Monday, October 22, 2012

It's not always good to be a seismologist

Seismology is the science of studying earthquakes. And tremors, and aftershocks and everything else connected with earthquakes. I guess it's a nice, interesting job. Maybe even a tad laid back. Except when a disaster is involved. Like every other natural disaster, quakes can get pretty gruesome.

Seismologists don't just sit around waiting for Mother Nature to do some shaking. Or a whole lot of shaking. They work on predicting when one could possibly, or is about to, occur. They don't like to make predictions that carry a high level of certainty. You shouldn't try and fool Mother, and you damned sure better be careful when you say you know when she's about to do one of her "things."

In April 2009, there was a quake in Italy and 300+ folks died. Investigations ensued, of course. And one of those investigations was aimed at Italian seismologists.

"When the charges were brought against the Italian scientists back in 2010, they shocked
the scientific world. Prosecutors claimed that the scientists, while serving on a government
panel, minimized the potential risks of a potential quake in the region, and gave "incomplete,
imprecise, and contradictory information" to the area's citizens, according to an in-depth
report on the case last year in the scientific journal Nature."

Those six scientists were convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to prison. They were found guilty of  failing to adequately warn the city of L'Aquila in advance of he quake.

As much as many of us would like to "convict" our local weather forecasters, we don't. It's just a silly idea. Now I'm wondering how many US bottom feeders lawyers are mulling over the possibility.

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