Stan’s Obligatory Blog


Atomic Tourist, aka Fun with Google Maps

Filed under: — stan @ 5:01 pm

Google maps is great. Check this out:,-116.046867&spn=0.006287,0.007832&t=k&hl=en

It’s the crater from the 1962 ‘Sedan’ test at the Nevada Test Site. It was an experiment in ‘nuclear excavation’, aka digging big holes with atom bombs. This was all part of Project Plowshare, when they actually were considering using ‘nuclear excavation’ to cut a pass through the Bristol Mountains east of Barstow for soon-to-be-built Interstate 40. Fortunately, this was ultimately deemed a Bad Idea and was also precluded by the Limited Test Ban Treaty of 1963.

Scrolling south a bit, and zooming out, here is something else:,-115.936747&spn=0.053129,0.062656&t=k&hl=en

This is Frenchman Lake, which was the site of the 1957 Priscilla test. This was the test where they built bridges and buildings out on the dry lake bed to observe the effects of the blast on the structures. Sadly, Google doesn’t have the higher resolution satellite picture for this region, so we can’t see them in the lake bed.

If you zoom out a bit, you see this:,-116.059055&spn=0.100594,0.125313&t=k&hl=en

Every one of those divots in the earth is a subsidence crater left from an underground nuclear test. The Sedan crater is at the top of the image. If you grab the map with your mouse and scoot it around, you can find other valleys there that are also filled with nuclear divots.

Fifteen more seconds of fame…

Filed under: — stan @ 9:10 am

I got mentioned in a column in the Pasadena Star News on Sunday:

link to the story

“With California’s barrage of earthquakes, and even a tsunami warning last week, the Web site of the Pasadena office of the U.S. Geological Survey has been working overtime.

And it overloaded briefly Thursday.

Within minutes of the magnitude-4.9 earthquake that struck in the middle of the day near Yucaipa and shook all of Los Angeles, hundreds of thousands of people were pointing and clicking on the USGS site.

The number of hits peaked at more than 4,000 per second five minutes after the quake, said Stan Schwarz, system administrator for the USGS Pasadena office.

The system became overloaded and went offline shortly thereafter, but was up and working again about 45 minutes after the quake.

The largest number of hits came from the “Did you feel it?’ map, which doesn’t exist on any other site, Schwarz said.

The USGS’s new tool, which color-codes the likelihood of aftershocks in the next 24 hours, only registered about 6,000 of the 250,000 hits during the peak.

Schwarz said the site gets about six months’ worth of average traffic during the hour immediately following any earthquake that people in Los Angeles can feel.

And, he said, the peak time has gone down, probably as a result of more broadband Internet connections. “It used to be five or six years ago, the peak traffic on our Web site was 10 minutes after the earthquake,’ he said. “You could practically set your watch on it.’”

Ever since the Hector Mine Earthquake in 1999, I’ve made a little side project out of studying the traffic surges our web servers get after earthquakes. As a sysadmin, it’s largely a matter of self-preservation, since I hate it when they go down.

Note also that the reporter spelled my name correctly. This is unusual, but when she asked how it was spelled, I told her, “it’s easy – it’s spelled just like ‘Schwarzenegger’, but without the ‘enegger’”. She just laughed, but I figured that anyone in the newspaper business in California knows how to spell ‘Schwarzenegger’ now.

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