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Old 7th April 2009, 09:20 PM   #1
truethat
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Skepticism and Predicition The Earthquake in Italy

I thought that this was a very interesting story with regard to the earthquake in Italy.


Quote:

An Italian scientist predicted a major earthquake around L'Aquila weeks before disaster struck the city on Monday, killing more than 100 people, but was reported to authorities for spreading panic.

The government on Monday insisted the warning, by seismologist Gioacchino Giuliani, had no scientific foundation but Giuliani said he had been vindicated and wanted an apology.






Italy's Civil Protection agency held a meeting of the Major Risks Committee, grouping scientists charged with assessing such risks, in L'Aquila on March 31 to reassure the townspeople.

"The tremors being felt by the population are part of a typical sequence ... (which is) absolutely normal in a seismic area like the one around L'Aquila," the agency said in a statement on the eve of that meeting.

It said it saw no reason for alarm but was nonetheless carrying out "continuous monitoring and attention."

The head of the agency, Guido Bertolaso, referred back to that meeting at Monday's joint news conference with Berlusconi.

"There is no possibility of predicting an earthquake, that is the view of the international scientific community," he said.

http://uk.reuters.com/article/scienc...53543420090406


Makes you kind of wonder why they are still so adamant?
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Old 8th April 2009, 02:18 AM   #2
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I read that in my local paper. I wonder how specific he was on the timing?

Quote:
''Earthquakes are not predictable, and the information was completely wrong, he forecast it for Sulmona,'' Mr Boschisaid after the quake.

Mr Boschi added that if authorities had taken Mr Giuliani seriously, the quake could have killed even more people.

''Imagine if we had accepted such data and evacuated Sulmona, most of the evacuees would have been in L'Aquila today,'' Mr Boschi said.
http://www.canberratimes.com.au/news...g/1481483.aspx
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Old 8th April 2009, 03:52 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by truethat View Post
Makes you kind of wonder why they are still so adamant?
Well there are a couple of points here. Firstly, judging from rjh01's link it appears that he didn't actually predict this earthquake. He prediciting an earthquake somewhere else. And without knowing specifically what his predicitions were it's impossible to say if he might have been on to something but just got it a bit wrong, or if he is simple postdicting a vague predicition.

As for why they're still so adamant, given that they know what he actually said I'd guess that it's because they think he's a nut. The thing about earthquake predicition is that it's not necessarily impossible, we're just not very good at it. There are some things that are thought to be potential indicators, but we're a long way from any kind of accurate prediction. If the authorities think this guy is a nut, and that allowing him to publicise his claims will cause more damage by fooling people into thinking we can predict earthquakes.

Whether they're correct in that opinion I can't say without knowing a lot more about this case and his work in general.
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Old 8th April 2009, 05:37 AM   #4
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English translations of some of his statements can be found here.

A telling quote by Giuliani in an interview on YouTube in January - ETA: Interview may have occurred late March not January. It was posted on 23rd March to YouTube - , "This swarm should lower in intensity by the end of March and then it should disappear and remain just as a memory." (my bolding).

He claims that the radon emission readings that may be precursors to an earthquake may enable us to "predict" earthquakes. His claim on the 29th March was that an earthquake would occur in the region (he lives there apparently), "within a couple of hours.".

He was VERY wrong on both counts, and I think the authorities' threat to prosecute him for spreading panic is quite valid.
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Old 8th April 2009, 09:48 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by EHocking View Post
English translations of some of his statements can be found here.

A telling quote by Giuliani in an interview on YouTube in January - ETA: Interview may have occurred late March not January. It was posted on 23rd March to YouTube - , "This swarm should lower in intensity by the end of March and then it should disappear and remain just as a memory." (my bolding).

He claims that the radon emission readings that may be precursors to an earthquake may enable us to "predict" earthquakes. His claim on the 29th March was that an earthquake would occur in the region (he lives there apparently), "within a couple of hours.".

