Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
The Courts Science

Scientists Who Failed to Warn of Quake Found Guilty of Manslaughter 459

Posted by timothy
from the well-that-sounds-productive dept.
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.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Scientists Who Failed to Warn of Quake Found Guilty of Manslaughter

Comments Filter:
  • Misleading summary (Score:5, Informative)

    by AmiMoJo (196126) <mojo @ w orld3.net> on Monday October 22, 2012 @12:57PM (#41730239) Homepage

    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.

    • by Quakeulf (2650167) on Monday October 22, 2012 @01:00PM (#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.
      • by MightyMartian (840721) on Monday October 22, 2012 @01:07PM (#41730385) Journal

        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.

        • by vlm (69642) on Monday October 22, 2012 @01:27PM (#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"

          • by saveferrousoxide (2566033) on Monday October 22, 2012 @01:42PM (#41730949)

            that radio dude

            Paul Harvey

          • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 22, 2012 @02:00PM (#41731189)

            Whoa whoa whoa, are you actually insinuating that the Italian goverment is corrupt? How dare you sir

          • by Omnifarious (11933) * <eric-slash&omnifarious,org> on Monday October 22, 2012 @02:20PM (#41731419) Homepage Journal

            The lesson is to not ever go to italy at all, ever, no matter who you are. They have a judicial system that produces results that are clearly insane.

            • by Opyros (1153335) on Monday October 22, 2012 @02:59PM (#41731877) Journal

              they have a judicial system that produces results that are clearly insane.

              Well – Italy is hardly the only country where that is so.

            • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 22, 2012 @03:14PM (#41732069)

              They have a judicial system that produces results that are clearly insane.

              But they also make insanely great coffee, and have really nice shoes. It's not as simple as you make it out to be. You might end up in jail, but have you seen those uniforms? Fabulous.

            • by Nyder (754090) on Monday October 22, 2012 @03:58PM (#41732603) Journal

              The lesson is to not ever go to italy at all, ever, no matter who you are. They have a judicial system that produces results that are clearly insane.

              Yes, Amanda Knox learned that lesson.

              https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amanda_Knox [wikipedia.org]

              • by Xest (935314) on Tuesday October 23, 2012 @06:17AM (#41739213)

                The only thing Amanda Knox learnt is that with enough money you can buy your way out of jail in Italy just as well as other people can buy your way in.

                Whether she's guilty or not is something that was never really determined to any great extent, because on one side you had a prosecution that was trying every trick in the book to make sure she went to jail over it, and on the other you had a massive American lobbying campaign with many millions of dollars poured into the idea that she was innocent.

                There's still a hell of a lot of questions about her actions, but there's still a hell of a lot of questions about the prosecution.

                One thing is for sure and that's that justice didn't happen in the Amanda Knox case. If she was guilty she got away with it, if she was innocent then her name has certainly not been cleared in the minds of many millions of people. In the US the lobbying campaign has her painted as a victim, but across much of Europe where the press was much more impartial because of an equal distaste of both the Italian and American actions in the case there still seems a pretty strong belief she's guilty.

                The Italians and Americans have extreme opposing views on it because of the massively influential media campaigns, elsewhere people are far from convinced there was any just resolution either way.

                • by tehcyder (746570)
                  Speaking as someone from the UK (where the actual, you know, murder victim came from) I can assure you that most people here believe that the pretty white US girl is as guilty as the dark skinned African male actually convicted.
          • by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Monday October 22, 2012 @02:30PM (#41731549) Journal

            When you lie for your bosses, save the evidence to make sure they fall with you, because bosses have no loyalty and they LOVE to send you to face the music.

            The "scientists" in question seem to have massaged the figures, they weren't lying, they just weren't telling the absolute truth, someone hinted that someone would be pleased if their report said X, they said X and then Y happened and gosh, their bosses dropped them like the flunkies they were.

            Life isn't a movie, if it was, this would have been a disaster movie and the boss would have died in some horrible way just seconds after claiming that what is obviously happening isn't happening.

            But in real life, the underling takes the blame and the boss gets a promotion for finding the culprit and seeing that justice is done.
            r.

          • by DriveDog (822962)

            Reminds me of a different Harvey—Keitel's character in National Treasure. "Somebody has to go to prison."

            Maybe they should be in prison, I don't know the case details, but it seems odd that forecasters go to jail yet drillers and frackers whose activities most likely occasionally trigger quakes go on with business as usual.

