Seismologists Tried for Manslaughter for Not Predicting Earthquake

  • Thread starter Evo
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  • #1
Evo
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How crazy is this?

Earthquake prediction can be a grave, and faulty science, and in the case of Italian seismologists who are being tried for the manslaughter of the people who died in the 2009 L'Aquila quake, it can have legal consequences.

The group of seven, including six seismologists and a government official, reportedly didn't alert the public ahead of time of the risk of the L'Aquila earthquake, which occurred on April 6 of that year, killing around 300 people, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

But most scientists would agree it's not their fault they couldn't predict the wrath of Mother Nature.

"We're not able to predict earthquakes very well at all," John Vidale, a Washington State seismologist and professor at the University of Washington, told LiveScience.

Even though advances have been made, the day scientists are able to forecast earthquakes is still "far away," Dimitar Ouzounov, a professor of earth sciences at Chapman University in California, said this month regarding the prediction of the March 11 earthquake in Japan.
Continued...

This is beyond absurd.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/livescience/20110526/sc_livescience/seismologiststriedformanslaughterfornotpredictingearthquake [Broken]
 
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  • #2
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I can't access the link, but this is nuts! Even determining the epicenter of an earthquake after it happens is not an exact science.
 
  • #3
Evo
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I think I fixed the link.
 
  • #4
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The Italian courts love trying people for manslaughter after a negative consequences of something totally beyond control. It'll never stick.
 
  • #5
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That's why I chose Mathematics over the sciences.
 
  • #6
411
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Thx for fixing the link Evo, i just read it. Nutty!
 
  • #7
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looney tunes. they're obviously still pretty shook-up about their loss...
 
  • #8
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That's why I chose Mathematics over the sciences.
Science is still not as well regulated as engineering.

For Iceland volcano, I recall reading an article that there were some failures in the government which resulted in not efficient handling of that crisis. I will try to find link.
 
  • #9
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I predict there will be a drop in their students seeking professions as seismologists.
 
  • #10
Ivan Seeking
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Next up, law suits against "psychics".
 
  • #11
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I may be in the minority, but I think it's only fair. How else can we expect seismologists and other nature experts to do their best work if we don't hold them accountable? As an engineer, if my poor work causes wrongful deaths, I would get sued too. It's no different.

Just kidding :tongue:
 
  • #12
Borek
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Seeing the title I thought it is about some third world country, or perhaps US where suing everyone over everything is a national sport. But Italy... they couldn't deal with Berlusconi for so long, but they can try people for not predicting earthquakes - for me that moves Italy from the south of European tectonic plate to the north of African tectonic plate. That's an earthquake!

I wonder whom they will sue for that.
 
  • #13
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As has been said, this is ludicrous. But it is only an extreme example of a common modern phenomenon of the misplacing of blame. Just a symptom, I suppose, of what is referred to as ‘the blame culture’. There is, of course, a genuine question of negligence in some circumstances, but it does seem to be increasingly common to answer some basic need to place blame somewhere by not just placing it in the wrong place, but by placing it with the people who might have prevented it, because they didn’t prevent it. This does not actually lead to better prevention in the future it tends to diminish prevention capability, because those who might prevent it are more concerned with ensuring that they will not be held responsible than they are with diligent prevention work.
 
  • #14
Astronuc
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. . . , but by placing it with the people who might have prevented it, because they didn’t prevent it. This does not actually lead to better prevention in the future it tends to diminish prevention capability, because those who might prevent it are more concerned with ensuring that they will not be held responsible than they are with diligent prevention work.
However, it is not possible to prevent earthquakes. At best, they could be predicted, but that would require extraordinary knowledge of the state of the earth in a given location. The best they could have done is indicate some probability or likelihood of an earthquake in some time frame - but then perhaps the only possible result is a continuous state of alert of the population.

Rather, the fault should be with governments or people who establish building criteria that do not reflect the reality of nature, or the contractors/builders who build substandard structures, or the people who buy structures in areas where those structures are in danger.

I would hope that the lawsuit is dismissed. It is absurd that it was brought in the first place.

