A street in New York City emptied out by social distancing. Photo by Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Social distancing measures around the world are so great they have actually caused the Earth to move less.

The big picture: There is no shortage of ways to measure how much responses to the pandemic have slowed human movement. But the idea that the planet itself has become stiller is truly mind-blowing.

In a story in Nature, Elizabeth Gibney reported that scientists are detecting a drop in seismic noise that could be due to the suspension of transportation and other forms of human movement.

  • Noise reduction of this magnitude usually only occurs briefly during Christmas, when much of the world is on holiday.
  • Data from a seismometer at the Royal Observatory of Belgium found social distancing measures had caused human-induced seismic noise to fall by a third in Brussels.

Why it matters: Beyond giving us one more sign of just how frozen in place the world has become, the drop in background noise should help city-based seismic detectors pinpoint the location of earthquake aftershocks. Which is good, just in case the Earth throws us another curveball.

Go deeper: More unexpected consequences of the pandemic

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Deadly Hurricane Zeta churns inland after lashing Louisiana

A satellite image of Hurricane Zeta. Photo: National Hurricane Center/NOAA

Hurricane Zeta has killed at least one person after a downed power line electrocuted a 55-year-old in Louisiana as the storm moved into Alabama overnight.

What's happening: After "battering southeastern Louisiana and southern Mississippi," it began lashing Alabama late Wednesday, per the National Hurricane Center.

46 mins ago - World

Taiwan reaches a record 200 days with no local coronavirus cases

Catholics go through containment protocols including body-temperature measurement and hands-sanitisation before entering the Saint Christopher Parish Church, Taipei City, Taiwan, in July. Photo: Ceng Shou Yi/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Taiwan on Thursday marked no locally transmitted coronavirus cases for 200 days, as the island of 23 million people's total number of infections reported stands at 550 and the COVID-19 death toll at seven.

Why it matters: Nowhere else in the world has reached such a milestone. While COVID-19 cases surge across the U.S. and Europe, Taiwan's last locally transmitted case was on April 12. Experts credit tightly regulated travel, early border closure, "rigorous contact tracing, technology-enforced quarantine and universal mask wearing," along with the island state's previous experience with the SARS virus, per Bloomberg.

Go deeper: As Taiwan's profile rises, so does risk of conflict with China

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Politics: Biden ahead in Wisconsin, Michigan as cases surge in the Midwest.
  2. Health: Fauci says U.S. may not return to normal until 2022 — Trump's testing czar: Surge "is real" and not just caused by more tests Some coronavirus survivors have "autoantibodies."
  3. Business: Consumer confidence sinking Testing is a windfall.
  4. World: Europe faces "stronger and deadlier" wave France imposes lockdown Germany to close bars and restaurants for a month.
  5. Sports: Boston Marathon delayed MLB to investigate Dodgers player who joined celebration after positive COVID test.