Earthquake Recorded on the Harmonograph at the NYSF

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A 2.5 Magnitude Earthquake is Captured in a Harmonogram!

Earthquake Documented for the first time with a Pendulum Drawing Toy! 

Things were really rockin’ at the 2011 New York State Fair, and I mean that literally! The big East Coast Earthquake of 2011, which had an epicenter in Virginia and registered 5.8 on the Richter scale, occurred at 1:53 PM on August 23, 2011, just a couple of days before The Fair opened.

That earthquake was felt by many people here in Syracuse, New York; and fortunately for me, the earthquake hit while I was setting up my fair exhibit. If it had occurred while I was operating the harmonograph, it would have caused damage to my sensitive pendulums.

I knew there was a likelihood of some aftershocks subsequent to that major seismic event, and my harmonograph has attributes similar to those of a seismograph, so I was determined to keep a close eye on my pendulums to see if I could actually record one. Although my harmonograph is continuously churning out drawings at The Fair, I knew I would still need a bit of luck to catch one.

The fair is a normally a very active venue, with large rides banging to a stop, daily parades, and boisterous concerts going on right outside the Science and Technology Building in Chevy Court, etc.; all these extraneous vibrations plays havoc with my drawings.  The constant activity at The Fair produces very small perturbations and incongruities with my "perfect" Lissajous curves. I was hoping an earthquake aftershock would express itself more profoundly than a mere momentary wiggle.

I was actually watching the drawing machine render a line at the exact moment the earthquake occurred, the shaking was so slight that nobody actually felt anything, but the pendulums record the minutest movements of the Earth and the wavy imperfection imparted in the line told me that something very interesting was happening.

I lifted the pen and stopped the drawing as soon as the waviness ceased and recorded the date and time (in front of several witnesses) and set the harmonogram aside for later examination and. It was Thursday, August 25, 2011 at 4:57 in the afternoon - opening day of The New York State Fair!

When I got home later that evening, I went online to the United States Geological Survey (USGS) website and looked to see if there was any earthquake activity that corresponded to the date and time I had recorded, and I was excited to find that there was indeed an earthquake, and I was even more astounded to discover that this event wasn’t an aftershock from the big Virginia earthquake at all, but a unique 2.5 magnitude earthquake event that occurred only about 115 miles away right here in New York State!

The harmonogram below is a scan of the actual drawing that was in progress when the Earthquake struck and you can observe the waviness that the line recorded which continued on for 12-14 seconds.  The data sheet from the USGS website contains detailed information about the earthquake event which I recorded in the harmonogram.

I’m sure that I have recorded other earthquake activity with my harmonograph pendulums, but this is the first one that I have ever associated with a specific seismic event.


Click on the image to see an enlarged view of the earthquake vibration:  

Harmonogram created during an Earthquake.

The following data sheets, seismic charts and maps were copied from the United Sates Geological Survey website.

USGS Informational Earthquake Map

USGS Data Sheet

USGS Earthquake Response Map

For more fascinating information about earthquakes, visit the United States Geological Survey (USGS) website.

Operating the Harmonograph at the New York State Fair.