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The perennial promise of successful earthquake prediction captures the imagination of a public hungry for certainty in an uncertain world. Yet, given the lack of any reliable method of predicting earthquakes [e.g., Geller, 1997; Kagan and Jackson, 1996; Evans, 1997], seismologists regularly have to explain news stories of a supposedly successful earthquake prediction when it is far from clear just how successful that prediction actually was. When journalists and public relations offices report the latest ‘great discovery’ regarding the prediction of earthquakes, seismologists are left with the much less glamorous task of explaining to the public the gap between the claimed success and the sober reality that there is no scientifically proven method of predicting earthquakes.

A striking example of this situation occurred when NASA posted a feature article on its Web site in 2004 in which an earthquake prediction project it funded was heralded as an “amazing success” (see http://www.nasa.gov/vision/earth/environment/0930_earthquake.html). Because this kind of hyperbole is a constant source of frustration for scientists at Weston Observatory (Boston College, Weston, Mass.), where seismologists try to accurately report the state of the art of research on earthquake prediction to the public, we decided to test just how amazing this particular success was.