As seismologists we have a public communications dilemma. It manifests itself in at least two ways. The first is captured well in a joke:

Why do seismologists hate to go to cocktail parties? The answer: They are sick of having to say “I don’t know.” And what question invariably provokes this response? Well, think of the very first question someone you meet at a party asks you, once you have revealed your profession. When they learn that you study earthquakes, they inevitably ask “When is the next Big One?” And we all know how challenging it is to seriously explain...

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