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Predicting Earthquakes

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Should These Scientists be in Prison?

Should These Scientists be in Prison?

Credit: Derek Key
Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/derekskey/3218952881/
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

Should scientists go to prison for not predicting an earthquake? The Italian justice system thinks they should.

Amazing But True!

Six scientists and a government official are in prison in Italy because they did not predict an earthquake. Early in 2008, the town of L’Aquilia experienced many tremors. When asked the scientists said that an earthquake was “unlikely.” The official said the town was in “no danger.” But a magnitude-6.3 earthquake struck the town on April 6, 2009. In that quake, 309 people died. Finding the scientists guilty assumes that scientists know how to predict earthquakes. How well can seismologists predict earthquakes?

Explore More

With the links below, learn more about scientists’ ability to predict earthquakes. Then answer the following questions.

  1. When scientists forecast an earthquake, what information do they give?
  2. What information are scientists unable to give when trying to predict earthquakes?
  3. What case did the prosecution in the L’Aquila earthquake trial make?
  4. How often do foreshocks precede a large earthquake in Italy?
  5. How might scientific advancement be hindered by cases such as the one in L’Aquila?

Image Attributions

  1. [1]^ Credit: Derek Key; Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/derekskey/3218952881/; License: CC BY-NC 3.0

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