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Scientists Who Failed to Warn of Quake Found Guilty of Manslaughter

timothy posted about 2 years ago | from the well-that-sounds-productive dept.

The Courts 459

An anonymous reader notes that the BBC reports "Six Italian scientists and an ex-government official have been sentenced to six years in prison over the 2009 deadly earthquake in L'Aquila. A regional court found them guilty of multiple manslaughter. Prosecutors said the defendants gave a falsely reassuring statement before the quake, while the defence maintained there was no way to predict major quakes. The 6.3 magnitude quake devastated the city and killed 309 people." The scientists were first charged more than two years ago.

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459 comments

Misleading summary (5, Informative)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about 2 years ago | (#41730239)

They were found guilty not primarily for failing to predict the earthquake, but for releasing a statement saying there was probably not going to be one. They are accused of giving people a false sense of security resulting in them not taking necessary precautions.

Re:Misleading summary (4, Insightful)

Quakeulf (2650167) | about 2 years ago | (#41730271)

Well, if you live in an area which is (historically) earthquake prone, then saying it is not going to happen is not going to make much sense, especially if you are an authority on the subject. It always pays to be cautious on these things. Look at Japan. They have been telling stories about "the big one" for many years and it finally happened last year.

Re:Misleading summary (5, Interesting)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 2 years ago | (#41730385)

And if no earthquake had happened, they would have inevitably been accused of causin a panic. The lesson here is don't be a geologist in Italy.

Re:Misleading summary (5, Interesting)

vlm (69642) | about 2 years ago | (#41730699)

And if no earthquake had happened, they would have inevitably been accused of causin a panic. The lesson here is don't be a geologist in Italy.

Golly, guess what happened WRT THIS VERY SAME EARTHQUAKE?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2009_L'Aquila_earthquake#Prior_warning_controversy [wikipedia.org]

Basically A predicted a quake would strike based on multiple measurements, and got a judicial gag order and police breathing down his neck. Its bad for tourism, you know?
B was used as a weapon against A
Quake happens.
A writes papers, makes presentations, gets his gag order lifted, turns out he was correct after all. Whoops.
B gets a sound spanking today.

The real crooks are the cops and civil defense people, not the peons they used as weapons against the guy who correctly predicted the quakes. But they're above the law, so the peons get jail time instead.

In the end, too many people died, therefore either these guys were going to jail or Giuliani was going to jail. All things considered, they probably made the least wrong choice by sending these guys to jail.

As that radio dude used to say "... and now you know the rest of the story"

Re:Misleading summary (5, Informative)

saveferrousoxide (2566033) | about 2 years ago | (#41730949)

that radio dude

Paul Harvey

Re:Misleading summary (5, Informative)

tomhath (637240) | about 2 years ago | (#41730711)

You are close to what actually happened. An amateur geologist decided for reasons of his own that an earthquake was imminent and had been spreading panic for several months before the quake. These geologists tried to calm people's fears by stating (correctly) that there was no scientific evidence that an earthquake was about to strike.

I assume there have been many such predictions over the years and authorities have responded by assuring people that there was no reason to panic. As luck would have it, this time there was an earthquake that killed many people (actually not all that uncommon where it happened, so it wasn't pure luck that the guy predicted it). So now whenever anyone cries "wolf" in Italy everyone needs to take it seriously.

Re:Misleading summary (-1, Flamebait)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 2 years ago | (#41730773)

The lesson here is don't be a geologist in Italy.

No. The lesson here is that if you make forecasts, don't lie to people about the reliability of those forecasts. They had no scientific basis for them telling people not to worry.

Re:Misleading summary (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41730859)

The lesson here is don't be a geologist in Italy.

No. The lesson here is that if you make forecasts, don't lie to people about the reliability of those forecasts. They had no scientific basis for them telling people not to worry.

No, the people had no more reason to worry than usual, that was the message. It's not the scientists fault if they weren't worried enough already.