          • by jdev (227251) on Monday October 22, 2012 @05:41PM (#41734025)

            The real crooks are the cops and civil defense people

            Corrupt building inspectors were most likely the biggest issue. Newly constructed buildings were not built to code and came crumbling down. Of course, it's a lot harder to go after those guys than just blaming some scientists who were making reasonable predictions based on the available data.

            http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/08/world/europe/08codes.html [nytimes.com]

          • by MasaMuneCyrus (779918) on Monday October 22, 2012 @07:37PM (#41735211)

            Basically A predicted a quake would strike based on multiple measurements...

            A's prediction was pseudo-science. A's prediction was based on observations of radon gas emissions. He was an amateur seismologist, i.e., his science credentials are of the same integrity as that of ghost hunters or doctors who practice homeopathy. His crock "prediction" was bad for tourism, and though I believe that he should have the freedom to say whatever he believes, his statement was pseudo-science bollocks.

            And for the record, the scientists who were charged for manslaughter were charged for a very specific statement. There had been many tremors leading up to the mainshock. The Civil Protection department stated, "minor shocks did not raise the risk of a major one. ...The scientific community tells me there is no danger because there is an ongoing discharge of energy." [nature.com]

            The first sentence is not technically correct: "...minor shocks did not raise the risk of a major one." The simple answer is seismologists don't know when, if, or where a mainshock will occur. We can only guess. And the notion of anomalies in the background seismicity--anomalously low or high--has been tried for over a century. It doesn't work. Hindsight is 20/20, and some large events are preceeded by either more or less minor earthquakes, but we simply do not know of a reliable way to predict major earthquakes based on minor earthquakes. Some major earthquakes happen with no precursors. Some happen after minor earthquake swarms. Some happen after a period of low seismicity--i.e., the fault is "stuck" and building pressure. In other words, we cannot rule out that the increase in minor earthquakes is a precursor to a larger event, but we also cannot say with any certainty that it does foreshadow a major event. We can say very little based on earthquake swarms, and we certainly don't have time to study them in the six months that they occurred before the mainshock.

            The second sentence is not correct: "The scientific community tells me there is no danger because there is an ongoing discharge of energy." Of course, the occurrence of an earthquake means that stress fault was released as energy. However, we cannot conclusively say anything about whether or not that expenditure of energy increases or decreases danger. Those minor quakes could load some section of a fault, they could indicate that a fault that was previously "stuck" is now moving, they could indicate that a dormant fault has been reactivated... they could indicate any number of things. If we are talking purely in terms of energy, though--which is what I assume that the Italian Civil Protection department was saying when he was talking about a discharge of energy--his statement is pretty silly. The moment magnitude scale is logarithmic. Every one step in magnitude is approximately 32 times the energy. Two steps is exactly 1000 times the energy. The earthquake that struck Italy was a magnitude 6.3. It would take 1000 magnitude 4.3 earthquakes to expend the energy of the magnitude 6.3. Of course, one could make the argument that the fault was right on the point of slip and just a little bit of stress release could relax it enough to not slip, but there is simply no evidence that I am aware of, anywhere, that minor earthquakes and reduce the load on a fault enough to prevent a major earthquake. In fact, Japanese scientists in the past looked into manufacturing small earthquakes by drilling holes into faults and lubricating them in the hope to release the built-up stress as many minor quakes instead of one larger one. They abandoned that idea.

        • by tomhath (637240) on Monday October 22, 2012 @01:28PM (#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: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by ilguido (1704434)
            Neither there is scientific evidence that a wall will crumble or that an electric plant will cause an electric shock when engineers deny qualifications to buildings. Neither there is scientific evidence that you will be eaten by a shark if you dive into the sea of Tasmania, though there could be a "SHARKS no swimming" sign nearby. It's a matter of reasonable risks, often codified with technical rules, norms and laws.
            There was an earthquake swarm [wikipedia.org] going on for months when they said there weren't risks. In ma
            • by gnick (1211984) on Monday October 22, 2012 @02:52PM (#41731789) Homepage

              If I, as an engineer, certify that a plant is safe when it may be not, I can be jailed.

              Not the same thing. This is more like having an engineer inspect an old building that has parts collapse from time to time, asking him if it's safe, and having him tell you "Well, it's no less safe than usual..."

            • by Bobfrankly1 (1043848) on Monday October 22, 2012 @02:55PM (#41731827)

              If I, as an engineer, certify that a plant is safe when it may be not, I can be jailed. I can't see why the same can't apply to this case.

              That would be because are not among those who replaced the term "God" with "Science". It's amusing how many on Slashdot scorn the "backwards bible-thumpers" who blindly stick to their faith, yet employ that same blindness because someone happens to be a diploma-carrying scientist. In essence, they have become that which they hate.

              To clarify, the problem isn't "God" or "Science", the problem is willful blindness.

