October 25, 2012

A Puzzle

There is a certain joy in predictions - psychics have known about it for years (HA!).  It lets you play with odds, or apply hope to probability, or to exploit others who don't quite know what "probability" means.

It also lets you ignore facts as "only a possibility, and even that's in the future" if you want.

Thing is, some people are paid a great deal to deliver those odds.  Or even harder, change "there is a chance of" to straight up "yes" or "no".  This can be good or bad: some things, like football predictions, are essentially harmless outside of actual gambling addiction and the possibility of paying off debts by doing favours for local rough boys.  In other things, however, the stakes can be somewhat higher.

Like in earthquake prediction.

It is currently impossible to predict earthquakes.  It can't be done.  Anyone who tells you otherwise is either seriously deluded (their source being Oomgurk, Chief Scientist of the Atlantean royal court) or they are running a scam and are about to hit you up for cash.  It's simply impossible.

That hasn't stopped an Italian court from convicting six geophysicists and one former politician of manslaughter for the deaths of 309 people.  By earthquake.  That they didn't cause.  Seriously.

I live in an earthquake zone, and have all my life.  Scientists have known for decades that there is going to be a massive earthquake happening here at some point in the future - going as far to say that one is hugely overdue.  In geological time, of course; but still!  And do you know what people here are doing about it?

Having their kids hide under desks.

Yep, the same defensive tactic as was prescribed for thermonuclear war (except for the t-shirts).  Granted, it seems more likely to have a function other than "distract the young 'uns while the adults grab water and bunker down", but that really about it for earthquake preparation for the vast majority of people who life in the area.  Even if someone DID say an earthquake was imminent, so what?  We've been hearing that for all of our lives!  Until they can say "a major earthquake will happen tomorrow at 3:25 PM", most of us are going to be listening with half an ear at best.  Even then, we won't start packing (if we ever do) until noon, and probably wouldn't make it to the end of the driveway because of the raging debate over how many Tassimo packets to bring to the emergency shelter.

And for this, scientists can get six years in prison?  Tell you what, Italian courts: since earthquakes are described as Acts of God, why don't you do something useful and apply your expertise there?


posted by Thursday at 8:20 pm


Post a Comment

<< Home