Swiftquakes: The Seismic Waves of Taylor Swift's Concerts

Groundbreaking research explores music's unexpected geological impact.

by Zain ul Abedin
Swiftquakes: The Seismic Waves of Taylor Swift's Concerts
© Kevin Winter/Getty Images for TAS Rights Management

It's not our intention to be branded solely as a conduit for Swiftie news, but occasionally, a story emerges that's too compelling to ignore. Last year, in Los Angeles, the exuberant zeal of Taylor Swift's fans at the SoFi Stadium caused an unusual phenomenon that captured the attention of the scientific community: their collective energy set off vibrations through the earth's crust, essentially causing what could be termed a mini-seismic event.

Imagine, 70,000 fans moving in unison to the rhythm of "Shake It Off," generating such forceful vibrations that they registered on the seismic scale with a magnitude of 0.85. It's as if "girl power" took on a literal, palpable form.

This unique seismic activity persisted for several minutes, mimicking the effects one might expect from a significant geological disturbance. Gabrielle Tepp, who spearheaded the research team at Caltech, noted the sustained nature of this vibrational phenomenon, stating that the collective energy exerted over several minutes was comparable to the impact of a magnitude-2 earthquake.

Interestingly, each song Taylor Swift performed left its unique seismic signature dubbed "concert tremors" that wasn't a result of the concert's amplification but rather the kinetic energy from the crowd's enthusiastic movements.

This adds a novel interpretation to "distinct harmonic tremors."

Seismic Study Initiated

Prompted by a similar event at a Taylor Swift concert in Seattle, the California Office of Emergency Services initiated a study, employing sensors at the SoFi Stadium and integrating this data with the state’s existing seismic network.

Of the 45 songs performed on August 5, 2023, an astounding 43 resulted in identifiable seismic patterns. However, it's essential to note that such crowd-induced seismic activity isn't entirely unprecedented. For instance, football games have been known to trigger measurable seismic responses due to fan reactions.

Yet, the "Swiftquakes" stand out for their uniqueness. Comparatively, a Metallica concert at the same venue drew a larger crowd but resulted in a lesser seismic impact. Tepp suggests that this variance likely stems from the difference in audience engagement, with Taylor Swift's fans engaging in swift, energetic dancing that proved more impactful than the more stationary head-banging of metal fans.

Thus, if fans of other genres are aiming to match the seismic impact of a "Swiftquake," they might need to consider increasing their physical activity levels. While safety should always be a priority, it's intriguing to consider the science behind such phenomena, highlighting the physical power of collective human energy and enthusiasm.

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