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US Seismologist Testifies Against Scientists In Quake-Prediction Case 189

Posted by timothy
from the perfect-certainty-isn't-an-option dept.
ananyo writes with this snippet from Nature (for which this earlier Nature article is also background): "'The courthouse in L'Aquila, Italy, yesterday hosted a highly anticipated hearing in the trial of six seismologists and one government official indicted for manslaughter over their reassurances to the public ahead of a deadly earthquake in 2009. .... During the hearing, the former head of the Italian Department of Civil Protection turned from key witness into defendant, and a seismologist from California criticized Italy's top earthquake experts.' Lalliana Mualchin, former chief seismologist for the Department of Transportation in California, criticized the Italian analysis, which he says was based on a poor model. If the court agrees with Mualchin, the defendants could face up to 12 years in jail."
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US Seismologist Testifies Against Scientists In Quake-Prediction Case

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  • by tragedy (27079) on Thursday February 16, 2012 @06:56PM (#39067901)

    When an empirical scientist makes a statement like "there is no danger", they mean something like "the level of danger is below threshold X to within margin of error Y". No seismologist would ever seriously say that there's no chance of a serious earthquake even five minutes from now, no matter what all their gathered instrument data and statistics tell them. Statements like "there is no danger" are for public consumption because the public, on the whole, doesn't really have a clue what these people actually do.

    This court case is like prosecuting sports commentators for manslaughter because they predicted a victory for the local team, but the local team lost and the crowd rioted and people were killed. Predicting earthquakes that acutely simply isn't their job. Whether they did a good job or not, this trial is a farce. It's just a mob lynching taking place in a courthouse. Some of the heavily publicized (internationally publicized anyway) court cases in Italy recently (such as the Amanda Knox case) seem to fall along those lines. All politics and little real concern for justice, the victims, or the accused.

If the facts don't fit the theory, change the facts. -- Albert Einstein

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