Scientists – in Politics and Prison

A major earthquake struck on April 6, 2009. It killed three hundred people in the Italian city of L’Aquila. Hundreds more were injured and thousands were rendered homeless. More than three years later, on October 21, 2012 an Italian court found seven men guilty of this disaster. One of them was an Italian government official, the others were senior Italian scientists. They will spend six years in prison.

To summarize the story of the earthquake:

For a few months, numerous tremors alerted and frightened the L’Aquila residents. The residents were quite worried and experts from Italian Major Risks Committee were called in. Six senior Italian geophysicists had a meeting with a civil official. At the meeting, the scientists considered different scenarios. None of the scientists ruled out a possibility of earthquake. Some of experts considered the earthquake to be not very likely. One of them made a clearly erroneous statement – that small tremors may act positively by dissipating energy, thus reducing the probability of an earthquake. All of the experts specified that it was impossible to predict or completely rule out an earthquake. Later, the civil official presented the results to the public. He stated that an earthquake would not take place and he recommended that the residents stayed.

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