Seismology: Toward Better Quakecasting

California's politicians have long boasted that their state is on the move. Scientists agree. On opposite sides of a 600-mile line called the San Andreas fault, the coastal strip of California is slowly but inexorably moving to the northwest while the remainder of the state is shifting toward the southeast.

This strange mobility of terrain is of more than academic interest. It produces the earthquakes that suddenly and with out warning jolt areas of California, occasionally with catastrophic results.

Although scientists are powerless to prevent earthquakes, they have high hopes that they can some day forecast them with reasonable accuracy. That...

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