Seth Stein got the timing right. Just as the 200th anniversary of the New Madrid earthquakes is ramping up—a time ripe for serious discussions about seismic hazard in the Midwest—he has published Disaster Deferred. It's a compilation of ideas put forth by the author and his coworkers over the past decade, and, as the title implies, it plays down the danger in the heartland. Stein, an opinionated and colorful professor of geophysics at Northwestern University, is a persuasive writer who vigorously presents his point of view, but to a reader's peril. Disaster Deferred is too technical for the general...

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