Earthquakes and info-quakes

Physical events cause ripples in information space as well as physical space. For instance, every morning I pass a speed trap on the Massachusetts Turnpike. Usually there’s no cop there, but when there is one, I can detect him well before he sees me. I don’t have a radar detector. I just have to watch for people ahead of me slowing down in an odd way. I don’t see the cop, but I do see the information radiation that they shed: brake light enlightenment. Similarly, there was a famous supernova that was first observed in 1987. Cleverly, someone had the presence of mind to call it Supernova 1987A. But we could have detected approximately when it occurred anyway based on the huge spike in astrophysics papers mentioning the word “supernova”.

All this brings us to the Somewhat Large Earthquake of 2011. Can you detect when and where it happened given only the information contained in Twitter? Yes you can. Look at this SocialFlow analysis. Be sure and try the little map animation near the end.

In the future, when we all live in sealed info-pods, people will be more likely to believe something that was heavily tweeted than something they saw with their own eyes. After all, tweeting is believing.

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