Some context:
Earthquakes mark the history of L'Aquila, a city built on the bed of an ancient lake, providing a soil structure that amplifies seismic waves. The city was struck by earthquakes in 1315, 1349, 1452, 1501, 1646, 1703, and 1706. The earthquake of February 1703, which caused devastation across much of central Italy, largely destroyed the city and killed around 5,000 people
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2009_L'Aquila_earthquake#Historical_context

In other words, this is not a site appropriate for large or rigid structures. I suspect that the buildings are not designed or constructed for mag 6.0+ earthquakes.

See comment about poor building standards - which could mean that the codes are poor, or builders don't build appropriately.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2009_L'Aquila_earthquake#Building_standards

Interestingly, there was one person who warned of an imminent earthquake, but he was dismissed as alarmist.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2009_L'Aquila_earthquake#Prior_warning_controversy

For consideration: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earthquake_engineering
 
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  • #15
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Just for the record, I predict an earthquake in every location and at every time.
 
  • #16
lisab
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Just for the record, I predict an earthquake in every location and at every time.
Can I sue you because I just spent the last half hour sheltered under my desk?
 
  • #17
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Wow... :confused:

What's next? Suing "the earth" for killing people with earthquakes?

But we all know the seismologists could do nothing about it. It are the laws of physics that allowed the earthquakes to happen. And who studies the laws of physics? Right! Sue the physicists!
 
  • #18
918
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Can I sue you because I just spent the last half hour sheltered under my desk?
Yesterday I would have said no, but today I'm not sure. Just for the record, I'm suing everybody.
 
  • #19
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Unbelievable!.... evidently echos of the dark ages are still reverberating.
 
  • #20
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Unbelievable!.... evidently echos of the dark ages are still reverberating.
Yes this came to mind, and the Salem witch trials although that is a bit different.
 
  • #21
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Southern Europe in general is like Texas or Georgia but in Europe, so this kind of stuff isn't surprising. The Italian juridical system is very corrupt, especially in the South.
 
  • #22
DaveC426913
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OK, Devil's Advocate here for a moment.

There's no claim that the seismologists were responsible for correctly predicting the earthquake or anything silly like that.

But it is plausible that there were warning protocols in place that they were bound to execute, and did not. And that is something they can be held accountable for.

We should wait to see that the charges are.
 
  • #23
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Yeah I also thought that there may have been some misunderstanding in that article, but then I remembered this was in Italy. I wouldn't be surprised if this attempt at throwing the guilt away from the government's poor handling of the situation is based on some kind of event that the seismologists could interpret as an earthquake warning but didn't due to it likely not being an earthquake.
 
  • #24
Evo
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OK, Devil's Advocate here for a moment.

There's no claim that the seismologists were responsible for correctly predicting the earthquake or anything silly like that.

But it is plausible that there were warning protocols in place that they were bound to execute, and did not. And that is something they can be held accountable for.

We should wait to see that the charges are.
The article does state the circumstances, do you have an article that says otherwise?

The decision to try the six members of a committee tasked with determining the risk of an earthquake in the area (along with a government official) was announced on Wednesday (May 25) by Judge Giuseppe Romano, according to a news article from the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Some people said the committee should've seen it coming, because of the earthquake swarms that occurred days before the big one struck, Vidale said.

"We get swarms of earthquakes all the time without a big earthquake. There was nothing strange about this swarm to suggest a big earthquake," Vidale said in a telephone interview.

Regarding the charges against the Italian seismologists, Vidale said "we're offended" that they are being charged with a crime "for telling the truth." That truth is, he added, there was nothing to say that the level of danger was enough to warrant any public action.
 
  • #25
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http://www.google.com/search?q=sued...F-8&tbo=u&tbm=nws&source=og&sa=N&hl=en&tab=wn

Apparently what I am getting out of this is that one guy happened to predict an earthquake using one piece of evidence. He was wrong and had people listened to him the devastation would have been worse, however these 7 scientists held a press conference saying there was no danger. Then a week later the earthquake hits.

It is still a ridiculously stupid argument and should get thrown out, but at least it makes a little more sense.
 

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