Typically, scientists bury seismographs in vaults deep underground, a practice meant to drown out the vibrations created by people — what they call “cultural noise” — in order to get a clearer reading of the activity of the earth itself. But for many Shakers, installing cheaper seismographs at home was proof that the distinctive patterns created by everyday activities — traditionally considered undesirable to capture — could be fascinating in their own right.
“The washing machine has nice signals,” said Amy Gilligan, 34, a geologist in Aberdeen, Scotland. Leda Sánchez Bettucc, 55, a geologist in Montevideo, Uruguay, plays a game with her daughter to guess whether vibrations are from the blender, the vacuum cleaner or her son practicing the violin.
On Twitter, Shakers share seismograms with one another of thunderclaps, power lifting workouts, neighborhood construction and other curious recordings, using the hashtag #WhatsTheWiggle. Caron, who sometimes sees the footsteps of a family of badgers appear in his data, said there were still many mysteries out there. You have to play detective: “There’s some wavy lines I see every night, but I have no idea what they are. What’s oscillating like that at 3 a.m.?”