Just when you thought Europe was coming to its senses, it goes all Europe-y on you. According to the Christian Science Monitor:
Today, a court in the central Italian city of L’Aquila…sentenced six scientists and a government bureaucrat to six years in jail on manslaughter charges for their failure to predict a 2009 earthquake that left more than 300 people dead.
A related story in Reuters reports:
“If it stands, this verdict will have a chilling effect on earthquake science in Italy and throughout Europe,” said Sandy Steacy, professor of earthquake physics at the University of Ulster.
Chilling effect? I should think it would bring it to a standstill. Italy has had its problems with science before, but that was Copernicus several centuries ago. No one is second to us at the Cannibal when it comes for respect for tradition, but this is one the Italians might have taken a pass on.
It does raise some interesting possibilities, however. Is there now some prospect of the climatologists at East Anglia being called too account for fiddling the data in their reports? They might not have killed 300 people (neither did the Italian seismologists), but surely deliberately fudging figures and frightening the bejeezus out of tens of millions of people who believe their televisions counts for something. And what about California? The bar association out there must be dead drunk in celebration by now: the next surprise tremblor out there could provide a whole new generation of law school students with a handsome living for decades, if this is any precedent.
One last related thought: Al Gore should think twice about any vacations in Italy. If they’re putting these guys in the hoosegow for six years for missing the boat on the earthquake, they might burn him at the stake.