Re:Misleading summary (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41730979)

No you cannot prove a negative assertion. The burden of proof is on the original earthquake prediction. No scientific evidence came forward at the time, so the professional scientists announced their dismissal of the prediction.

The failure here is the lack of basic science education in the basic population and in the legal system's utter ignorance. Justice is not only blind, but it's spastic as well.

Re:Misleading summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41731055)

that is not the lesson, since they did not make a forecast. Saying there is no evidence of a potential earthquake is not the same as saying there will be no earthquake.

From now on, when asked, Geologists will say..... (4, Informative)

kawabago (551139) | about 2 years ago | (#41730819)

A large and devastating earthquake is imminent somewhere on earth 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Re:Misleading summary (4, Insightful)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 2 years ago | (#41730957)

They have been telling stories about "the big one" for many years and it finally happened last year.

Anecdotal evidence, confirmation bias...what other problems can you find in that sentence?

Re:Misleading summary (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41730299)

This still causes chilling effects.

Now scientists studying earthquakes will become like the various environuts who say the world is going to end at midnight, every night, because of X, Y, and Z. If they don't, they could end up in jail.

Considering how few listen to the environuts, we are in for a world of hurt if this decision permeates all science.

Re:Misleading summary (-1)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 2 years ago | (#41730869)

This still causes chilling effects.

So it will have a chilling effect on liars, causing them to tell the truth instead. How is that a bad thing?

These "scientists" said they had solid evidence that there would be no earthquake, when the truth was that their evidence was so flimsy that it was nearly worthless. They should have just told the truth: That they didn't have enough data to predict anything.

Re:Misleading summary (4, Insightful)

SlippyToad (240532) | about 2 years ago | (#41731035)

So it will have a chilling effect on liars, causing them to tell the truth instead. How is that a bad thing?

You're so fucking ignorant you don't know how this is a bad thing.

Re:Misleading summary (0)

Synerg1y (2169962) | about 2 years ago | (#41730909)

Or maybe some people could learn that they need to take responsibility in positions that require responsibility to perform. I don't think that measuring & predicting earthquakes is an exact science though, but in this case it was obvious enough to bring up questions of competency & negligence.

Re:Misleading summary (2, Funny)

Isarian (929683) | about 2 years ago | (#41730311)

A misleading summary? On MY Slashdot?!

Re:Misleading summary (5, Informative)

MyLongNickName (822545) | about 2 years ago | (#41730337)

I wondered if there was more to the story than the summary indicates. I find it hard to believe a country like Italy would convict based on not having the ability to predict an earthquake.

I did some reading, and the charges have more to do with creating a perception that the earthquake risk was remote and being negligent in their duty to keep the people educated about earthquake preparation and vigilance.

Whether you agree that the scientist were negligent or not, the article title and summary are misleading and flamebait.

Re:Misleading summary (3, Insightful)

scot4875 (542869) | about 2 years ago | (#41730897)

I did some reading, and the charges have more to do with creating a perception that the earthquake risk was remote and being negligent in their duty to keep the people educated about earthquake preparation and vigilance.

The problem is, the fact that the earthquake happened doesn't mean that their assessment of the risk was incorrect. Just because an event is unlikely doesn't mean it won't or can't happen.

--Jeremy

Re:Misleading summary (5, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | about 2 years ago | (#41730959)

I find it hard to believe a country like Italy would convict based on not having the ability to predict an earthquake.

Really? You find it hard to believe that politicians would abuse the justice system for political points in Italy? In Italy? Really? That's hard to believe?

I did some reading, and the charges have more to do with creating a perception that the earthquake risk was remote and being negligent in their duty to keep the people educated about earthquake preparation and vigilance.

If the earthquake risk was in fact remote, then how does this amount to anything other than convicting them for not predicting the quake? Just because it happened doesn't mean it was likely to happen. Long shots do occur.

Re:Misleading summary (2, Interesting)

CKW (409971) | about 2 years ago | (#41731059)

Have you ever personally visited Italy?

