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Professor Buzzkill

Scientists sent to jail for not predicting

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http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/compost/post/italian-scientists-found-guilty-of-manslaughter-for-failure-to-perform-magic/2012/10/22/8f52e872-1c6d-11e2-9cd5-b55c38388962_blog.html

Who would want to be a scientist these days?

I think the main point here is that earthquakes are unpredictable, and these scientists told people not to worry and to go home and relax "with a glass of wine" hours before a major earthquake killed 300 people.

Should scientists (or anyone in a position of authority) be held accountable for misleading information?

When asked about earthquakes, should they have responded with "earthquakes are unpredictable" and left it at that, rather than telling people to go home and have some wine?

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I don't think he should've been thrown in jail.. No one can truely predict these things.

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People like to blame someone. No matter how illogical. It makes them feel better that someone was punished for the sins of nature.

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They shouldn't be held to blame at all. Yes, they could have left out the "relax with a glass of wine" line, but that hardly caused an earthquake.

What I see as an issue is: If we start to blame people for something they have zero control over, where do we stop?

Do we get to sue weatherpeople when our coats get wet on a predicted sunny day? How about being able to sue the number crunchers for my investments that went sour?

We all want scapegoats, but this is just silly.

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I think the real issue here is that the government set up a department called "National Commission for the Forecast and Prevention of Major Risks" which told people that there wasn't an increased risk of "the big one" and, therefore failed to do the job it was named for.

Who's idea was it to set up a government agency to do the impossible? Why would you take on that job as a scientist?

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Former Buffalo Mayor Jimmy Griffin during the blizzard of '85. "Grab yourself a 6-pack of beer and stay home."

Jimmy underestimated the average Buffalians rate of beer consumption.

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They shouldn't be held to blame at all. Yes, they could have left out the "relax with a glass of wine" line, but that hardly caused an earthquake.

What I see as an issue is: If we start to blame people for something they have zero control over, where do we stop?

I would argue that we are very good at blaming people for situations they have zero control over, just look at some of mud flinging in political circles.

Do we get to sue weatherpeople when our coats get wet on a predicted sunny day? How about being able to sue the number crunchers for my investments that went sour?

Number crunchers do need to take responsibility - they are more than happy to make claims of their expertise and how safe our money is with them, so I actually think we are way overdue in calling them out when so much of their career is dependant on their capacity to sell false hopes and dreams to consumers.

We all want scapegoats, but this is just silly.

Agreed, it should never have made court, the scientist/s that made the comment about the wine should have good hard look at themselves though - their own arrogance contributed to the fallout which was really only as irrational as their comments not to worry about something they actually couldn't predict.

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I read the article earlier on CNN, and personally find this to be absolutely rediculous.

The USGA said that there is no current way to predict a major earthquake, regardless of early minor tremors, as most minor tremors do not develop into anything more.

I place the blame on the governing institution, not the scientists.

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Another point i heard on the radio about this issue and how it relates to climate change.

I mean, if governments listened to James Hansen in 1988 and his alarmist warnings about climate change, could we then throw him in jail for misleading the public?

Or, alternately, maybe Lord Monckton would be thrown in jail for his statements against AGW if disaster does strike.

Is it now the moment scientist speculate on the possibility or probability of disaster and they are listened too, they then become fair game for their predictions or lack there of?

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Some things in life right now remain unpredictable and you shouldn't expect someone to do so with accuracy. For sure shouldn't throw them in jail for it. Unless you want all scientists afraid to state their theories.

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If I,d heard there was an earth quake coming I would of prepared for it, but if a scientist told me to relax

with a bottle of wine I would of done that.

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In any case, the title is misleading. It was not failing to predict a quake, it was failing to point out that special construction measures had to be taken because the area is a earthquake zone.

Be it how it may, my bet is once that the dust settles that next instance will cash in this verdict.

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I bet that scientist is now wishing he had gone into a profesion that these people might have respected... like making crystal meth or playing piano in a brothel...

If he had told people that "the big one" was coming and they should all go to "x" place, and "x" place collapsed and killed hundreds... they would have sued him as well... If he had predicted an earthquake and none happened he would would have been held up to ridicule... It's a no win situation... Now that being said, "go home and relax" might not have been the most helpful thing to say...

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I would think the verdict would send chills though out the entire Italian scientist community, if other countries were smart they would immediately start offering asylum to Italian scientists and lure away Italy's best and brightest.

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This update on the scientific communities feelings about the verdict.

http://edition.cnn.com/2012/10/23/world/europe/italy-quake-scientists-guilty/index.html?hpt=hp_t3

Just as a point of interest - good luck Italy with future quake predictions, you'll have to google to find out scientists opinions from across the globe (if any are focussed on Italian issues) as there won't be any within your borders either working in the field or willing to so much as hint that they might have an idea or two about the subject.

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Who would want to be a scientist these days?

I think the main point here is that earthquakes are unpredictable, and these scientists told people not to worry and to go home and relax "with a glass of wine" hours before a major earthquake killed 300 people.

Wait until they try to find volunteers for their emergency planning commission.

Should scientists (or anyone in a position of authority) be held accountable for misleading information?

If they are, our politicians are in BIG trouble.

Doug

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This sure will boost the advance of science....

I don't think we will have to be afraid of future earth changes; it's human stupidity that will eventually do us in.

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How will the Italians feel when their scientists and other professionals all exodus out of the country... and they are left with no damn scientists or engineers at all?

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It's tragic so many people died but it's not fair to hold the scientists responsible. They did what they thought was right at the time and I hardly think they deliberately gave out misleading information, they don't deserve to be made an example of like this.

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If his statement was incompetent if compared with the available data then fire him, but I don't think a scientist should be jailed for being wrong about something unless he can somehow be proven to intentionally said it to try and hurt people.

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It's tragic so many people died but it's not fair to hold the scientists responsible. They did what they thought was right at the time and I hardly think they deliberately gave out misleading information, they don't deserve to be made an example of like this.

It's just the Italian government that needs a scapegoat because of their own incompetence.

As soon as they get rid of that Mafia mentality, things will change for the better, but I don't expect that to ever happen soon.

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witch hunt.

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They should be hauling in the Pope. After all he has a direct line to God so he should have predicted the earthquake. Only God knows what is to happen. Those idiots are looking for a scapegoat for something that is beyond the control of man.A bunch of dumb peasants.....

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Quote

Should scientists (or anyone in a position of authority) be held accountable for misleading information?

If they are, our politicians are in BIG trouble.

Doug

"Before you speak, you should know that anyone, even a scientist, is held accountable for his words"

944_King_Leonidas_of_Sparta_-_GB.jpg

THIS IS ITALY!

Edited by Professor Buzzkill

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This was the DUMBEST thing I've ever heard.

Who would ever attempt to predict anything again in Italy? You'd have to be nuts.

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