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Science Monday, October 22nd 2012 at 2:45 pm

Italian Scientists Found Guilty of Failing to Predict Earthquake, Given Sentence of Six Years in Prison

In general, scientists tend to gather as much data as they can before making their predictions. Often as not, these include caveats. When predicting natural phenomenon and disasters, this is pretty much how the system operates. No prediction is ever really certain when it comes to nature, as everyone’s local weather forecaster showcases on a regular basis. We continue to improve our forecasting and prediction abilities, but nature will be nature, and we do the best we can. Italy apparently doesn’t agree with this assertion. Six scientists and a former government official have been sentenced to six years in prison for failing to accurately predict a 2009 earthquake in L’Aquila, Italy.

BBC News explains:

The seven – all members of the National Commission for the Forecast and Prevention of Major Risks – were judged to have provided “inexact, incomplete and contradictory” information about the danger of the tremors felt ahead of 6 April 2009 quake, Italian media report.

Essentially, these seven people are being saddled with the death of 309 Italian citizens because they failed to predict a major catastrophe. They’re quite literally blaming them for a natural disaster in the same way that belligerent folks might blame the weatherman for a sudden storm. The chilling effects that this is likely to have on Italian science can’t be overstated, because blaming scientists for these kinds of things is not exactly a good way to promote further study.

(BBC News via Boing Boing)

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