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cannonball

Italian Scientists jailed for "Act of God"

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http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-20025626
Today seimologists in Italy were found guilty of Manslaughter for failing to predict an earthquake which occured in L'Aquila in 2009.
Supposedly the claims by prosecution was over a failure of communication between scientists and government officials leading to a No risk message being put out to residents of the North Italian town prior to the major earthquake.
Simply put though we have been trying to understand methods of accurately predicting Earthquakes and as far as I'm aware still cannot do (look at Japan, they can't and they are the leading pioneers in the field). I find this story and judgement as absolutely ludicrous. People in this field are in a catch 22 here, if you evacuate and the disaster doesn't happen, you get it both barrels for loss of economy etc. If you fail to predict something you cannot accurately predict then you end up going to jail. I think that is utter rubbish.

Just wanted to know other peoples views on this (in my opinion) complete bullshit of a decision.

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Suspicious sentence indeed. Often, seismologists sit on a gray legal ground and are torn between being being harbingers of doom, or, worse, being wrong and considered as being "crying wolf". Damned if they do, damned if they don't.

It's not unusual for seismologists to actually be prosecuted (or threatened to be so) for the exact opposite reason: issuing an alert which, if false positive, will have nontrivial economic and organizational consequences, aka "spreading panic" or "crying wolf".

I think that at least one scientist involved in the Aquila earthquakes actually shut up because of that but went on TV soon after the quake and denounced the fact. I don't know if he's among the accused ones, though.

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Maes said:

Suspicious sentence indeed. Often, seismologists sit on a gray legal ground and are torn between being being harbingers of doom, or, worse, being wrong and considered as being "crying wolf". Damned if they do, damned if they don't.

It's not unusual for seismologists to actually be prosecuted (or threatened to be so) for the exact opposite reason: issuing an alert which, if false positive, will have nontrivial economic and organizational consequences, aka "spreading panic" or "crying wolf"

HAHA, wtf? Where in the world is any of that reasonable or commonplace? well, aside from italy I guess...

Really, would the italians had arrest them for illegal precognition or some shit if they had predicted it?

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Well, in the particular case of the Aquila earthquakes the main "culprit" seems to be this fella:

http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giampaolo_Giuliani

(page in Italian). Only now I noticed that he isn't formally a seismologist (he was a physics lab technician) but he claimed to have been suppressed, though it's not the first time I heard this. Actually, news of "earthquake warning" suppression are commonplace all around the world, but they rarely come from reputable seismologists, and for good reason: damned if they do, damned if they don't.

As for whether it's possible to suppress something like that...well, isn't impending disaster suppression one of the major plot points of almost every distaster movie (including classics as Jaws)? Plenty of RL examples at that.

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Seriously, what the hell? They should be arresting the nagging pricks who keep preaching about the apocalypse that's supposedly happening this December, instead of blaming scientific equipment for having margins of error.
And why would it take them 3 whole years to determine such a "guilt"?
FFS.

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I think that some scientists ought to be jailed. Not these ones, but the ones who got DDT banned and work to keep the ban in place ought to be jailed for man slaughter. Millions of people are dead because of their bogus science.

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doom_is_great said:

I think that some scientists ought to be jailed. Not these ones, but the ones who got DDT banned and work to keep the ban in place ought to be jailed for man slaughter. Millions of people are dead because of their bogus science.


You know how I know you're an idiot?
http://www.chem.duke.edu/~jds/cruise_chem/pest/ddtup.html
But Duke University, obviously hippies.

Although affected by DDT, the microorganisms do not usually die. Instead, they tend to keep the DDT within themselves. Considering that microorganisms such as green algae and plankton form the basis of the food chain, how do you think other organisms affected by this?

Terrestrial Invertebrates (backbone-less creatures that live on land; examples include molluscs and earthworms) are not affected very much by DDT. In fact, they can tolerate a lot of DDT for long periods of time.

