Grid computing helps visualise motion of seismic events

Researchers in Taiwan are planning to use grid 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 animations that show the ground motion of seismic events, shake movies 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 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.

’Now we can generate shake movies in a few hours but with volunteer computing we could have them in minutes,’ said Prof Li Zhao of the Institute of Earth Sciences at Academia Sinica in Taipei, Taiwan, and leader of Shakemovie@home.