The BBC reports that NASA scientists believe they may have found a way to forecast earthquakes using satellites. Yes, satellites:

Minoru and his father Friedemann Freund, also from NASA Ames Research Center, developed the scientific theory behind these earthquake precursors. It boils down to the idea that when rocks are compressed--as when tectonic plates shift--they act like batteries, producing electric currents. ...

According to their theory, the charge carriers consist of a specific type of electron, called a phole, which can travel large distances in laboratory experiments.

When they travel to the surface of the Earth, the surface becomes positively charged. And this charge can be strong enough to affect the ionosphere, causing the disturbances documented by satellites.

It's still in the testing phase, but there's evidence to bear out the theory: A study of large earthquakes found that the disturbance was observed prior to nearly all of them. Sounds promising.

--Josh Patashnik