What’s Shakin’ Near Chicago?

John-the-Tourist writes:

Fermilab Tevatron Tilt Meter Plots

When: 4:00 am, February 10th, 2010
Where: My bedroom, about 30 miles west of Chicago, Illinois, USA…

Me: Zzzzz, Snort, Zzzzzz


Me (eyes popping open): What the hell was that?  An earthquake?

My wife, Lynn: Zzzzzz, snort, zzzzz.

Me (internal dialog): Maybe Lynn knocked the  book she was reading out of bed?  Hmmmm, probability of Lynn dropping the book = moderate.  Probability of earthquake near Chicago = low.  Occam’s razor* implies that it was Lynn’s book.**

Me: Zzzzz, Snort, Zzzzzz

Well, we actually did have a 3.8 magnitude trembler west of Chicago.  For those of you who live in areas of the world where there are three earthquakes every day before lunch, this news is rather ho-hum.  However, for those of us living in the Midwest of the USA, an earthquake is a novel event.

At first blush, one would think that Occam’s philosophical whisker-whacker failed, but since I didn’t jump out of bed to verify that a book fell into a gravity well or run to the computer to check the U.S. Geological Survey website, I did not examine the available evidence in order to answer the question at hand.  In other words, my scientific logic was faulty, so Occam slices and dices again.  However, my faulty logic did buy me 2 more hours of sleep.

The earthquake had a slight effect on high energy particle physics at Fermi National Accelerator Lab as reported by Fermilab Today

Tilt meters strapped to Fermilab’s magnets recorded the vibrations at the laboratory. The earthquake shook the magnets and caused the beam to strike a collimater, losing its store.

Want to be a earth citizen scientist?   Check out Science for Citizen’s entry for “Did you feel it?” which allows you to enter information about your earthquake experience directly to the USGS.

So, what’s shakin’ near Chicago?  The earth, accelerator magnets and bedrooms.

* Occam’s Razor the philosophical concept, not Occam’s Razor, the Science Cheerleader.

** Yes, I actually did have this internal dialog with myself at 4:00 am in the morning.  What can I say?  I’m weird in this way.

Image Credit:  Fermilab Today