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← Scientists go on trial next week for failure to predict earthquake

Scientists go on trial next week for failure to predict earthquake - Comments

Peter Grant's Avatar Comment 1 by Peter Grant

This is insane!

Sun, 18 Sep 2011 01:43:56 UTC | #872131

QuestioningKat's Avatar Comment 2 by QuestioningKat

Perhaps trials should be set for psychics who make predictions that do not come true.

Sun, 18 Sep 2011 01:47:22 UTC | #872133

Scoundrel's Avatar Comment 3 by Scoundrel

Yea pretty insane. Maybe they should put people who actually claim to foresee the future on trial instead.

Sun, 18 Sep 2011 01:49:16 UTC | #872134

wisnoskij's Avatar Comment 4 by wisnoskij

Well the basic idea is completely sane and proper. Assuming their scientists were put in charge of predicting quakes, if any competent scientists would of predicted the quake and it was only their laziness or incompetence that let it happen unannounced then they are accountable. I assume that is what this trial is about, determining if they should of been able to predict that this would of happened.

And again assuming that they were put in charge of prediction of quakes, with something of this magnitude happening it is only logical to put the people in charge of preventing it on trial to determine if they did everything that they could and were not sleeping on the job.

Sun, 18 Sep 2011 01:54:51 UTC | #872135

Paul the Pretentious's Avatar Comment 5 by Paul the Pretentious

Why is it that people are always looking to blame somebody whenever natural disasters occur?

Things happen. Sometimes, bad things happen. Technology is not yet so sophisticated that we can accurately predict the precise time and place where an earthquake will occur; it's not at all like predicting an eclipse, where the variables are more or less constant. Seismic activity is much less predictable.

Here's my prediction: If they get convicted of manslaughter, scientists will shy away from that particular field, and any early warning system that might have been invented or implemented, won't be. Then who will be blamed?

God?

Sun, 18 Sep 2011 02:22:35 UTC | #872139

Michael Gray's Avatar Comment 6 by Michael Gray

They should sue the priests for not warning them. They do have a magic mumble-line to their sky-daddy, no?

Sun, 18 Sep 2011 02:38:30 UTC | #872141

BigJohn's Avatar Comment 7 by BigJohn

I think that they should be suing the Vatican. Surely the Holy Catholic Church has a closer relationship the Ultimate Cause of earthquakes than these scientists.

Sun, 18 Sep 2011 02:45:15 UTC | #872142

Red Dog's Avatar Comment 8 by Red Dog

Comment 5 by Paul the Pretentious :

Why is it that people are always looking to blame somebody whenever natural disasters occur?

Things happen. Sometimes, bad things happen. Technology is not yet so sophisticated that we can accurately predict the precise time and place where an earthquake will occur; it's not at all like predicting an eclipse, where the variables are more or less constant. Seismic activity is much less predictable.

I think that's an over generalization. I agree in this case its ridiculous to blame anyone for not predicting an earthquake. But I don't agree that every natural disaster is always blameless. Katrina is the perfect counter example. Yes it was a huge storm but if you look at the disaster the real problem was the levees. There were several scientists and other experts who issued warnings about the Levees. But the federal government ignored the danger and even threatened the jobs of people who spoke up. In that case the accident was preventable and there were people who were responsible for not preventing it.

Sun, 18 Sep 2011 03:26:22 UTC | #872149

Red Dog's Avatar Comment 9 by Red Dog

Comment 4 by wisnoskij :

Well the basic idea is completely sane and proper. Assuming their scientists were put in charge of predicting quakes, if any competent scientists would of predicted the quake and it was only their laziness or incompetence that let it happen unannounced then they are accountable. I assume that is what this trial is about, determining if they should of been able to predict that this would of happened.

And again assuming that they were put in charge of prediction of quakes, with something of this magnitude happening it is only logical to put the people in charge of preventing it on trial to determine if they did everything that they could and were not sleeping on the job.

The current technology makes accurate prediction of quakes impossible. We don't need to presume or assume anything, its a simple fact, no one can accurately predict earth quakes.

Sun, 18 Sep 2011 03:28:28 UTC | #872150

Neodarwinian's Avatar Comment 10 by Neodarwinian

What?!?!

Only in Italy! Where was the pope's communication from " magic man? "

Sun, 18 Sep 2011 03:39:38 UTC | #872152

adiroth's Avatar Comment 11 by adiroth

Isn't funny that the scientists are put on trial when earthquakes are legally defined as "act of God". But seriously, they may have a case if the scientists actually made the positive claim that everything would be hunky dory despite the relative unrealiability of the science.

With this case, I can somehow smell the dirty politics that's happening behind the scene. Those involved in the trial includes one lone official besides the 6 scientists. I hate to stereotype, but corruption is rampant in Italy. But, I guess we cannot know for sure what really happened unless there is an inquiry on the matter.

