Turning Down Seismic Noise

After September 11, 2001 when all of the airplanes were grounded, I was fascinated by the atmospheric research that was coming out (like this article) that revealed what scientists were learning about the skies without all the airplane contrails. COVID-19 has brought the world to halt in a way that I have never seen in my lifetime. This recent article (Earth Is Literally Moving Less Now That We’re All on Lockdown) made me think about how our everyday movements like going to work or grocery shopping have an impact on our planet. It also reminded me that sometimes we need to turn down all the noise to really hear what is happening.

Now, the resulting quiet means surface seismic readings are as clear as the ones scientists usually get from the same instruments buried 100 meters beneath the Earth’s surface, making measurements more more specific and easier to use and understand. Any seismic noise that falls into the same instrument range as human noise is suddenly much clearer, like if you were trying to listen to two people talking and one simply stopped.

What if an entire country began to feel a series of earthquakes that increased in intensity each day? Eventually, everyone was confined to their homes so that seismologists could figure the cause and how to stop it.


What would the world be like if we stopped moving permanently? No cars, trains, planes or ships. You worked out at home or nearby (if you are lucky).


What if there was an international minute of silence? What if during these quiet times, certain people are given prophetic images, sound, smells or words? What if your child was one of those people?


What if noises above a certain decibel were banned? You couldn’t use power tools, go to a concert, ride an airplane or scream. How would life be different? How would this change life for someone with autism or sensory issues who doesn’t like loud noises?


What if the world was louder and you had to wear ear plugs when you left the house? What if the only time you could talk to someone was inside?

Who wants to talk more about how you can use this idea in your current or next story?

[Credit: flickr/Daniel Lobo]

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