He was VERY wrong on both counts, and I think the authorities' threat to prosecute him for spreading panic is quite valid.
Interesting. When I read about this yesterday, I was surprised to learn that radon emissions were associated with earthquake prediction. Just to be clear, does anyone know if this is true or not? And if radon emission is a precursor to an earthquake, why is it not predictive?
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Old 8th April 2009, 11:37 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by ExMinister View Post
Interesting. When I read about this yesterday, I was surprised to learn that radon emissions were associated with earthquake prediction. Just to be clear, does anyone know if this is true or not? And if radon emission is a precursor to an earthquake, why is it not predictive?
From a very superficial read of articles on the USGS, it would appear that radon can be the result of active fault zones. I have no idea of the significance of the USGS discontinuing research into the phenomenon. Some USGS Radon articles.
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Old 8th April 2009, 12:49 PM   #7
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I heard on NPR a day or so ago that radon emissions were not a good predictor of earthquakes. Sometimes earthquakes are preceded by radon, and sometimes not.
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Old 8th April 2009, 02:36 PM   #8
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this is not my field at ALL... But are there radon emissions without following earthquakes? Can it work as an indicator at all or not? This is very interesting reading, as I am writing an article on this particular case, concerning the legal issues of whistleblowing and employer retaliation. It would be quite a shock if this is not a case of whistleblowing, as the case have been presented in Norwegian national media. Any thoughts?
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Old 8th April 2009, 03:42 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by eirik View Post
this is not my field at ALL... But are there radon emissions without following earthquakes? Can it work as an indicator at all or not? This is very interesting reading, as I am writing an article on this particular case, concerning the legal issues of whistleblowing and employer retaliation. It would be quite a shock if this is not a case of whistleblowing, as the case have been presented in Norwegian national media. Any thoughts?
First stop would be the links I gave to the translations of the "researcher's" interviews as well as the USGS (United States Geological Survey). As others have said, radon may be a side effect of fault movement - but seems to depend on presence of Uraninum in the underlying rock, and doesn't occur in every case.

IMHO, to be a whistleblower in this case, would require the whistleblower to work in a department that claimed it could give advance warning of earthquakes.

Apparently he's a technician at the Italian National Institute of Nuclear Physics. Which doesn't monitor or warn on earthquake activity.

You'd also have to prove that the radon precursor theory was indeed regarded as accurate, or indeed correct.
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Old 8th April 2009, 04:03 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by EHocking View Post
From a very superficial read of articles on the USGS, it would appear that radon can be the result of active fault zones. I have no idea of the significance of the USGS discontinuing research into the phenomenon. Some USGS Radon articles.
Thanks for the link!

An interesting article:

http://www.reuters.com/article/scien...BrandChannel=0

From the article: "There isn't a definitive link between radon gas measurements and earthquake occurrence," said Brian Baptie at the British Geological Survey. "Sometimes people have measured radon gas and no earthquakes have occurred, and vice-versa."

So it seems the answer is maybe yes, maybe no, but at this point it's just a theory.

"Radon gas is just one of many avenues explored by scientists, who have looked at everything from how cockroaches behave on fault lines to sudden changes in water levels and temperature as possible tools to predict earthquakes.

Stern said if Giuliani wanted to be taken seriously by the scientific community, he should publish his work and put it up to review.

"This physicist from Italy has every right to pursue something, as do the cockroach people. But we all have to subject our work to the same standards of review," Stern said.
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Old 8th April 2009, 04:45 PM   #11
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What I think is interesting is that he definitely predicted something. But I'm not sure why they went to such great efforts to shut him up for instigating a panic when he turned out to be correct ISH only off by a week?
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Old 9th April 2009, 04:30 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by truethat View Post
What I think is interesting is that he definitely predicted something. But I'm not sure why they went to such great efforts to shut him up for instigating a panic when he turned out to be correct ISH only off by a week?
Because he stated that the earthquake would occur within hours.

He was wanting to evacuate an entire area based on a very dodgy, unproven "theory".

He did not predict this earthquake.

Tremors and other activity had been occurring in the area since mid-January.

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Old 9th April 2009, 08:35 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by eirik View Post
this is not my field at ALL... But are there radon emissions without following earthquakes? Can it work as an indicator at all or not? This is very interesting reading, as I am writing an article on this particular case, concerning the legal issues of whistleblowing and employer retaliation. It would be quite a shock if this is not a case of whistleblowing, as the case have been presented in Norwegian national media. Any thoughts?
Radon is emitted from the ground all the time, but concentrations depend on the type of soil. Here in Finland, for example, where the soil contains a lot of granite, radon is a problem for house construction, when the radon concentration indoors exceeds healthy limits. And I suppose the same goes for Norway. Some statistics I found (source: Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority of Finland):

Quote:
Average household radon concentration in the air; Finland 123, Sweden 108, Norway 106, Denmark 77, Germany 50, France 66 and England 20 Bq/m3 (beqcuerel per cubic meter).
Outside air contains about 10 Bq/m3 (Finland).

I don't know in what concentrations radon starts inflicting health effects, but maximum allowed concentration in Finland is 400 Bq/m3. Also, I don't know if radon concentrations can be used as an indicator of earthquakes, but I suppose there could be something to it.
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