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Northern Michigan Festival Pays Homage to the Humble Puddingstone

Summer is the time for outdoor festivals, and there’s one for every interest—even obscure rock enthusiasts. (The mineral formations, not the music.)

The third annual "Puddingstones of Cheboygan County" festival is taking place this weekend—August 5 and 6—in downtown Cheboygan, Michigan. The gathering honors a rock you’ve probably never heard of, one that’s only found in a select set of places, one of which is northern Michigan.

Puddingstones are a type of Jasper conglomerate, consisting of many individual rocks within a larger one. They were formed amid the glacial drift in the Great Lakes region and contain Jasper quartz, Precambrian Canadian Shield rocks, sandstone, and other redeposited sand and pebbles.

The rocks earned their name from early British settlers who thought the rocks looked like boiled suet pudding with berries. There are actually several types of so-called "puddingstones," including Hertfordshire, Schunemunk, and Roxbury, the last of which is the state rock of Massachusetts.

At this weekend’s festival, stone and mineral exhibitors are displaying their goods, rock-related events are taking place, there's an Easter-egg style puddingstone hunt, live music, a suet pudding baking contest, and a puddingstone contest with categories like "most red in a stone" and "images seen in a stone."

Michiganders apparently really love their rocks: The state also holds a Petoskey Stone Festival every year to honor their own state stone.

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AI Could Help Scientists Detect Earthquakes More Effectively
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Thanks in part to the rise of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, earthquakes are becoming more frequent in the U.S. Even though it doesn't fall on a fault line, Oklahoma, where gas and oil drilling activity doubled between 2010 and 2013, is now a major earthquake hot spot. As our landscape shifts (literally), our earthquake-detecting technology must evolve to keep up with it. Now, a team of researchers is changing the game with a new system that uses AI to identify seismic activity, Futurism reports.

The team, led by deep learning researcher Thibaut Perol, published the study detailing their new neural network in the journal Science Advances. Dubbed ConvNetQuake, it uses an algorithm to analyze the measurements of ground movements, a.k.a. seismograms, and determines which are small earthquakes and which are just noise. Seismic noise describes the vibrations that are almost constantly running through the ground, either due to wind, traffic, or other activity at surface level. It's sometimes hard to tell the difference between noise and legitimate quakes, which is why most detection methods focus on medium and large earthquakes instead of smaller ones.

But better understanding natural and manmade earthquakes means studying them at every level. With ConvNetQuake, that could soon become a reality. After testing the system in Oklahoma, the team reports it detected 17 times more earthquakes than what was recorded by the Oklahoma Geological Survey earthquake catalog.

That level of performance is more than just good news for seismologists studying quakes caused by humans. The technology could be built into current earthquake detection methods set up to alert the public to dangerous disasters. California alone is home to 400 seismic stations waiting for "The Big One." On a smaller scale, there's an app that uses a smartphone's accelerometers to detect tremors and alert the user directly. If earthquake detection methods could sense big earthquakes right as they were beginning using AI, that could afford people more potentially life-saving moments to prepare.

[h/t Futurism]

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Why There's a 4-Ton Steel Ball Making Mini-Earthquakes in Germany
Stefan Flöper, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0
Stefan Flöper, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

An earthquake is caused by the shifting of tectonic plates, the pieces of Earth's crust that make up the surface of the planet. But humans have figured out how to create artificial earthquakes without relying on Mother Nature. YouTube personality Tom Scott recently visited the world's oldest working seismic station in Göttingen, Germany, to experience one of these mini-earthquakes in person.

Wiechert'sche Erdbebenwarte Göttingen is home to a 4-ton steel ball that can be hoisted 46 feet in the air. When dropped, the impact sends shock waves through the ground. The power to manufacture earthquakes on demand helps the team calibrate their seismographs, but there's another reason the rig was set up: It proved the theory that artificial quakes can be used to measure the earth underground.

German geophysicist Emil Wiechert got the idea a century ago. By using seismic meters to measure the reflections of waves rocking an area, he hypothesized that he would end up with an accurate sketch of what the world looked like below. The steel ball was set up in Göttingen in 1903, and it proved his theory to be correct.

More sophisticated instruments are used to measure subterranean landscapes today, but the mini-earthquake maker still functions as well now as it did 100 years ago. You can see it in action in the video below.

[h/t Tom Scott]

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