              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by Nyder (754090)

                If I, as an engineer, certify that a plant is safe when it may be not, I can be jailed. I can't see why the same can't apply to this case.

                That would be because are not among those who replaced the term "God" with "Science". It's amusing how many on Slashdot scorn the "backwards bible-thumpers" who blindly stick to their faith, yet employ that same blindness because someone happens to be a diploma-carrying scientist. In essence, they have become that which they hate.

                To clarify, the problem isn't "God" or "Science", the problem is willful blindness.

                Yes, but people that believe in "God" tend to be blind on purpose. Easy to get them to believe in the unreal since they already have blind faith in something.

            • by demonbug (309515)

              Neither there is scientific evidence that a wall will crumble or that an electric plant will cause an electric shock when engineers deny qualifications to buildings. Neither there is scientific evidence that you will be eaten by a shark if you dive into the sea of Tasmania, though there could be a "SHARKS no swimming" sign nearby. It's a matter of reasonable risks, often codified with technical rules, norms and laws.

              There was an earthquake swarm [wikipedia.org] going on for months when they said there weren't risks. In many Italian towns you cannot drive trucks, and oftentimes even cars, to the center of the city because vehicles produced vibrations can damage old buildings (and that's true), yet after months of strong vibrations they just reassured the population without considering a check-up of the many old buildings of the area, nor of the important buildings (e.g. hospitals, offices) that should work 100% in case of disasters.

              If I, as an engineer, certify that a plant is safe when it may be not, I can be jailed. I can't see why the same can't apply to this case.

              That simply isn't true. The scientific group didn't say there was no risk, they said that the earthquake swarm did not mean a larger quake would happen. That doesn't mean a larger earthquake won't happen, just that the swarm isn't evidence that one will - there is a history in that area of minor earthquake swarms leading to nothing (with occasional exceptions). Of course, the bureaucrat mentioned did issue a statement that said there was nothing to worry about, so he at least deserves his sentence.

              As for th

        • by kawabago (551139) on Monday October 22, 2012 @01:35PM (#41730819)
          A large and devastating earthquake is imminent somewhere on earth 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
        • by RoboRay (735839)

          The lesson is simply to pack your family up and quietly head to safer areas whenever your research indicates that danger may be approaching. You wouldn't want to get in any trouble by trying to help other people.

      • by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Monday October 22, 2012 @01:43PM (#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?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 22, 2012 @01:01PM (#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.

      • by obarel (670863) on Monday October 22, 2012 @01:58PM (#41731169)

        You mean that we cannot guarantee that the product does not contain nuts, even though the factory only makes sewing machines.

        • Well, if a customer eats one of your sewing machine and dies because of his nut allergy, you could be in deep trouble, isn't that the fact? Although I'm thinking whether the defense couldn't argue that the nut-allergic customer who was nuts actually died of a rare autoimmune disease, which would of course absolve you of all charges.
      • by tompaulco (629533) on Monday October 22, 2012 @03:41PM (#41732411) Homepage Journal
        Now scientists studying earthquakes will become like the various environuts who say the world is going to end at midnight, every night
        No, we just wont have scientists studying earthquakes anymore because they don't want the liability. This is something we call "shooting the messenger".
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Isarian (929683)

      A misleading summary? On MY Slashdot?!

    • by MyLongNickName (822545) on Monday October 22, 2012 @01:05PM (#41730337) Journal

      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: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by scot4875 (542869)

        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

      • by Hatta (162192) on Monday October 22, 2012 @01:43PM (#41730959) Journal

        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.

      • by SlippyToad (240532) on Monday October 22, 2012 @01:51PM (#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: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Bobfrankly1 (1043848)

        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 pres

        • by Jiro (131519) on Monday October 22, 2012 @02:32PM (#41731567)

          That's not the whole story either. If you read your own link carefully, it points out that Giuliani predicted the quakes using a method that has never been proven scientifically and has had no peer reviewed papers published. In other words, he's a crackpot who just happened to get lucky; there was no actual reason to believe that there would be a risk of earthquakes greater than normal. The scientists who said that this guy is wrong were basically correct; they just got unlucky.

          To use a car analogy, a guy is sitting at an intersection reading tea leaves. At one point his tea leaves tell him that if you go through the intersection you'll crash. The scientists say that this is nonsense and that you shouldn't worry about crashing. You go through the intersection and you crash into a car going 100 mph through a red light. that neither you, the scientists, nor the tea leaf reader could have seen or predicted. You die.

          And then the scientists are put in jail for manslaughter for telling you to ignore the tea leaf reader.

