Old(est?) working seismograph in the U.S.
October 21, 2011 12:56 AM   Subscribe

Working 1933 seismograph. At the Ferndale Museum (CA).

Apparently it has a long history of being operated by interested amateurs who have made real scientific contributions.

I don't know nearly enough about the field to make a long post, but here's another (apparently not working) at the Lassen Volcanic National Park.

Here is more information about Ferndale-type (Bosch-Omori) seismographs in Hawaii.

And since this is America, after all, you can buy your own.

Full disclosure: I was led to the Ferndale Museum by this fantastic cover of "The Last Letter."
posted by skbw (10 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
When looking up USGS data on today's Bay Area earthquakes (that one tonight sure was a big jolt here in SF), I happened to discover that there's a seismograph station around the corner from my house, which is kind of cool. Based on the lat-long coordinates, it's in someone's home, while a lot of the other ones are in public buildings and labs of various sorts (hospitals look to be popular spots too). How exactly does someone come to be host to a networked research seismograph anyway?
posted by zachlipton at 1:39 AM on October 21, 2011

And since this is America, after all, you can buy your own.

This isn't always America.
posted by longsleeves at 1:52 AM on October 21, 2011 [4 favorites]

Did it record the two earthquakes I felt today?
posted by knave at 1:57 AM on October 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

They made some damn fine and sturdy stuff in the 30s. That was before planned obsolescence had become the order of the day in manufacturing. I've got a couple of things in my household made in the 30s that I use daily. One is an enamel mixing bowl, quite deep. The weight of it is perfect: a relatively thick, heavy bottom keeps it stable, but the bowl is mostly very thin, especially at the rim. Now, we're talking enamel here, but it's barely chipped at all, which is incredible. The thing is 60 years old!

The other thing is a metal box with two shelves in it, about the size of, say, two big shoe boxes put together. It has a door on it, with a little latch that hasn't worn out or broken off for its 60 years or so on the planet. We keep glasses and cups in it, opening and closing it about 10 to 20 times a day!

Pretty much nothing anymore is made to last like that.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 2:05 AM on October 21, 2011

watch out for coveting hipsters
posted by Reasonably Everything Happens at 5:42 AM on October 21, 2011

Watch out for clueless knuckleheads who suggest that someone who appreciates well-made items is a "hipster".
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:55 AM on October 21, 2011 [4 favorites]

Scientific American - The Amateur Scientist: "Earthquakes have long held a special fascination for science buffs. In the past, this column has described seismographs no fewer than eight times.."

How to build a simple seismograph to record earthquake waves at home

Amateur Seismographs built from this design:

A Horizontal Pendulum Seismograph

Seismometer Build Pt 1. and Pt 2.
posted by charlie don't surf at 6:46 AM on October 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Awesome. I loves me some citizen science.

(That second quake last night? I was in the East Bay, standing on Grand Ave right outside the restaurant where we'd just had dinner. We didn't feel the quake as we were standing there, but the buildings behind us and across the street rattled and jumped in a surreal way, and so we knew something had happened. Then the USGS sent me an email and confirmed my interpretation of reality.)
posted by rtha at 9:10 AM on October 21, 2011

longsleeves: that was a little joke about consumerism--not assuming who it is reading the site. Sorry if it didn't come through.

zachlipton: Good question, the answer to which I don't know. If you were really creepy and had a street map overlay, my guess would be that reverse address shows some professor...but who knows?
posted by skbw at 9:36 AM on October 21, 2011

Ferndale also has a really cool cemetery.
posted by TheCoug at 10:31 AM on October 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

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