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Nov 12, 2014

Network Front | The Guardian: Caution should be the watchword for scientists trying to predict the future

Network Front | The Guardian
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Caution should be the watchword for scientists trying to predict the future
Nov 12th 2014, 18:11, by Philip Ball

The acquittal of Italian seismologists over the LAquila earthquake is welcome. But in the business of forecasting, uncertainty is no excuse for complacency

The successful appeal of six Italian scientists against their manslaughter conviction, after they failed to predict a lethal earthquake in 2009, will be welcomed by the many researchers outraged by the initial court judgment. When the seismologists were put on trial in 2010 for allegedly giving residents of the town of LAquila a false sense of security about an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.3 that killed more than 300 people, around 5,000 scientists signed an open letter of protest addressed to the Italian president Giorgio Napolitano.

The letter stated: There is no accepted scientific method for earthquake prediction that can be reliably used to warn citizens of an impending disaster. To expect more of science at this time is unreasonable. The case was seen as evidence of an anti-science bias in Italian society and a failure to understand what scientific prediction is all about.

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