Radon gas may leak out of fault lines in greater quantities prior to an earthquake. In 2009, an Italian man claimed to have used radon monitors to predict a quake near his hometown of L'Aquila. Success with the radon approach has been—like all attempts at predicting quakes—rather hit and miss. But a physics Nobel laureate hopes to change that with a new, improved radon detector that easier to use in the field.
Maggie Koerth-Baker is the science editor at BoingBoing.net. She writes a monthly column for The New York Times Magazine and is the author of Before the Lights Go Out, a book about electricity, infrastructure, and the future of energy. You can find Maggie on Twitter and Facebook.