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Earth sciences

EGU 2018: how to distinguish football celebrations from dancing

10 Apr 2018 Liz Kalaugher
Seismic record
Seismic record captured during the Bruce Springsteen concert at Camp Nou on 14 May 2016. (Courtesy: Jordi Díaz)

During the FC Barcelona vs Paris Saint-Germain match in March 2017, Barcelona scored the vital sixth goal the team needed during the final minute of the game. The home crowd celebrations shook the ground enough to record a large signal on the seismometer installed by Jordi Diaz in the basement of the Institute of Earth Sciences Jaume Almera-CSIC building, some 500 m away from the Camp Nou stadium.

Initally Diaz installed the kit as a fun way to communicate about seismology to visitors. When he realized that the equipment could have serious uses too he added a second system, as he revealed at a press conference at the European Geosciences Union general assembly in Vienna.

Not only does the seismometer pick up signals from football crowds as they enter and leave the stadium and jump up and down after goals, in 2016 it even distinguished between songs at a Bruce Springsteen rock concert based on the ground movements as 65,000 people danced to the different rhythms. Because the music fans’ movements were more co-ordinated than the football fans, the signal the seismometer detected was clearly distinct to that from goal celebrations.

As well as “footquakes”, the kit also detects vibrations from traffic with enough detail to show when traffic lights on Diagonal Avenue – some 100 m away – turn red, from the subway system, from fireworks, marathon runners, storms and oceanic waves. The 2.8 Hz signals created by the runners revealed they were running at a pace of 170 steps per minute.

Apart from monitoring football matches, dancers and runners, the seismometer could provide additional information to engineers by revealing whether buildings respond similarly to different types of vibrations. It could also monitor traffic from a distance.

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