Paid attention to the types of things that happen there?

Read about it's recent (100 years) history?

IMHO Italy is first world by it's economy ONLY. A friend and I visited Rome last year, and we couldn't stand all the things wrong with the place, things that wouldn't be allowed to occur in any other modern Western country.

I wasn't surprised that they were charged. I'm not surprised they were convicted.

The only other country that Italy reminds me of, is Australia's policies with regards to technology (evil) privacy (not) and intellectual policy (raep).

Re:Misleading summary (5, Insightful)

SlippyToad (240532) | about 2 years ago | (#41731073)

I did some reading, and the charges have more to do with creating a perception that the earthquake risk was remote and being negligent in their duty to keep the people educated

Oh, MY GOD. That isn't even a charge, or a crime.

Here's what the folks in L'Aquila have just earned: a rapid defection of scientists on the public payroll because they are now afraid to say, or not say, anything. Because an event that can't actually be predicted under any interpretation happened when they didn't expect it.

These IDIOTS have done a serious amount of damage to people who were trying to help them. FUCK EM ALL, seriously. Fucking MORONS.

Re:Misleading summary (3, Informative)

Bobfrankly1 (1043848) | about 2 years ago | (#41731077)

I wondered if there was more to the story than the summary indicates. I find it hard to believe a country like Italy would convict based on not having the ability to predict an earthquake.

I did some reading, and the charges have more to do with creating a perception that the earthquake risk was remote and being negligent in their duty to keep the people educated about earthquake preparation and vigilance.

Whether you agree that the scientist were negligent or not, the article title and summary are misleading and flamebait.

There is more to it, this article seems to detail it out pretty well [nature.com] . It's not "Scientists who failed to warn of Quake", it's more like "Scientists on Advisory Panel claim no danger". There was also another wrinkle in this, a resident and lab tech named "Giampaolo Giuliani" who was warning of earthquakes based on his home-made radon detectors. The article points out that the advisory panel appears to have been convened (at least partially) to silence or discredit Giuliani's predictions, and they held a press conference afterwards where they effectively said there was "no danger" and to go drink some wine.

This is about public officials in a position of trust trying to calm or silence the worry of the public. With the seismic history of the region, what sane scientist would claim that there was no danger? They're not in trouble because of their science, they're in trouble because they let their politics take precedence over public safety. There are other tidbits in the article that lead to this conclusion, showing that the meeting held that day was unusual in many regards, including the lack of routine earthquake preparedness warnings. It looks like the panel "shot from the hip" that day, and missed the mark so horribly that lives were lost as a result of the direction given. When you accept the responsibility of serving on a panel like that, negligence should be a punishable offense.

Re:Misleading summary (1)

Jessified (1150003) | about 2 years ago | (#41731079)

But you are describing academic negligence, hardly a criminal offence. Even if we assume it can be criminal, it's certainly not manslaughter...

Same difference (5, Insightful)

pavon (30274) | about 2 years ago | (#41730355)

The government asked for their assessment, and they gave the best prediction they could given the data they had. Nearly every other seismologist in the world would have given the same assessment. They are being sentenced to prison because they did not predict the quake, pure and simple. The lesson here is that if the Italian government ever asks your assessment on anything, the only valid response is "fuck off and die".

Re:Same difference (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about 2 years ago | (#41730499)

"I don't know" might be better. Of course the government should take some of the blame since it pressured them into giving a more committed response, but apparently the court disagrees.

Re:Same difference (0, Troll)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 2 years ago | (#41731001)

Nearly every other seismologist in the world would have given the same assessment.

Nonsense. Nearly every other seismologist in the world would have told them that we don't know enough about seismology to make a prediction. But these guys didn't do that. They could have just told the truth, but chose not to.

Re:Misleading summary (2)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41730363)

You see a lot of smaller earthquakes, and yet what you know about seismology says, "probably not a big one coming". So you say, "Probably not, but our building codes are seriously dangerous."

