Wed, Oct 24, 2012 - Page 7 News List

Scientists sent to jail for not predicting Italy quake

HARD SCIENCE:The verdict has angered geologists across the world, who say that blaming the scientists for not giving a warning was misunderstanding seismology

AP, L’AQUILA, Italy

There are swarms of seismic activity regularly in Italy and most do not end up causing dangerous earthquakes, said AAAS geologist Brooks Hanson, deputy editor of the organization’s Science magazine. He said that if seismologists had to warn of a quake with every swarm there would be too many false alarms and panic.

“With earthquakes we just don’t know,” Hanson said on Monday.

Comments on Twitter about the verdict abounded with references to Galileo, the Italian scientist who was tried as a heretic in 1633 for his contention that the Earth revolved around the sun and not vice versa as Catholic church teachings then held. In 1992, then-Pope John Paul II declared that the church had erred in its ruling against the astronomer.

Defense lawyer Filippo Dinacci predicted that the L’Aquila court’s verdict would have a chilling effect on officials tasked with protecting Italians in natural disasters.

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