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It’s still beyond the reach of science to predict exactly when an earthquake will strike, but Japan will soon get the next-best thing — televised warnings that come before the shaking starts.

In an ambitious attempt at protecting large populations from seismic disaster, the Meteorological Agency and NHK are teaming up to alert the public of earthquakes as much as 30 seconds before they hit, or at least before they can bring their full force down on populated areas.

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