorded sound.

That work got me to think of another idea. Is it possible to produce a live sonification of the seismological data? (Is't possible to hear the earth talking/breathing live?) The answer is yes, it is possible. I knew the the PASC station had realtime data, that is I can downloaded the data recorded just a few seconds ago. After asking many questions and getting some help, I got a computer that every 10 seconds downloads a chunk of data from the station and uploads to YouTube.

Here it's not possible to make the sound play faster, because for every one second of data downloaded from the station we need to generate exactly one second of sound to avoid having silence segments. Because this particular station has 100 samples per second, and we remember the Nyquist frequency, the output sound contains frequencies between 0 to 50 Hz. That's why you need a speaker or headphone that can play those frequencies to be able to hear the sound. And probably you need to turn the volume up if still cannot hear the sound.