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    Seismologist predicts 'big one' this year

    By Benjamin Spillman

    Jeff Gardner is deep in the heart of a seismological amusement park and the only thing shaking is his 12-year-old Suburban.

    Gardner, 39, is an off-road tour guide whose typical route bounces directly on top of the San Andreas Fault north of Interstate 10 in the Coachella Valley.

    He says the famous fault is a great stop for tourists trying to comprehend the enormous forces responsible for the desertís unique topography.

    "That is what they call the most geologically tortured terrain on the planet," says Gardner as the 4X4 bumps toward a canyon formed by ridges jutting upward from the fault. "It is hard to make any rhyme or reason of it."

    But thanks to a Russian professor who Gardner, or most anyone whoís not a seismologist, has never heard of, thereís fresh interest in predicting the behavior of one of the desertís oldest features.

    Thatís because UCLA seismologist and mathematical geophysicist Vladimir Keilis-Borok is predicting a magnitude 6.4 or greater earthquake by Sept. 5 somewhere in the desert between Mexico and Barstow.