As the ongoing tragedy in Haiti makes clear, earthquakes remain a great blight on humanity. One question worth asking is what is the best way to deal with earthquakes, through prediction or by trying to build more securely in earthquake zones. Writing in the New York Times, geophysicist Susan Hough noted that “scientists have been chasing earthquake prediction — the holy grail of earthquake science — for decades … Yet we have little to no real progress to show for our efforts.” Some scientists have gone so far to argue that earthquake prediction is like alchemy: not a real science but an impossible dream.
I discuss these issue with the mathimatician Florin Diacu, whose recent book Megadisasters has a good discussion of the subject. My conversation with Diacu can be found here. I’ve pasted the relevant section of Diacu’s book below.