Developments in the field of seismology have helped scientists to predict plate movements that could lead to harmful earthquakes. However, does this mean that seismologists should have the responsibility to decide whether people should remain in their homes when there appears to be a small threat of an earthquake? Or should they take a risk and not warn people?
On October 28th of this year, six scientists were sentenced to six years each in prison. They were accused of the manslaughter of 309 people who were killed by the 6.3 magnitude earthquake in L’Aquila, Italy. The scientists were faced with evidence of tremors that were very unlikely to cause an earthquake; however, there was still a one in one hundred chance that it could. The equipment itself did not fail the people of L’Aquila, but the human conveyance of the information did. In a press conference the scientists stated that there was nothing to worry about, which was the one fault that they made.
The experts understood that there was a chance, albeit a small one, that an earthquake could be triggered by the plate activity. The government official, Bernardo De Bernardinis, was also at fault as he advised residents to go home and sip a glass of wine. So, although our understanding of seismic activity has improved, it appears that the uncertainty of an earthquake makes an accurate prediction almost impossible. Therefore, should it really be left to scientists to make the call as to whether the area is safe? Or is their job simply to work on the data of an event rather than have to evacuate towns and cities of frightened people? Whether or not it was right to imprison the seismologists is just the tip of the iceberg for an issue that is more than likely going to occur again in the future. [bbcnews]