Folks, what is being persecuted here is not science, but the scientists and the official who might have failed to do their job. There's no religious conspiracy here. So I'm going home to put my atheist pitchfork back in the shed.

Sun, 18 Sep 2011 03:45:42 UTC | #872155

coolegg's Avatar Comment 12 by coolegg

With respect to the BBC Reporter, who may have had a strict word limit, her report doesn't paint anything like an accurate picture of what (is alleged to have) happened. This report is more comprehensive: http://www.nature.com/news/2011/110601/full/474015a.html

The prosecution's claim is that the public official guaranteed no earthquake based on the scientists' report and the scientists failed to correct those inaccurate and misleading public statements immediately, and thus (in the crazy mind of the prosecutor), committed manslaughter. Even if the claim of fact is true, the prosecution of these scientists for manslaughter is still horribly ignorant, anti-scientific and unjust. But the situation is not quite like the headline in the BBC article implies, "Scientists go on trial... for failure to predict earthquake". The crime by the scientists (as claimed by the prosecutor) is for failing to speak out against unscientific guarantees (of no earthquake) by the public official, not for failing to predict the quake.

Just for the record.

Sun, 18 Sep 2011 04:33:46 UTC | #872160

Richard Dawkins's Avatar Comment 13 by Richard Dawkins

When I first read this, I honestly thought it must be The Onion.

Coolegg's clarification (comment 12) helps a little bit.

Richard

Sun, 18 Sep 2011 05:11:24 UTC | #872163

Pete H's Avatar Comment 14 by Pete H

It was just getting interesting! I was contemplating what might be an appropriate punitive sentence for scientists whose predictions prove dangerously inaccurate.

There is a precedent:

Legend says that the emperor Xerxes had the sea whipped after a storm caused some inconvenience.

More recently, and unlike geology or meteorology, the geniuses in economics and banking institutions really do directly cause incredible destruction as the inevitable, but unforecasted, disasters they create wreak destruction on entire communities and generations. Like negligent geologists these economists deserve to incur the consequences of their actions.

Seeing as common law legal precedent may be factor in sentencing then it’s reasonable to expect convicted geologists could incur penalties comparable to those generally prevailing in the international community for similar crimes against humanity. This implies the geologists may be forced to endure the public shame and humiliation of accepting hundreds of millions of dollars in bonuses, along with bailout funding for their stalled research programs. Their best hope is to plead guilty and hope that the size of the bonuses inflicted are truly appalling.

Sun, 18 Sep 2011 07:36:41 UTC | #872174

alf1200's Avatar Comment 15 by alf1200

Holy Crap! I'm glad I'm not a weatherman in Italy.

Sun, 18 Sep 2011 07:44:34 UTC | #872176

waverider's Avatar Comment 16 by waverider

Instead of putting the scientists on trial, they should put the builders who skimped on the concrete in the dock! They should also put those who were responsible for reconstruction on trial for malfeasance and incompetence.

But...this being Italy, that will never happen. The guilty ones are too well connected. Hence, normal people suffer and the country slips ever more into stagnation and decay....

Sun, 18 Sep 2011 08:04:03 UTC | #872181

Metamag's Avatar Comment 17 by Metamag

What the hell?

Since when is Italy a third world country? I would expect this kind of insanity from India or Uganda, not freaking Italy!

Sun, 18 Sep 2011 08:06:33 UTC | #872183

peter mayhew's Avatar Comment 18 by peter mayhew

Surely the Pope should be convicted for not predicting this; after all, he's the one with the hotline to God!

Sun, 18 Sep 2011 08:25:14 UTC | #872185

Haizum74's Avatar Comment 19 by Haizum74

I actually think, in this case, its only fair game we also put psychics on trial too for failing to predict this. Maybe god for allowing it to happen? Or failing to save those killed? Or maybe we get some fucking common sense and realise that unfortunately, sad though it is, these things happen. Planet Earth is a dangerous place to live on especially in those places where earthquakes are a problem. Ya know, just a suggestion.

Sun, 18 Sep 2011 08:46:38 UTC | #872189

hemidemisemigod's Avatar Comment 20 by hemidemisemigod

All very silly this. I followed the link to the article at nature.com from comment 12. One of the people affected by the quake was angry that the scientists had suggested that there would be no big quake because the pent up energy was being steadily released in smaller quakes. He had decided not to leave his home based on their "guarantees". But would he and the rest of the town really have evacuated? And for how long? A month? A year? It's not as if anybody could say when a quake would happen.

Sun, 18 Sep 2011 09:23:59 UTC | #872201

superbeanson's Avatar Comment 21 by superbeanson

SHouldn't they be putting god and his representitives on trial

Sun, 18 Sep 2011 09:38:29 UTC | #872205

strangebrew's Avatar Comment 22 by strangebrew

This is the Italian justice department in full flow..

