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Strongest earthquake in decades a reminder that California is "way overdue" for the "big one," expert says

Michio Kaku on imminent California earthquake
Michio Kaku on California earthquakes: "We're playing Russian roulette with Mother Nature" 02:50

A Southern California county is shaken after the region's strongest earthquake in 20 years damaged homes, sparked fires and injured several people. The good news about Thursday's 6.4-magnitude quake, according to CBS News contributor and physicist Michio Kaku, is that it happened in an unpopulated area of the Mojave Desert about 100 miles from the main San Andreas fault. The bad news? "The probability of a 'big one' hasn't changed at all," he said.

"We're playing Russian roulette with Mother Nature. You realize the last big earthquake to hit the L.A. segment of the San Andreas fault was 1680. That's over 300 years ago. But the cycle time for breaks and earthquakes on the San Andreas fault is 130 years, so we are way overdue. In any given year, the probability of the big one is 3% in any given year. Think about that," he said.

Seismologists in California are predicting another major earthquake may strike in the days ahead. There have already been more than 100 aftershocks in the region. But predicting an earthquake isn't easy. It all comes down to probability, according to Kaku.

Powerful earthquake hits Southern California 03:40

"Look, I'll be blunt. It's voodoo black magic trying to predict when an earthquake is going to take place. The Japanese are the world's leader in this area, and they can only predict an earthquake perhaps maybe a few seconds to a minute before it actually hits. So we are children when it comes to understanding earthquake prediction," he said. "In 30 years' time the probability of the big one is about 100%. So we will see the big one. It's inevitable. It's going to happen. It's the law of physics."

Because of that inevitability, he said California residents should get prepared now.

"Learn about things you can do for the family. Talk to your family, kids, loved ones, what to do, stock up on food, water in case of an emergency. Go have an escape route. Get hooked up to the internet or radio or whatever. Be prepared, basically, because it will happen."

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