Although earthquakes have been happening for millions of years and we have lots of data about them, we still can’t predict exactly when and where they’ll happen. Thousands of people die every year as a result and the costs of material damage from a single earthquake can run into the hundreds of billions of dollars.
The problem is that based on the data we have, earthquakes and almost-earthquakes look roughly the same, right up until the moment when an almost-earthquake becomes the real thing. But by then, of course, it’s too late.
And if scientists were to warn people every time they thought they recognized the data for what appeared to be an earthquake, there would be a lot of false-alarm evacuations. What’s more, much like the ...