Reminds me of the prosecution of two pilots that had to ditch their aircraft because of a fuel emergency.

An ATR 72 registration TS-LBB 6 August 2005

They were Muslim and the prosecutors apparently took a phrase heard on the CVR that recorded the pilot saying the equivalent of "Oh my God" ...in context it appears that this phrase was uttered when the second engine failed...up to then they were under the impression that with one engine out they could still make a landing at the airport. The prosecutors failed to mention the point.

Further analysis of the CVR delivered a professional and competent handling of the emergency by the ,crew.

Certain news organizations and under some input from RCC doctrinal advice...when are their noses never out of it... run the spin that the pilot had abandoned all sense and was praying to Allah in the galley in full view of the terrified passengers....while his second wrestled with the controls...this has been proved to be... utterly nonsense.

It seems from various sources that ATC in Italy flight region gave them slow and misleading information after the emergency was declared and it rapidly became a non-standard response from the controller that basically had lost situational awareness.

The pilot actually managed to reduce the death toll by a sea ditching next to a fishing fleet...they pulled most folks out of the water.

The pilot got 10 years...Italian Justice...they must be so proud!

Sun, 18 Sep 2011 10:20:15 UTC | #872211

drumdaddy's Avatar Comment 23 by drumdaddy

What is the matter, aren't there enough ambulances to chase in Italy?

Sun, 18 Sep 2011 12:00:35 UTC | #872237

Schrodinger's Cat's Avatar Comment 24 by Schrodinger's Cat

I suffered severe trauma after scientists confidently asserted the universe would either slow down it's expansion or contract again. Their failure to correct this, and only recent admission that the expansion will accelerate, has caused emotional distress, back pains causing loss of job, my wife leaving me, and the dog running away. I shall be suing for at least $1 million.

Sun, 18 Sep 2011 12:17:54 UTC | #872244

Enlightenme..'s Avatar Comment 25 by Enlightenme..

They want their seismologists' default response to always be that an earthquake is imminent?

They might as well get rid of the scientists and consult a local shaman or priest .

Sun, 18 Sep 2011 12:21:38 UTC | #872245

albiegf13's Avatar Comment 26 by albiegf13

"..... I fear what I hate and I hate what I don't understand......"

Sun, 18 Sep 2011 13:01:25 UTC | #872249

zeerust2000's Avatar Comment 27 by zeerust2000

This is a joke......right?

Sun, 18 Sep 2011 13:07:43 UTC | #872250

ANTIcarrot's Avatar Comment 28 by ANTIcarrot

Madness? This! Is! Catholicism!

Alternatively: So while in past centuries, people may have been put on trial for using magic, these people are being put on trial for failing to use magic?

Sun, 18 Sep 2011 13:17:49 UTC | #872254

ANTIcarrot's Avatar Comment 29 by ANTIcarrot

@coolegg The other story would imply that they are being put on trial for failing to correct a politician's lies. Hmm. That actually might be a case worth fighting for. However the target should be the employment terms the scientists operate under (which probably strongly prohibit such behaviour) rather than the scientists themselves.

Of course then you'd have the problem of getting the news services to pay attention to the technical specialists, corectly determining which specialism to pay attention to, understanding the situation, and corectly summerising it for the public - and scientists/engineers being completely honest, and trusting that the public isn't going to have knee jerk reactions. Might we eventually have a situation when scientists are legally required to say when the news services are being inaccurate? And who would distribute that information...?

While desirable, I'm not sure this would even work in theory, let alone in practice.

Sun, 18 Sep 2011 14:02:48 UTC | #872264

Nunbeliever's Avatar Comment 30 by Nunbeliever

This is the insane thing with people's understanding of science. On the one hand journalists, politicians and ordinary citizens seem to regard science as an omnipotent force. I have personally as a journalist witnessed how politicians and journalists are constantly trying to force scientists to draw absolute conclusions. They don't want nuanced answers, but clear-cut black and white absolute truths. I am pretty sure this mentality lies behind a lot of what is happening here. On the other hand, when science fails to predict certain events the same people who demanded certain answers don't hesitate to nail the scientists on the cross. This really is a catch 22 situation for the scientists. If you don't make definitive statements no one will listen to you. If you do, then people will blame you for your potential mistakes. If the scientists are right on the other hand the politicians will gladly take credit for it, but when scientists are wrong they become scape-goats. When is this madness going to end? It just goes to show how little most people know about the scientific process and method. This situation resembles that of a King's counsellor in the middle ages. The king would kill a counsellor who did not say the things he wanted to hear. But, the king would also kill the counsellor if the counsellor was wrong.

When are we going to learn that shooting the messenger really solves nothing! Being a scientist today really is not an enviable job!

Sun, 18 Sep 2011 14:16:59 UTC | #872266