The odds are good that earthquake-predicting software is coming soon

In 1994, when I was 24 and living in Los Angeles, there was a serious earthquake. I'd been a resident for two years by then, so it wasn't exactly my first quake. But at 6.7 on the Richter Scale, it was definitely my most serious.

Known now as the Northridge quake, 57 people died, 12,000 residents were injured, buildings collapsed, cars were crushed, the electricity died across the city, and there was, quite literally, panic in the rubble-filled streets. Many businesses shut down for a day or two, and when it was all said and done, there was an estimated $12.5 billion in damage. The whole thing lasted approximately 20 seconds.

So it's wonderful to hear about an earthquake-sensing project that's in the making, that many people with a personal computer -- at least a new one -- will eventually be able to participate in. Elizabeth Cochran, a seismologist at University of California Riverside, came up with the idea in 2006, but according to a recent press release just issued by the University of California, the "Quake-Catcher Network" will be publicly released, tentatively this summer.