Then a big one happens anyway, and the people who stayed inside ended up being hurt.

So they rule to send the scientists (and the politician who repeated their report) to prison. That's batshit, but not particularly surprising for Italy.

Re:Misleading summary (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41730407)

From Ars Technica: In the week before the earthquake struck, the group told the public that the high incidence of smaller earthquakes were not necessarily precursors of a larger quake. They did, however, also mention that earthquakes were unpredictable, and that building codes in the area needed to be adjusted to provide better seismic safety.

That may be what they were found guilty of, but it doesn't sound like it's what they did.

Re:Misleading summary (4, Interesting)

barc0001 (173002) | about 2 years ago | (#41730427)

So you're saying that there are seismologists who CAN predict a likely earthquake a week ahead of time? Interesting. Could you perhaps, provide any evidence these people exist? And tell us why they're not being used to predict earthquakes all over the world in hotspots to save lives?

Re:Misleading summary (4, Informative)

Thruen (753567) | about 2 years ago | (#41730535)

Going by the stories from back when the quake happened, the summary is more accurate than you think. What they said was that a series of tremors didn't mean there's an earthquake coming, not that there isn't going to be an earthquake. It may not sound like the biggest difference, but it really is. If earthquakes were easy to predict, I'd hesitate to defend them, but they aren't. The people who've decided they should've known are people who are not the least bit qualified to make that call, which is why geologists were hired in the first place.

Re:Misleading summary (2)

Krokus (88121) | about 2 years ago | (#41730811)

I think that all those nutjobs that predict the end of the world on such-and-such a date should be thrown in prison when their predictions *don't* come true. Look at all the lives they ruined. People quitting their job, selling their house, giving away all their money. Yet they remain free to predict again and again.

Re:Misleading summary (4, Funny)

vlm (69642) | about 2 years ago | (#41730935)

We should start somewhere a little more predictable, like economists.

Re:Misleading summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41730851)

So it really looks like the builders of the buildings should also be gone after. They should have built things to last.

Re:Misleading summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41730863)

From what little i recall, it was more than that. There was an amount of small quakes around that area, a guy claiming that earthquakes leave precursors in the atmosphere (before happening, of course) was going around in a car alerting people. He was off by 100km south IIRC. The "protezione civile" guys attacked the guy for that, but then the mess happened.

That may explain the civil officers involved, but the scientist, I dunno. It seems strange that they were so categoric as to become liable if they knew their stuff. Knowing how things work around here, Maybe, they were asked to provide something to calm people and they did it too well.

Re:Misleading summary (1)

Herve5 (879674) | about 2 years ago | (#41730991)

Also it's not like that it was the sudden first quake in 100 years: the scientists were there precisely to comment upon a sudden series of "preparatory" quakes that just had happened in the previous weeks...
So basically they said, "no, those quakes are not announcing a bigger one, just follow the quake-resisting buildings construction rules in the coming years."
Not that they *could* have predicted really, but clearly that's the kind of sentence that shocks both victims and opinion...

Re:Misleading summary (1)

udachny (2454394) | about 2 years ago | (#41731075)

Well, it's Italy in this case, but if that logic applied in USA for example, then the Federal Reserve (and personally Bernanke) could be found guilty in the same exact crime [theeconomi...seblog.com] .

I don't know, if you read those quotes, whether you should laugh or cry, because that man is at the head of USA central bank.

He is so wrong on everything that he says, that you can set the clock by him, just take the exact opposite value.

If he was in Italy, could he be sued for the same thing as these scientists? How about the actual Italian politicians, can they be sued now, should they be worried?

Weathermen (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41730241)

Can this be applied to weathermen?

Re:Weathermen (2)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | about 2 years ago | (#41730289)

Courts tend to have a history of rejecting cases that would open the floodgates and bog them down until the end of time. Unless you wanted an inquisition against local news meterologists or something?