They will, however, retain a lot of the DDT in their bodies (accumulation). This makes it dangerous for those predators who eat these organisms (biomagnification).

Unlike their land-loving relatives, aquatic invertebrates are quite sensitive to DDT, especially while these creatures are still very young. Some problems associated with DDT include reproductive/development impairment and nervous system disorders. At one time, DDT was used to control certain sea crustaceans, because it was so effective against these aquatic invertebrates.


DDT causes many problems in fish (So many, in fact, that it has been difficult to study DDT in fish. We can't seem to find where the DDT is doing the most damage.) We think that problem probably involves DDT's presence in the fish's plasma membrane, an area where important biological processes are occuring.

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doom_is_great said:

I think that some scientists ought to be jailed. Not these ones, but the ones who got DDT banned and work to keep the ban in place ought to be jailed for man slaughter. Millions of people are dead because of their bogus science.

And for a finale could you go on a rant about how scientists are injecting our youths with autism?

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Technician said:

And for a finale could you go on a rant about how scientists are injecting our youths with autism?


Gogo Team Jock!

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Don't blame the fickle nature of nature, blame an imprecise science which tries to understand it.

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I wonder if anyone would want to predict earthquakes in Italy again after this? And if no one does and another disaster happens, would the people who convicted these guys be tried for the same crime :P

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A BBC "Have Your Say" comment put it best IMO. Here's my paraphrasing: "Why not jail the Pope, as he clearly didn't forward the message on from God about the earthquake?"

It is ridiculous to jail a team of people whose job is to make best-guesses at when the next major earthquake will strike. When they say it's an imprecise science and they know they'll get punished for false alarms already, it's pretty safe to say that they're treading a fine line with their recommendations.

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Maybe a legal precedent could be drawn from the medical profession: medical doctors often justify their failures (legitimately so) on the unpredictability, complexity and incomplete understanding of human physiology (in particular in areas such as psychiatry, neurology, transplants, surgery and pharmacological reactions), and often e.g. a surgeon's statement that "We did all we could" is seldom contested.

The same type of arguments could not be brought forth by e.g. a metalworks engineer in a foundry, if a bad batch of steel is produced under his supervision: in such areas, things are more solid (pardon the pun) and screwups are usually very precisely reconductible to their causes, whether natural or human in nature.

However, that doesn't mean that doctors/pharmacologists/psychiatrists are always immune or protected from legal repercussions for certain failures/deaths/damages (though there are extremes such as lobotomy advocates, prescriptors of thalidomide etc.).

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The real question is whether the court was able to show evidence they were fudging their results for some reason. I've heard people discussing the case imply this, but I've never seen any evidence myself (it doesn't help that I can't read Italian of course).

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article said:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-20025626

Supposedly the claims by prosecution was over a failure of communication between scientists and government officials leading to a No risk message being put out to residents of the North Italian town prior to the major earthquake.


Did someone even read that?

Also, the sentence starts with "supposedly"...

Nothing to see here, move along

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doom_is_great said:

I think that some scientists ought to be jailed. Not these ones, but the ones who got DDT banned and work to keep the ban in place ought to be jailed for man slaughter. Millions of people are dead because of their bogus science.


Why would they ban the DDT? I know it can be a dangerous wrestling move, but come on! Jake Roberts will not be pleased.

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Pfft, Italians. "In Genoa, it is the custom to stand with one foot in a bucket, pin a live frog to one's shoulder braid, and go 'Bibble' at passers-by."

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Meh. We need to replace that crazy judge and prosecutor with good ol' Harvey Dent. A single flick of a scratched silver dollar can restore justice and make the scientists rightfully innocent as they deserve to be. :)
I believe in Harvey Dent! LOL

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Coopersville said:

Heh, a scientific witch hunt, eh?

I'd like to see them find the means, motive, and opportunity for that.


Probably justifying research funding cuts.

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