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Ellen McCallie's Diary

Day 17: Waterproof Tent

Cloudy, drizzling. As we were driving to the sawmill to start work this morning, Jonathan got this idea that I could make the seismograph a tent to keep it out of the rain. Kathy and the series producer, Steve, got into the idea and we were off. We had three hours to design and construct a custom-made waterproof seismograph cover that could also double as a tent in the mountains. The Mikes had had a day and a half; we have three hours. Obviously, the parameters are a bit different, but it sure gave us motivation. Plus, the seismograph did need a cover for two reasons: one, rain would smear the ink trace the seismograph was producing and that was the central feature of what Kathy and Jonathan had been working on for three days, and two, the second reason, which we hadn't thought of at the time, was to protect the seismograph from flying debris from the dynamite explosion.

I whipped up a 5½ by 4½ foot mat from flax. Drew and Ian, the cameraman and soundman respectively, whipped up the frame. Sophie, the director, helped with both.

I love seeing the crew work on challenges. They do just as good a job, if not better, than "the scientists", which supports our premise that science is problem solving and a way of thinking that is not limited to scientists, and in fact most people engage in the thinking processes daily. (People are typically scared of the concept of science but not scared of doing it if they aren't told it's science.)

<Photo: Ellen with flax matWe did whip up a tent of sorts for the seismograph. We went to the quarry and the dynamite guys blew up rock faces and nothing showed up on the seismograph. Jonathan had talked about this possibility at the very beginning of this challenge. We don't want a real test as they are expecting a catastrophic earthquake in this area sometime in the next 100 years. It would bury us all.

Dynamite was set off three or four times, closer and closer to the machine and it finally registered a blip when it was five feet from it. My feeling is that the seismograph was probably pretty good, but the test of its effectiveness wasn't the right one. So it goes.

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Photo: Ellen McCallie
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