Anyone who has been feeling that life these days is not sufficiently medieval need look no further than the Italian seismologists just sentenced for manslaughter for failing to predict an earthquake they had no scientific basis to believe was coming.
Admittedly, these scientists were on something called the “National Commission for the Forecast and Prevention of Major Risks,” which is not the kind of title that reassures you that the people who formed it correctly understand the limits of science. And now the scientists on the commission are being punished for their failure.
Six Italian scientists, reports BBC News, have been found guilty of manslaughter for providing “inexact, incomplete and contradictory" information before the earthquake at l’Aquila in April 2009. If higher courts uphold the sentence, they will have to spend six years in prison.
Some earthquakes, as a BBC science reporter notes, are preceded by jittery animals or other warning signs. Some aren’t. Earthquakes are touchy beasts, and while some large ones are preceded by small tremors, most small tremors are not followed by large earthquakes. Once, in China, they managed to predict an earthquake a day before it happened, but this was a fluke that has never since been repeated.
An open letter to the Italian president from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, signed by more than 5,000 scientists, notes: “Years of research, much of it conducted by distinguished scientists in your own country, have demonstrated that there is no accepted scientific method for earthquake prediction that can be reliably used to warn citizens of an impending disaster.”
But other than the fact that these scientists are being punished for failing to spin straw into gold, it is 2012.LINK