KaleidaGraph helps researchers at the SETI Institute investigate groundbreaking earthquake research

What I find especially useful and helpful is to put my data in KaleidaGraph, make the figures nice and clear, and export them either into MS Word for publications or into Powerpoint for presentation. Works great!

Robotic astrobiology, the origins of life, planetary science, prebiotic chemistry, radio astronomy – are all investigated by SETI Institute scientists. The SETI Institute currently hosts more than 50 research projects in astrobiology, including the search for extra-solar planets, the study of life in extreme environments, and the exploration and study of planets and other objects in our solar system.

The Institute employs about 130 people, primarily scientists, in a variety of fields including all science and technology aspects of astronomy and the planetary sciences, chemical evolution, the origin of life, biological evolution, and cultural evolution. In a current research project, scientists feel that perhaps within a few years, we may be able to “read” Earth’s early warning signals for impending earthquakes.

When the Earth speaks

Earthquake forecasting has been an elusive goal for a long time, not only for seismology. Yet before major earthquakes, the Earth appears to send out signals. Most signals point to transient electric currents in the Earth’s crust. To search for the cause of such currents, attention has focused for decades, but in vain, in piezoelectricity, a property of quartz, an abundant mineral in certain rocks. The fact that no generally accepted, physics-based mechanism for the generation of large currents was available has caused considerable confusion and controversy. Until now.

During rock deformation studies scientists have made an amazing discovery: when one end of a 1.2 m long slab of granite (or quartz-free rocks such as anorthosite or gabbro) is squeezed, the stressed rock volume generates a voltage which in turn causes two outflow currents. One, carried by electrons, flows from the stressed rock directly to ground. The other, carried by defect electrons or holes, flows into and through the unstressed rock and out the other end.

The stressed rock behaves, in fact, as a battery. The outflow currents can reach 10,000 – 100,000 amperes per cubic kilometer of stressed rock. The discovery of this previously unknown capacity of igneous rocks to generate currents offers for the first time a physical basis to re-evaluate a wide range of reported pre-earthquake signals as potential indicators of impending earthquake activity.

Graphs help scientists communicate important findings

Between now and then the “only” real obstacle to overcome is the inertia in the thinking of most seismologists (or scientists in general) who tend to reject new discoveries which challenge what they may have learned and understood until now. Since this scientific work – and its funding – are based on the reception that proposals find an anonymous review panel, pursuing challenging ideas often becomes a gamble. Only by persisting stubbornly against all odds can one overcome the barriers which the so-called scientific establishment tends to put up.

Dr. Friedemann Freund, SETI Institute scientist and KaleidaGraph user since 2001, uses KaleidaGraph’s graphing capabilities to help to communicate his important findings at scientific meetings worldwide. He starts by plotting data that he acquires with LabVIEW. Excel files are created and opened directly by KaleidaGraph. He then takes large tables of data, and makes it more manageable by masking portions of it.

“I started out with the Mac version of KaleidaGraph as the first and only graphing program that I use,” states Dr. Freund. “Before KaleidaGraph everything for me was graph paper or pen, followed by tedious time-consuming interactions with the NASA graphics department, many trips back and forth to proofread the artwork, and eventually pick it up.”

“Now everything is just so easy. Whenever somebody sends me an Excel file, the first thing I do is to open it in KaleidaGraph. Only then do I graph the data. What I find especially useful and helpful is to put my data in KaleidaGraph, make the figures nice and clear, and export them either into MS Word for publications or into Powerpoint for presentation. Works great!”

For more information on Dr. Friedemann Freund and the SETI Institute, please visit https://www.seti.org/our-scientists/friedemann-freund.

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