‘Mermaids’ are helping to detect earthquakes

Posted: 10/21/2011 in all marine news

Charles Q.Choi – 

Robots called “Mermaids” now floating in the oceans are helping to create images of the Earth’s interior.

Each robot is known as a Mobile Earthquake Recorder in Marine Areas by Independent Divers, or Mermaid.

They are equipped with hydrophones, or underwater microphones, with which they record seismic waves from quakes and other earth-shaking phenomena as they ripple through the water. The mics can pick up the waves of quakes from as far away as 7,450 miles (12,000 km).

The seismic waves sent out by these temblors help scientists draw a picture of the Earth’s insides.

“Seismologists use seismic waves very much as X-rays,” said researcher Yann Hello, a geophysicist at the University of Nice Sophia Antipolis in Villefranche-sur-Mer, France.

For instance, seismic waves slow down when they hit hotter rock and speed up when they encounter colder rock, and “we analyze this information and translate it into a picture of the hot and cold regions inside the Earth,” Hello told OurAmazingPlanet.

The heat-driven motions of rock in the deep Earth underlie the movements of continents and the earthquakes that can devastate cities, so having a more detailed picture of what’s happening beneath our feet could better prepare us for such natural disasters.

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