Italian Court Action Likely to Harm Efforts to Mitigate Earthquake Losses
On 22 October, 2012, an Italian court convicted six internationally respected scientists of manslaughter. The scientists Enzo Boschi, Giulio Selvaggi, Franco Barberi, Claudio Eva, Mauro Dolce, and Gian Michele Calvi have been sentenced to prison terms, barred from public office, and ordered to pay court costs and damages.
Their offense could have been avoided by precisely predicting the timing and nature of the tragic 2009 earthquake in L’Aquila. However, such precise, short-term earthquake prediction of the type evidently sought by L’Aquila is currently impossible. Because of the ungainly complexity of earthquake systems, knowledge of physical details is incomplete; the diverse expressions of earthquake processes deliver contradictory messages; and measurements of earthquake phenomena can be inaccurate. Glaringly, the indictment accused the scientists of having provided “incomplete”, “contradictory”, and “inaccurate” information.
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