Re:Weathermen (2)

gstoddart (321705) | about 2 years ago | (#41730689)

Well, these are the same Italian courts who decided there's enough evidence to support the idea that cell phones cause brain tumors [slashdot.org] despite the fact there's insufficient scientific evidence that's reliable enough to say that.

Which makes one wonder how much actual hard evidence they require, and how much they think about the effects of their rulings.

Unless the ruling is getting garbled as it passes through various sources, every scientist in Italy is going to have to start couching everything in such a way as to give themselves a wide latitude for interpretation.

There may or may not be an earthquake, it may or may not be catastrophic, it could happen any time between now and some other time -- when the ground starts shaking, you'll know. For now assume death is imminent, but don't panic.

Re:Weathermen (1)

NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) | about 2 years ago | (#41730323)

If there's a hurricane right off the coast and you tell people there's NO CHANCE it's coming ashore, and it does, then yes.

Re:Weathermen (2)

Jerslan (1088525) | about 2 years ago | (#41731049)

You can see a hurricane and tell what direction it's heading (roughly). It's fairly easy for a decent meteorologist to predict this stuff. Earthquakes are different. Having lots of small quakes, *typically* indicates that a "big one" isn't near (as the small quakes relieve some of the pressure). Unfortunately it looks like this was one of those *atypical* instances. IANAG, but have been living in CA for the past 5 years, so I've learned at least the "common knowledge/wisdom" about Earthquake prone regions.

It has been attempted (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | about 2 years ago | (#41730619)

IIRC, there was a woman who sued a local TV station and/or weatherman for an incorrect forecast and (I think) her resulting illness doe to being dressed improperly based on his forecast. It was a few years ago (maybe as much as 10-15). A quick google didn't bring it up - though apparently sexual harassment and discrimination is rampant in broadcast meteorology. She did not prevail in her suit.

Re:Weathermen (2)

Bigby (659157) | about 2 years ago | (#41730647)

Some weather services offer weather insurance. Elsewhere, they shouldn't be relied on.

Weather insurance is big in construction or weddings.

Re:Weathermen (1)

MitchDev (2526834) | about 2 years ago | (#41730899)

I'll go one better, POLITICIANS! They make a promise on the campaign trail and break it, right to prison.

Re:Weathermen (1)

strength_of_10_men (967050) | about 2 years ago | (#41730907)

Forget about weathermen, I'm just waiting to sue the Mayan-apocalypse-deniers when that prediction comes true. Oh wait...

Moral of the Story (3, Informative)

Dog-Cow (21281) | about 2 years ago | (#41730249)

The moral is: don't work for (the Italian) Government as a scientist.

Re:Moral of the Story (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41730373)

No scientist works for the Italian government. They receive tenure, get paid, but don't work much, if at all.

Re:Moral of the Story (5, Interesting)

hde226868 (906048) | about 2 years ago | (#41730673)

Well, I know that this is flamebait, but still...

I work quite a lot with scientists from Italy in my area (astrophysics). They are among the most dedicated scientists I know and are doing world leading science. They are also among the least well paid - which shows their dedication to science.

The former Italian government (under Berlusconi) tried for years to marginalize science and research in Italy and this is yet another blow to the scientific system in Italy. The result will be disastrous and lead to an even larger brain drain of highly qualified people from Italy than what Italy has already experienced in the past 10-20 years. Everybody can imagine what this means for the long-term future of Italy as a place of innovation and science, which has already been damaged badly.

Re:Moral of the Story (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41730885)

Maybe you work with scientists from Italy, but not in Italy. You should educate yourself about academic researchers in Italy. Italian Academia is considered one of the least productive in the developed world by all accounts. They rarely release scientific papers, with the average being a bit less than two in a work lifetime. Now, the ones that leave Italy, like most emigrants, have selected themselves and have a tendency to be the cream of the crop. And without the shackles of decrepit institutions such as Italian ones, they thrive. Go figure.

