Saturday, May 28, 2011

A witch hunt

I first posted about this yesterday.

Here is some additional news about the charges.

The geologist/criminal prosecutor in me is just baffled by this.

Remember you can't spell manslaughter without laughter.

Italian seismologist charged with manslaughter

Italian government officials have accused the country's top seismologist of manslaughter, after failing to predict a natural disaster that struck Italy in 2009, a massive devastating earthquake that killed 308 people.

A shocked spokesman for the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) likened the accusations to a witch hunt.

"It has a medieval flavor to it -- like witches are being put on trial," the stunned spokesman told

Enzo Boschi, the president of Italy's National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology (INGV), will face trial along with six other scientists and technicians, after failing to predict the future and the impending disaster.

Earthquakes are, of course, nearly impossible to predict, seismologists say. In fact, according to the website for the USGS, no major quake has ever been predicted successfully.

"Neither the USGS nor Caltech nor any other scientists have ever predicted a major earthquake," reads a statement posted on the USGS website. "They do not know how, and they do not expect to know how any time in the foreseeable future."

John Vidale, a Washington State seismologist and professor at the University of Washington, agreed that earthquake forecasting is simply impossible.

"We're not able to predict earthquakes very well at all," he told LiveScience.

"One problem is, we don't know how much stress it takes to break a fault," Vidale told the site. "Second we still don't know how much stress is down there. All we can do is measure how the ground is deforming."

Not knowing either of these factors makes it pretty tough to figure out when stresses will get to the point of a rupture, and an earth-shaking quake, LiveScience explained.