Science is inherently full of uncertainties and unknowable quantities and sometimes all we have to work with are the most simple of models. So the idea of holding a scientist responsible for the certainty or lack there of in the interpretation of data is abhorrent. Yet that is just what happened today as an Italian court has convicted six seismologists of providing “inexact, incomplete and contradictory” information.
Wow, if thats the case, they should throw all the meteorologists in jail too. In such a field like seismology, all one can do is provide a best educated guess. Its the very nature of the earth to not know what goes on miles beneath our feet because we have yet to find a way to be down there and take measurements. And at risk of taking an analogy too far, the nature of measurement is also uncertain.
I hope this ruling does not stand or else, at least in Italy, risk a return to the dark ages.
ps: it should probably be noted that unenforced buildings that collapsed are the cause of death in many earthquakes.