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The Aftershocks

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Seven of Italy’s top scientists were convicted of manslaughter following a catastrophic quake. Has the country criminalized science?

By David Wolman

Animation by Rebecca Mock

Wait, what?!

During the winter and early spring of 2009, Selvaggi and other seismologists at Italy’s National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology had been monitoring numerous tremors around L’Aquila. The sequence of small quakes over a short period of time, known as a “seismic swarm,” is distinct from the aftershocks that follow a big quake.

And in places like L’Aquila, they are not necessarily abnormal. Local media repeatedly relayed that generic message to the public. Regional government officials insisted there was no need to fret, despite chronically unenforced building codes. The Civil Protection Department for Abruzzo, the region where L’Aquila is located, even issued a press release flatly proclaiming there would be no big earthquake.


But why were they convicted of manslaughter? That makes no sense.

Syllogism is the root of this evil.

As in bad logic? Poor scientists!

Love this moving image, it is hypnotizing me :)

You are getting sleepy.....sleepy.....

Give me all your Burning Man schwag.

Very sneaky Geege!

I read this yesterday too. Good summary of the situation. Needless to say my fellow PhD students and I (many of whom work on risk modelling for natural disasters) were outraged at this at the time, and still now. If there's a chance of going to jail because of their models and predictions - well, needless to say many talented individuals are going to be put off researching in this area.

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