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When Taylor Swift performed Shake It Off in Seattle, Swifties literally shook the Earth, seismologists say


When Taylor Swift took the stage at Seattle’s Lumen Field this past weekend, the Earth moved. Literally.

Jackie Caplan-Auberbach, a professor in the geology department at the University of Western Washington, pulled the data, which showed the pop star’s Eras Tour concert caused twice as much shaking as the infamous “Beast Quake” of 2011 — when Marshawn Lynch scored a touchdown for the Seattle Seahawks, and secured the NFL team a victory in a wild card playoff game.

The Pacific Northwest Seismic Network (PNSN) calculated Seattle fans cheering for the touchdown made the Earth shake with the equivalent of a 2.0 magnitude earthquake.

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“If that was a two, this would’ve been a 2.3.,” Caplan-Auberbach told CBC News. 

She noted that it’s not clear whether it was the fans dancing, or the booming sound system that caused all the shaking. In fact, by geology standards, it’s a pretty insignificant blip on the seismometer.

The machine used to measure the vibrations from the Earth happens to be located next to the stadium where Swift was performing back-to-back sold-out shows. 

The seismometer set list

The data the seismologists collected can be used in some pretty interesting ways.

Mouse Reusch of PNSN told CBC News her colleagues took readings of the ground shaking, sped it up and turned them into an audio file.

When they played that back, they were able to reverse-engineer the concert’s set list by comparing the beats per minute of the readings and Swift’s songs.

“It was kind of this weird, backwards way of coming up with the set list from … the seismometer sitting next door to the Lumen Field,” she said.

Getting Swifties into science 

Although Caplan-Auberbach said the data is just “a little bit of noise” from a seismology perspective, she notes the exercise is as a great opportunity to get teenagers and Swifties excited about science.

“For me, one of the really exciting parts is sharing what science is … and letting people recognize that science is not just a question of asking these erudite questions about things that don’t matter to us or that you have to be in a white lab coat in a lab,” she said.

“Observations that we make about the world, questions that we ask about the world, tests that we run to see if our questions or hypotheses are right, all of that is science. Even if we’re doing it about things like music, like dancing, like things that fulfil us,” Caplan-Auberbach said.

“And I really hope that people see from this that we do science all the time, and I really hope it demystifies what the scientific process is like.”

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