New Yorkers saw DC quake tweets before the ground shook

The USGS operates a really neat email/SMS earthquake notification service (earthquake.usgs.gov/ens/) that allows fine-grained control of notifications.

It is said by some that Twitter is the fastest way to get the word out about the news -- and in the case of the 5.8 tremblor that struck central Virginia on Tuesday afternoon, for some that may actually have been the case.

Shock waves from quakes travel at a high rate of speed, however not fast enough that there may be a delay in the ground shaking actually occurring.

According to the USGS, the rate of speed that a seismic wave travels can be anywhere from five to eight kilometers per second. The epicenter of Tuesday's quake was near Mineral, Va. As the crow flies, that would be about 300 miles or 482 kilometers to New York City.

As far as BetaNews can tell, the first tweet on the DC quake using the #earthquake hashtag was from Twitter user @NeimanMarcus757, who tweeted he felt it at 10:52, seconds after the quake. One of his New Yorker followers may have seen that tweet before actually feeling it his or herself.

Another twitter user, JesseCFriedman, claims that was the case: "I saw the tweets from DC about earthquake, then 15 seconds later felt it in NYC. Social media is faster than seismic waves!"

Doing the math, it would be completely plausible for a New York City Twitter user to see tweets on the earthquake before he or she feels it, because the seismic wave would have taken anywhere from 60 to 96 seconds to reach Central Park.

Cartoon Credit: XKCD

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