Re:Moral of the Story (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41730527)

2. Make damn sure you diversify your wealth internationally to protect yourself against unpredictable governments
3. Flee the country before the trial begins

The only way to escape injustice is to fight or flee. Obviously, the coercive power of government cannot be fought, at least not without dire consequences, and therefore the only realistic solution is to flee.

Re:Moral of the Story (1)

Bigby (659157) | about 2 years ago | (#41730705)

Very true.

But it also raises a good point. How do you hold scientists accountable? If they are making money, then there should be accountability. If the money is from the government, then they are accountable to the people.

There has to be a threshold of "good work". Like if a weatherman is 75% right, then it is pretty good. What is an acceptable rate of competence for earthquake predictability? I would think it would be near the lines of volcano predicting.

The polar opposite would be asteroid collision predictability. If a scientist misses an asteroid, then they should be fired.

Re:Moral of the Story (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41730893)

Like if a weatherman is 75% right, then it is pretty good.

"Tomorrow will be the same weather as today" has 70% chance of being correct.

Re:Moral of the Story (1)

fredrated (639554) | about 2 years ago | (#41730873)

You get your news from fox?
Isn't that the definition of a moron?

Next up: Meteorologists, Astrologers, (5, Insightful)

Lieutenant_Dan (583843) | about 2 years ago | (#41730265)

Palm readers, Farmer's Almanac, anyone who publishes a book about Nostradamus, etc ...

This is beyond ridiculous. It's just stupid.

Re:Next up: Meteorologists, Astrologers, (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41730975)

For the record, the Farmer's Almanac gives very generic, regional predictions, primarily based upon the historical record and past trends. It is not meant to be taken as a foretelling of fortune; it is meant to give farmers guidance on tending the fields that may be somewhat more informed than Produce Joe's best guess. Anyone who employs it to plan a family outing six months out is misusing it, and has no right to get upset when they get rained out.

Re:Next up: Meteorologists, Astrologers, (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41731069)

One word: ADVER-FUCKIN-TISERS!

And I mean the whole management team of the company doing the advertising. Not the people who photoshopped some billboard.

There goes that career (2)

Vermonter (2683811) | about 2 years ago | (#41730285)

I am imagining a large exodus of seismologists from Italy very shortly....

Predictions (1)

cultiv8 (1660093) | about 2 years ago | (#41730301)

Seismologists investigated the tremors, but concluded that there was no direct indication of a big quake on the horizon.

I predict this case will result in a higher number of scientists lowering the threshold for significance, p is less than .45.

Chilling effect on Science (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41730303)

This will have a chilling effect on science.....

And in other news (1)

mr1911 (1942298) | about 2 years ago | (#41730319)

1) Italian scientists stop making predictions. 2) World opinion finds Italian courts guilty of gross ignorance and incompetence.

Re:And in other news (1)

JockTroll (996521) | about 2 years ago | (#41730429)

Italian authorities do not care about the "world opinion". They believe the rest of the world is still a province of Rome.

Oh look, (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41730335)

the third funiest legal system (after U$A and UK)...

Bad Precedent (4, Informative)

meerling (1487879) | about 2 years ago | (#41730345)

If falsely re-assuring people that a disaster won't happen is actionable, then a lot of politicians and government employees are in big trouble.
On top of that, did they establish that the scientists did not believe their own statements?
Now, at least in Italy, you can expect any expert of any hard (or impossible) to predict field to start spouting worst case scenarios for every question just to avoid liability.

Real dumb move Italy. Just because you wanted a scapegoat, you've screwed yourself over for real issues.

Re:Bad Precedent (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41730433)

If falsely re-assuring people that a disaster won't happen is actionable, then a lot of politicians and government employees are in big trouble.

Do forget the priests. This is Italy after all.

Re:Bad Precedent (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41730539)

I already forgot the priests, what were they doing in Italy, molesting Italian children during earthquakes?

Re:Bad Precedent (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41730701)

This post was removed due to Dice content standards violations.

Re:Bad Precedent (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41730969)

Do forget the priests. This is Italy after all.

