The hundred or so geologists and seismologists who turned up for the informal monthly meeting of California's Pick and Hammer Club expected an evening of socializing and routine gossip about faults, core samples and volcanoes. Instead, they heard scientific history in the making. As part of his work for the U.S. Geological Survey's Earthquake Research Center, Seismologist Malcolm Johnston had just finished analyzing data from seven monitoring stations set up along the San Andreas Fault in the quake-prone Hollister area. His figures, Johnston told his colleagues, showed that the strength of...

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