Imagine a densely populated region in the contiguous United States haunted over the past 25 years by nine big earthquakes of magnitudes 5.5 to 7.8, killing hundreds of thousands of people. Imagine further that in a singularly glorious instance a daring prediction effort, based on some scientifically poorly understood natural phenomena, led to the evacuation of a major city just 13 hours before an M = 7.8 earthquake hit. None of the inhabitants of the evacuated city died, while in the surrounding, nonevacuated communities 240,000 were killed and about 600,000 seriously injured. Imagine at last that, tragically, the prediction of the next earthquake of a similar magnitude failed, as well as the following one, at great loss of life.
If this were an American scenario, the scientific community and the public at large would buzz with the glory of that one successful, life-saving earthquake prediction effort and with praise for American ingenuity The fact that the next predictions failed would likely have energized the public, the political bodies, the scientists, and the funding agencies alike to go after a recalcitrant Earth, to poke into her deep secrets with all means at the scientists' disposal, and to retrieve even the faintest signals that our restless planet may send out prior to unleashing her deadly punches.