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L’Aquila earthquake convictions overturned

You may remember a couple of years ago there was a conviction of seven men in Italy, widely reported as being for failing to predict an earthquake. Actually, there was a little more to it — the conviction related to a supposed “falsely reassuring statement” given to the public — but, still, the scientific community’s outrage centred around the impossibility of accurately predicting earthquakes based on earlier tremors.

It was reported this week that the manslaughter conviction for six of the men has been overturned in an appeals court, with the seventh — then deputy head of Italy’s Civil Protection Department Bernardo De Bernardinis, who made public statements that the tremors posed “no danger” — having his sentence reduced from six to two years. Physics World says it is likely that these verdicts will be challenged in Italy’s Supreme Court, which may not hear the case until 2016.

More information

Physics World: L’Aquila verdict quashed.

Background (2012)

Aperiodical: L’Aquila seismologists found guilty of manslaughter connected to earthquake risk assessment.

Math/Maths 119: Those Boffins, and their Science.

L’Aquila seismologists found guilty of manslaughter connected to earthquake risk assessment

In David Spiegelhalter’s excellent programme on risk, Tails You Win: The Science of Chance, we heard about the classic case of Michael Fish failing to predict the 1987 hurricane, and about the difficulty of predicting such events. Another area where precise prediction is extremely difficult is earthquakes.

Today the BBC are reporting that “six Italian scientists and an ex-government official have been sentenced to six years in prison” in L’Aquila, Italy, having been found “guilty of multiple manslaughter” because of a “falsely reassuring statement” they gave before a 6.3 magnitude earthquake struck the city in 2009 and killed 309 people.

Met Office Weather Game – early results

Last summer the Met Office launched an online game to understand how best to present probabilities in weather forecasts. This game was collecting data for a project on perception of probabilities.

The Met Office reports game was played more than 11,000 times. A blog post presents some initial findings:

When faced with straightforward decisions, providing probabilities doesn’t confuse people.
For more complex situations, on average people are able to make better decisions using probabilities.
People make the best decisions when more detailed information on forecast uncertainty is provided.

Data analysis continues.

Met Office: Early results from our record-breaking weather game.