Judge's faulty logic makes us quake

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 28 May, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 28 May, 2011, 12:00am


It's a pretty stunning charge: scientists face trial for manslaughter because they failed to predict a deadly earthquake. This is not fiction.

In Italy, a judge has thrown the book at some of the country's top seismologists for not warning of the 6.3-magnitude earthquake that struck the medieval city of L'Aquila in 2009, leaving 308 people dead.

The accused are members of the national government's great risks commission, which is supposed to evaluate the potential for natural disasters.

Defence lawyers have strongly condemned the charge, saying earthquakes are impossible to predict - an argument with which seismologists have long concurred.

Let's consider the implications of this charge. It will kill the profession of seismology in Italy.

Bring back clairvoyance and guessing, we say. The advantages are obvious. You don't need to know maths, physics or geology. You don't even have to use a computer.

Frogs, too, could be the answer. Hasn't someone proved that a certain species of frogs mates en masse 24 hours before a big one? Someone needs to hop to it and investigate. We can see many new and creative avenues for the legal profession if this case succeeds.

Prosecutors can go after economists who fail to predict the next financial crisis. Then there are the doctors who fail to predict a patient's cancer, the media who don't foresee tomorrow's stories... Don't get us started on the weatherman in Hong Kong.

And don't forget the 'trusty' fung shui guy who gave us the wrong numbers for last week's jackpot Mark Six.

Pardon the pun, but it's all their fault.