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A shot at gumshoe seismology.

What's the difference between an earthquake and a gunshot? Not much, decided seismologist John Lahr when he started hearing loud reports around his house in early 1992. Knowing that the local police were having trouble locating the source of the gunfire, Lahr decided to find out whether the earthquake technology he used at work could pinpoint the shots.

Lahr - then with the U.S. Geological Survey in Menlo Park, Calif., and now at the Alaska Volcano Observatory in Fairbanks - set up a network of four microphones around his neighborhood and one at his house. Each of the four neighborhood microphones connected to an amplifier and a radio transmitter. Back home, a personal computer continually monitored the microphones, storing any loud noises heard at three or more sites through a process developed for earthquake recognition. Lahr then plugged that information into a second personal computer, which located the origins of the noises through triangulation. Although he never ran a controlled experiment - which would have involved firing a gun at a known spot - Lahr says he could trace a shot to the nearest couple of meters. He located many shot-like noises, including automatic weapon blasts coming from a variety of sites. This didn't lead to any arrests, however.

Lahr had to scrutinize the data to determine when noises first reached each microphone. But he says it should be possible to automate that process - something the Menlo Park police would like to pursue.
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Title Annotation:process for detecting earthquakes used to locate source of gunshots
Publication:Science News
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:May 29, 1993
Words:240
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