The familiar linear relation (Gutenberg-Richter) between the logarithm of the number of earthquakes and their magnitude is commonly ascribed to the distribution (fractal) of fault sizes in a self-similar process. We show that a concept of earthquake quanta whose failure is governed by simple physics and suggested by observations explains not only the Gutenberg-Richter relation but also the relatively constant stress drop for larger magnitude events. Results from computer simulation are consistent with observations from detailed seismicity studies.

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