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Lucy Jones is among the world's most influential seismologists—and perhaps the most recognizable. (David Zentz / Aurora Select)

Meet Lucy Jones, "the Earthquake Lady"

As part of her plan to prepare Americans for the next "big one," the seismologist tackles the dangerous phenomenon of denial

“Some people don’t like my style,” she told me later, referring to how excited she gets about the earth moving. “They think I’m, like, a little too enthusiastic. I shouldn’t be enjoying myself that much in a disaster.”

But enthusiasm—for knowledge, for inquiry and for putting both to work—has driven not just her mastery of geophysics but her ability to communicate that know-how with others, and probably save lives in the bargain.

“We have an irrational fear of earthquakes, partly because they create a feeling of being out of control,” she says. “We’re afraid of dying in them, even though the risk is extremely small. You’re almost undoubtedly going to live through it. And probably your house is going to be OK. It’s the aftermath that we need to prepare for.”

Amy Wallace, a journalist in Los Angeles, has both experienced and written about earthquakes.

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