Did you see the picture of the court [demorgen.be] where the scientists were convicted?

There's a cross hanging above the judges.

Re:Bad Precedent (5, Funny)

jasper160 (2642717) | about 2 years ago | (#41730467)

All the doctors in Italy will have to tell their patients they are going to die and then all the priests will tell them they are going to hell to avoid prosecution.

Re:Bad Precedent (3, Insightful)

Derekloffin (741455) | about 2 years ago | (#41730531)

Actually, they will simply have to say they can't give any prediction as part of the reason this case came up was that someone did predict the quake and he was brought up on charges of inciting a public panic. So the only safe option apparently is to keep your mouth shut.

Re:Bad Precedent (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41730829)

So the only safe option apparently is to keep your mouth shut.

That's true just about anywhere anytime.

Editors? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41730377)

Is it really too hard to include the link to an actual article where this NEWS is being stated?

Quick google result here [www.cbc.ca]

See? Now you got me karmawhoring!
*ticks 'Post Anonymously'*

Re:Editors? (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41730507)

And the actual BBC link [bbc.co.uk]

Re:Editors? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41730599)

Is it really too hard to include the link to an actual article where this NEWS is being stated?

Quick google result here [www.cbc.ca]

See? Now you got me karmawhoring! *ticks 'Post Anonymously'*

You forgot, they also need to put the link in some random spot in the article that makes it completely non-obvious where the link is going.

Obligatory... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41730381)

If the science can't predict... you must acquit!

Accountability (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41730395)

Where does it start and end?

As a professional engineer, accountability starts the moment you have a license number in your state.

Any opinion you give on any project makes you liable.

The problem is that too many people are giving opinions on subjects that affect other people's lives and have zero accountability. this trial is a precursor to what may eventually become the norm.

Picture these so-called experts on TV talking about this and that and if they are found wrong and someone was affected by it, then they can be held accountable.

The same will be applied to lawyers and politicians and before you know it, people will be better off if we hold people with some sort of power (over other people) accountable.

Re:Accountability (1)

Cederic (9623) | about 2 years ago | (#41730497)

Except the norm will rapidly become, "Do your own fucking earthquake prediction"

Re:Accountability (4, Informative)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 2 years ago | (#41730611)

The problem is that too many people are giving opinions on subjects that affect other people's lives and have zero accountability. this trial is a precursor to what may eventually become the norm.

You seem to be conflating science with engineering. Now I have news for you: there's a reason why we have two different words for these things (and no, it's not so that poets can have a richer vocabulary for writing odes).

Re:Accountability (1)

Hatta (162192) | about 2 years ago | (#41730987)

As a professional engineer, accountability starts the moment you have a license number in your state.

Any opinion you give on any project makes you liable.

Only if the opinion you give is incorrect. These scientists gave the correct opinion, the chance of an earthquake was remote according to the best data and best models available. The fact that an earthquake happened is not inconsistent with the chance of it happening being remote.

Italian courts... (1)

harperska (1376103) | about 2 years ago | (#41730451)

Let me guess, this case was prosecuted by Giuliano Mignini, who argued that the defendants must have belonged to a dangerous satanic cult?

Re:Italian courts... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41730565)

What, like this one?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Propaganda_Due

A look into the future (5, Funny)

Daetrin (576516) | about 2 years ago | (#41730493)

How will this ruling affect earthquake predictions from this point on?

"Scientists predicted that sometime this week a massive earthquake will cause all of Italy to break off and fall into the ocean, killing everyone. This marks the 27th week in a row that scientists have made that prediction. When asked about the failure of the previous 26 predictions to come true a lead scientist replied 'It's always possible we're in error and the earthquake might be a little smaller, and might not kill everyone, and possibly might not happen at all. But better safe than sorry. We're sticking with our prediction, so don't say we didn't warn you.'"

It's the new Global Warming! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41730757)

Global Quaking!

EU (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41730537)

This sounds like a good case for a test of the EU Human Rights policy.

