L'Aquila, Italy (Reuters) - An Italian court convicted six scientists and a government official of manslaughter on Monday and sentenced them to six years in prison for failing to give adequate warning of a deadly earthquake which destroyed the central city of L'Aquila and killed more than 300 people in 2009.
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Italian scientists convicted over earthquake warning
Tags: big brother, doomed
Prosecution asks for four-year sentence in Italian seismology trial
I remember hearing those declarations after months of news reporting perceivable earthquakes. They seemed quite optimistic, being Aquila a well documented seismic zone.
Many people were quite scared, being woken in the middle of the night because of medium-small shocks. This happened various times during the previous months.
They wanted to reduce panic: anyone who had the possibility to leave the city begun to do so. Economy, Università degli Studi dell'Aquila, tourism, ecc... were affected by this unlucky series of seismic events.
I think that they decided to show off optimism more from a political perspective than a scientific one. They should have talked about earthquake drills, post-earthquake building inspections (some buildings were already damaged): stuff that could have been useful in the worst case scenario, that promptly happened just a week after.
Yay! Let's send people to jail because they didn't overreact and cause mass panic!
This is pretty heavy post hoc reasoning though. "They made a mistake because look, something bad DID happen!"
If you had asked any decent seismologist, before the event, whether the early tremors indicated an increased probability of a major quake to follow, the answer would be "not, that we have the art to tell, significantly more than the probability that is continuously present in this area."
Things that behave like Poisson distributions are annoying in that way.
The thing is that if you are already accepting of the inherent risks of living in a continuously seismically active area in unreinforced earthen buildings, as evidenced by the way you already live there, then a few tremors does nothing that would make me tell you to change that level of risk tolerance.
I don't see any way that it's scientific to tell people how to weigh seismic risk versus other reasons they might like to live in a place.
True, they could have seized the moment to talk more about preparedness and upgrading the buildings, but that would actually have been political rather than scientific decision making.
I can't see how this could possibly go wrong.
Off-topic, JWZ: has your comment login via Twitter functionality been broken by their api changes?
Beats me... Has it?
I can log in via twitter but the avatar and username is missing (says "Hi !", with no name), and when I try to post I get this error from WordPress: "Error: please fill the required fields (name, email)."
Someone else apparently reporting the same issue: http://wordpress.org/support/topic/unable-to-comment-using-stc
Yes, it has. He's using the plugin I wrote to do the Twitter stuff, and Twitter's recent changes just broke... everything..
I'll be updating the plugin sometime next week, when I can find the time. And by "updating", I probably mean "rewriting".