22 April, 2013

A To Z Challenge: Seismology And Scientists Convicted Of Manslaughter

Seismology is a branch of earth science that studies earthquakes. It's a relatively new field due to the fact scientists have only been capable of truly measuring the entire scope of earthquakes for around 100 years, though different societies have had their methods of detecting shifts in the ground for far longer than that--the first seismograph (a device that measures seismic waves, or waves produced by earthquakes or other extreme phenomena) was built in 132 CE in China.


Perhaps a recent development in seismology that has received the most attention was the six-year jail sentence handed down to six scientists and a former government official. In 2009, a 6.3 magnitude earthquake struck the town of L'Aquila in Italy and killed 309 people; the scientists and official, part of a National Commission for the Forecast and Prevention of Major Risks, were accused of manslaughter for failing to predict the earthquake. The court's decision is based on the idea the statements put out by the commission were misleading in that they falsely provided a sense of security before the disaster--at one point, a statement was put out saying there was no danger. However, the scientific community has protested the court's decision because they feel it is, at least partly, an attack on science. Earthquake prediction is extremely difficult and there are zero tried and true methods of figuring out when the next significant quake is going to hit.

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Sources:
http://www.thefreedictionary.com/seismology
http://www.geo.mtu.edu/UPSeis/waves.html
http://www.geo.mtu.edu/UPSeis/studying.html
http://www.seismosoc.org/society/education/careers.php
http://earthquake.usgs.gov/learn/glossary/?term=seismology
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-20025626
http://arstechnica.com/science/2012/10/italian-scientists-convicted-of-manslaughter-for-earthquake-risk-report/

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Do you agree with the court's decision? Or do you think that in these types of cases, regardless of the number of people dead, there are no grounds for scientists to be convicted?


-----The Golden Eagle

23 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I'm sure it's like predicting the weather! Harsh to imprison the scientists.

Liz said...

As a Californian and someone who has used the term "earthquake weather" semi-seriously, I know that you cannot predict earthquakes. They always take you by surprise. They can happen anywhere. And to jail someone for not accurately predicting an earthquake is ridiculous.

We don't get up in arms when the weather forecast is wrong...

Old Kitty said...

I thought convicting these scientists was extreme and I could hardly believe it when I followed the news about their trial! A bad bad day for science! Take care
x

JeffO said...

I don't know if Italy has a culture of blame, but it sure seems it from that court's decision. It's another thing entirely if you could prove they knew it was going to happen and withheld the information.

Pat Hatt said...

Seems very harsh indeed, if everybody thought that way there would be no weathermen left.

Elaine Smith said...

It seems odd that acts of god could get scientists arrested.
Your image of seismic activity is very graphically worrying. I'm glad I don't live in the densely black zones.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

The court sentence sounds ridiculous. If they had said it might happen any time would people have moved out of the region?

Jeff Hargett said...

I read about that. Boggled my mind, but stranger things...

mshatch said...

Does that mean weathermen will be next for failing to report a tornado or the danger level of a hurricane? I don't think the scientists should be held liable, but I didn't hear all the testimony either.

Connie Keller said...

Wow. So bizarre. It seems to me that you'd have to assume they knew it was going to happen (not possible) and that they then willfully withheld the information. I hope they get released soon.

Cindy Dwyer said...

Could you imagine if we did this with meteorologists who gave bad forecasts? We'd have no weathermen left!

D.G. Hudson said...

Insurance companies usually like to have clauses about natural disasters like earthquakes. I don't agree with charging scientists.

Maurice Mitchell said...

There's no way that will stand up in court Golden Eagle.

Rusty Webb said...

Well, I'd like to throw my local weatherman in jail when he predicts snow and the grocery stores get swamped by panicked masses. Then in turns out to be no snow at all - not even rain.

Rob-bear said...

I do remember that case, now that you mention it, Eagle. Weird.

Seismology is not an exact science. To punish some people for misreading uncertain data is a bit much. Still, they may not have helped their cases through some their statements.

Blessings and Bear hugs!
Bears Noting

Sangu Mandanna said...

Wow I did not know anyone was ever convicted for not predicting an earthquake! Ouch.

C. Lee McKenzie said...

Since I live about 200 feet from the San Andreas Fault, I'm very aware of those seismic shifts in our earth's crust. I'd love it if those seismologists could come up with an accurate prediction. I'd pack all the china this time!

Mark Noce said...

I didn't realize people had studied these phenomenon for so long...I always thought they were just things people choked up to angry gods.

The Golden Eagle said...

Alex: I think so, too.

Liz: Nope. People complain . . . but they don't (usually) send hate mail to the weather forecasters.

Old Kitty: Definitely a bad day in the scientific community.

JeffO: Agreed. But, as far as I understand the case, they didn't.

Pat: Nope!

Elaine: That's certainly a good thing. :)

Susan: I doubt it. There are still a lot of people in California, for example.

Jeff: Unfortunately!

Mshatch: From what I've read, they said there was no danger--which, statistically, is a true statement. They just said it at the wrong time.

Connie: I hope they are as well!

Cindy: Indeed we wouldn't!

D.G.: I don't agree with it, either. It seems like such a pointless decision.

Maurice: But it already did. :( The six scientists and former government official have been convicted.

Rusty: I think we've all felt like that on occasion . . .

Rob-bear: Weird is right.

True, they did say there was no danger. Some greater warning (if just a note of caution) might have been useful.

Sangu: I think these scientists are the first--which is a pretty dubious honor.

Lee: It could save a lot of lives if earthquake prediction improved!

Mark: LOL. Sometimes; but some societies did develop technologies that allowed them to measure earthquakes.

Susan Kane said...

It is Italy, what more can be said. If only it were possible to predict earthquakes.

The Golden Eagle said...

Susan: If only . . .

Paul Tobin said...

Yes, I think its unfair to put a person in goal because of what they did not predict. It is a JeffO says a culture of blame-very unhealthy.

The Golden Eagle said...

Paul: Hopefully that kind of thing can change with time.