          At worst, the scientists didn't properly communicate "the chance of crashing/earthquakes isn't greater than normal" as opposed to "the chance is zero", and given how the media and politicians ignore such nuances, the scientists shouldn't be held responsible for that.

      • by Nyder (754090)

        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.

        Ya, but earthquakes are an act of god.

        Italy is the seat of the Pope.

        The Pope is considered very holy, a Man of God.

        Yet, this scientist is getting blamed because he didn't correctly predict an Act of God.

        Seems to me, when it comes to God, it's the Pope's job to says whats up, not the scientist.

        Why isn't the Pope on trial?

    • Same difference (Score:5, Insightful)

      by pavon (30274) on Monday October 22, 2012 @01:06PM (#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: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Bobfrankly1 (1043848)

        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".

        According to statements given to the prosecution, two members of the same committee disagreed with the assessment, albeit after the quake:

        The suggestion that repeated tremors were favourable because they 'unload', or discharge, seismic stress and reduce the probability of a major quake seems to be scientifically incorrect. Two of the committee members — Selvaggi and Eva — later told prosecutors that they "strongly dissented" from such an assertion, and Jordan later characterized it as "not a correct view of things".

        link TFA [nature.com]
        I can see how eager you are to support scientists and hate Italy, but these were scientists masquerading as politicians. Reading through the various news reports on this paints the picture quite clearly. They let politics into their science, and people paid the price with their lives.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 22, 2012 @01:08PM (#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.

    • by barc0001 (173002) on Monday October 22, 2012 @01:09PM (#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?

    • by Thruen (753567) on Monday October 22, 2012 @01:16PM (#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.
    • by Krokus (88121)

      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.

    • by ackthpt (218170)

      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.

      Now how about trying the survivors for being gullible and stupid.

    • by Nyder (754090)

      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.

      If that's the case, why isn't the Pope in jail?

  • Moral of the Story (Score:4, Informative)

    by Dog-Cow (21281) on Monday October 22, 2012 @12:58PM (#41730249)

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

  • by Lieutenant_Dan (583843) on Monday October 22, 2012 @12:59PM (#41730265) Homepage Journal

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

    This is beyond ridiculous. It's just stupid.

  • I am imagining a large exodus of seismologists from Italy very shortly....
  • Bad Precedent (Score:5, Informative)

    by meerling (1487879) on Monday October 22, 2012 @01:06PM (#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.
  • Editors? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 22, 2012 @01:07PM (#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: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      And the actual BBC link [bbc.co.uk]
  • Accountability (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 22, 2012 @01:08PM (#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 (Score:5, Informative)

      by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Monday October 22, 2012 @01:21PM (#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).

    • by Moby Cock (771358)

      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 difference is obvious. An engineered system is just that -- a system that is fully understood and can have predictable outcomes from known initial conditions. So...it is reasonable to expect engineers to be liable for their work. Predicting earthquakes is not anywhere near as simple. To find criminal accountability from such failures is preposterous.

  • by Daetrin (576516) on Monday October 22, 2012 @01:14PM (#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.'"
  • by Dunbal (464142) * on Monday October 22, 2012 @01:31PM (#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.
  • by Tablizer (95088) on Monday October 22, 2012 @01:47PM (#41731009) Homepage Journal

    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.

  • by eyegor (148503) on Monday October 22, 2012 @01:48PM (#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]

  • by peter303 (12292) on Monday October 22, 2012 @02:02PM (#41731219)
    I heard the Italian Court consultant Thomas Jordan head of the Southern Calfornia Earthquake Center talk [iaspei.org] on this topic. Look at slides 15 & 16 about the difference between prediction and forecasting. The current methodology is to give a probabalistic forecast, like in weather, and not a yes/no prediction. The Italian scientists did not follow current methodology and gave a less useful prediction. The court convicted these scientists of negligence for not being current enough and might have cost some lives. Nearly the entire seismologic community including Dr. Jordan thinks the court decision was wrong.
  • by DarthVain (724186) on Monday October 22, 2012 @03:34PM (#41732333)

    is the one that can actually predict earthquakes, because he is the one that caused them, he lives in an active volcano, and wants one million dollars! Muhahaha!

  • by Nyder (754090) on Monday October 22, 2012 @04:23PM (#41733007) Journal

    Look. Quakes are an act of God.

    The Pope is the Main Man when it comes to God.

    The Pope didn't warn them.

    The Pope is guilty of murder.

  • by Khashishi (775369) on Monday October 22, 2012 @05:38PM (#41733985) Journal

    If scientists and doctors save a person's life, people thank God for the miracle.
    If an "act of God" kills people, then people blame the scientists.

The biggest mistake you can make is to believe that you are working for someone else.

Working...