18
Apr
08

4.5 Hz Bass Solo Felt From 200 Miles Away

The earth is an LFO!

Bass! How low can you go?

This morning at around 4:30 AM, I experienced my first earthquake, courtesy of the downstate Illinois New Madrid Fault. I woke to a dark bedroom and a low but regular thumping sound. My first thought was that one of our cats was doing that scratch-the-ear-with-hind-paw thing, as the thumping had that regularity to it.

Then I noticed that the whole house was gently, but insistently swaying north-south in time with the thumping. Probably a couple of inches each way.

If this was a cat, it was twenty feet tall.

It lasted about one minute – one supremely weird minute. The thought “earthquake?” did occur to me at some point, but right when the shaking ended, I heard the furnace fan also shut off by coincidence, which let me shrug off the whole thing and get back to sleep.

What was most striking about the quake was its creepy, regular oscillation. I don’t know why I thought this, but I always assumed a quake would be more irregular / noisy than this one was. It was downright pro forma and mechanical. The ground tugged and released the house at what I reckon to be a steady 4.5 Hertz (shakes per second) for about a minute, making maybe 270 total oscillations.

I measured the frequency later in the day by firing up Audiomulch and dialing a low frequency oscillator until I found what seemed like the right frequency. The exact reading is 4.6273 Hz, but I rounded because I’m not a geek.

News and USGS reports called the quake a 5.2 on the Richter scale, centered in a small town about 200 miles south of my house.

Whenever the ground you’re occupying acts like a fluid, it will get your attention. Like waves on a calm surface radiating outward from a thrown pebble, an utterly enormous volume of dirt was bunched and stretched into hundreds of waves that reached as far north as Michigan and as far south as Atlanta. Our house rode these waves – four and a half of them a second. Wow.

Also, let me take the time to debunk a myth about animals during an earthquake. Supposedly, animals are able to hear crazy events like quakes and freak out a little bit before they hit. We hear this a lot from our friends in California.

Uh huh. Put down the bong, Peace Bear. Not even the neighbor’s dogs — who will bark at grass — uttered a peep.

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1984-89: Defoliants
1991-94: Buzzmuscle
2001-05: San Andreas Fault
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