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Hank has some thoughts on the news that several Italian scientists who were convicted of 29 counts manslaughter for making an "inadequate risk-assessment" before an earthquake.

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Nature's Statement:
Top Scientists Resigning:
Italy Corruption:
Hank:  Hello and welcome to SciShow Breaking News.  I hope my bias isn't showing when I say that science is generally a force for good. I mean sure, the truth doesn't have morals, and every once in a while science creates nuclear weapons or Zyklon B, but usually science is creating good stuff like anti-lock brakes or helping us predict earthquakes. Oh, and about that last one, we may need to actually stop doing that because according to a court in Italy, several scientists are guilty of manslaughter, and have been sentenced to six years in jail because they made an "inadequate risk assessment" according to them before an earthquake. And it's making me a little bit furious.

And I am not alone.  The journal Nature calls the sentence perverse and ludicrous and several top Italian scientists have resigned from their posts. And who could blame them, since apparently doing their work may entail jail sentences.

As background, in 2009 there were a series of small shocks in L'Aquila, Italy. The people of the town started getting worried, and several citizens took to social media to get people more riled up about the potential of a major earthquake.  The Italian government gathered a risk assessment panel of scientists, they said that the risk was raised, but not significantly. Now this is the best that they could do on such short notice and of course since small quakes are common, they usually don't precede large quakes.

The government official then held a press conference saying that the danger was not increased and that residents should relax. In the end, a relatively large quake did occur. Many older buildings but most especially newer poorly built buildings collapsed, killing dozens of people. 

Really, what may be on trial here is the system of power in the Italian government, and a feeling from some Italian people, that they have been betrayed by that government. Which to some extent they have. Not in this particular case necessarily, but in general the Italian government scores very high in corruption, the highest in Western Europe. This could not be helped by a legal system that could actually convict a scientist of twenty-nine counts of manslaughter simply for doing his or her job.

The scientists are of course appealing the decision, and they will remain free until the appeals process is finished, which could take years. But on a larger scale, seismology and in fact most scientific disciplines are extraordinarily complex, and I understand that in tragedies we search for people to blame, often because we cannot help but blame ourselves, but this verdict is simply a mockery of the process of science.

Thank you for watching this episode of SciShow Breaking News. If you have ideas or questions or comments, please leave them for us on Facebook or Twitter, or of course, down in the comments below.