In other news... (4, Funny)

broginator (1955750) | about 2 years ago | (#41730561)

You can now be tried for NOT yelling FIRE in a crowded theater.

Quick...nail some economists with the same thing! (2)

RoTNCoRE (744518) | about 2 years ago | (#41730575)

While I agree with many of the commenters that this is a bad decision that sets a bad precident, let's make something good come from it and now apply it to bankers and economists with respect to the ongoing banking crisis...

Either we'll get some of them in jail, or (more likely) the laws will be changed quickly.

totally fucking lame (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | about 2 years ago | (#41730579)

predicting earthquakes doesn't exist anywhere in the world of science anywhere in the world to any degree

if the italian court system is more interested in "somebody has to pay!" than commonsense, then this doesn't say much for italian justice

shame on you italy. reverse it. overrule it

Same should apply... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41730623)

...to weather predictors. Seriously, how many times has a sunny, rain free day been predicted
only to find yourself drenched to the core from that of a sudden downpour? You could catch cold!
The penalties should be severe and enforced for practitioners of things which can't be forecast.

Chilling effect (1)

rriegs (1540879) | about 2 years ago | (#41730679)

Way to go, Italy, for making scientists even more reluctant to speak publicly about their work. As a researcher, it gives me pause to think that some off-hand remark could land me in jail for years if I somehow instil a false sense of security in my listeners. I'm sure these scientists made a (responsible) claim to the effect of "there is no justifiable reason for alarm" in response to the tremors that preceded the L'Aquila quake. Now we can't even say that, unless we want to risk jail time. We'll have to talk like elected officials cornered in a scandal: "We can neither confirm nor deny that the results of our study is justification for alarm."

This is beyond rediculous (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41730713)

I will only work for companies that make guns, missiles, or poison. That way I can never be charged for manslaughter for doing my job correctly.

Up next..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41730727)

Meteorologists in Kansas convicted for failing to warn public about Tornado's.

They should have said ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41730743)

The scientist and government official should have said "there will be a big major earthquake in the next 100 years". Yeah, something like the sun is always going to rise from the east tomorrow.

Now put the politicians on trial (4, Insightful)

Dunbal (464142) | about 2 years ago | (#41730755)

For not enforcing building codes that could withstand a 6.3 quake, or for failing to make a law to prevent the collapse of the buildings in an obviously seismically active region.

Just chill (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41730847)

.... guys ... just chill... we are talking about Italy here... not a serious country. Do I have to remind you of Berlusconi?

Slammer for Soaky Summer (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about 2 years ago | (#41730853)

Jail them quirky weathermen also! 100% accuracy or death!

Damned if you do, Damned if you don't (1)

kiriath (2670145) | about 2 years ago | (#41730881)

I remember back in the day, a guy predicted an earthquake [wikipedia.org] . There was a lot of press and stress and worry. It didn't happen.

If it *had* happened, this guy would've been a hero (and perhaps not died of a heart attack the next year after being ridiculed by the media ).

There should be a standards group who outlines guidelines for earthquake warnings (if that really were possible), rather than a crackpot scientist here or there releasing reports to the wild via unfiltered channels whether it be an affirmation of an earthquake or not.

Congratulations, you out-stupided USA "science" (3, Funny)

Tablizer (95088) | about 2 years ago | (#41731009)

We in the USA feel a bit better now that there is another "developed" nation that is more fscked-up regarding science than the USA.

They need to follow the ancient Chinese and... (2)

eyegor (148503) | about 2 years ago | (#41731029)

They need to follow the ancient Chinese and bring back "The Mandate of Heaven"!

Back in the 'good old days', the emperor was blamed for disasters and would be overthrown since heaven has withdrawn its support. The conviction makes about as much sense, but if you want to see this silliness stop, impose more silliness. :)

They should also blame Astronomers if there's a meteor strike and weathermen if someone gets a sunburn.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mandate_of_Heaven [wikipedia.org]

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