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Scientists convicted for failing to warn about earthquake

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Scientists convicted for failing to warn about earthquake

Postby kurt_w » Mon Oct 22, 2012 5:11 pm

Yikes.

This story is, at least on its face, really disturbing:

Italian scientists convicted over earthquake warning

Maybe there are details that make it seem less outrageous, but from what I've read so far, the idea that scientists would be convicted in court on manslaughter charges for failing to predict an earthquake is ... really, really ridiculous.

Earthquake prediction is incredibly difficult. The economic damage from "false positives" -- warnings given unnecessarily -- could be very high. Who wants to be responsible for potentially shutting down all economic activity in a major city due to a mistaken warning about a nonexistent earthquake?

For that matter, if you predict a series of earthquakes correctly, and then failed to predict one, people would see the past record of successful predictions as evidence that the "missed" one was malpractice.

This whole concept of holding scientists legally responsible for warning the public about earthquakes just seems incredibly misguided.
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Re: Scientists convicted for failing to warn about earthquak

Postby gargantua » Mon Oct 22, 2012 6:38 pm

Unless there is evidence that they knew, or should have known, that an earthquake of that magnitude was almost certain to occur, this is ridiculous. It seems like human nature at its worst. The survivors need someone to blame, you can't very well arrest God, so you find a scapegoat.

It's pretty sickening really. If I were a scientist of any type in that country, I'd be looking to emigrate post haste.
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Re: Scientists convicted for failing to warn about earthquak

Postby Sandi » Mon Oct 22, 2012 7:07 pm

I agree with gargantua. There should be a "Stupid Should Hurt" forum category for stuff like this.
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Re: Scientists convicted for failing to warn about earthquak

Postby pjbogart » Mon Oct 22, 2012 11:45 pm

Sandi wrote:I agree with gargantua. There should be a "Stupid Should Hurt" forum category for stuff like this.


Thank you for that blathering non-opinion, Sandi. Surely you deserve to be moderator of the "Stupid Should Hurt" category.
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Re: Scientists convicted for failing to warn about earthquak

Postby Sandi » Tue Oct 23, 2012 3:23 am

pjbogart wrote:
Sandi wrote:I agree with gargantua. There should be a "Stupid Should Hurt" forum category for stuff like this.


Thank you for that blathering non-opinion, Sandi. Surely you deserve to be moderator of the "Stupid Should Hurt" category.


Thank you pj :D
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Re: Scientists convicted for failing to warn about earthquak

Postby kurt_w » Tue Oct 23, 2012 10:43 am

The president and vice-president of Italy's agency that seeks to prevent natural disasters have both resigned in protest.

This case is a terrible black eye for Italy. Unless the decision is reversed fast, it's likely to cause Italian scientists to move elsewhere. It also will make it very unlikely that any municipality or local government in Italy will be able to get advice from seismologists or geophysicists on any topic remotely related to public safety.
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Re: Scientists convicted for failing to warn about earthquak

Postby Francis Di Domizio » Tue Oct 23, 2012 10:58 am

kurt_w wrote:The president and vice-president of Italy's agency that seeks to prevent natural disasters have both resigned in protest.

This case is a terrible black eye for Italy. Unless the decision is reversed fast, it's likely to cause Italian scientists to move elsewhere. It also will make it very unlikely that any municipality or local government in Italy will be able to get advice from seismologists or geophysicists on any topic remotely related to public safety.


Yeah, I can't see this ending well. Italy has a lot of tectonic activity, so discouraging scientists from paying attention to it is bound to have an even more disastrous effects.
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