Your laptop may be the key to understanding the next Big One

Want to put your laptop intro service for the good of environmental observation? The Quake Catcher Network in California is an effort by researchers to use the accelerometers built into most modern laptops to help keep track of seismic activity throughout the state and set up a monitoring network for earthquakes.

Accelerometers govern all kinds of features in new devices, from the iPhone's self-righting screen to anti-shock technology in laptops that help the machines know when you drop them so they can lock up hard drives and protect against the impact.

Still in beta testing, the Quake Catcher Network isn't so much an early warning system, but more a web of data collection that would allow researchers to measure the force and scope of a quake. Most smaller shakes will be ignored, but any shifts powerful enough will be uploaded to the QCN's central database. Older machines without accelerometers can do their part as well, by taking advantage of USB shake sensors.

Quake Catcher Network, via Technology Review