Home » Eyes Rolling » Italian scientist who accurately predicted Italian earthquake had been reported to police …

Italian scientist who accurately predicted Italian earthquake had been reported to police …

Well, that’s the story, here, and I also read it in a Toronto subway rag, going home in a vicious snow squall undoubtedly caused by global warming.

“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 civil protection agency said in a statement on the eve of that meeting.

As the media asked questions about the authorities’ alleged failure to safeguard the population ahead of the quake, the head of the National Geophysics Institute dismissed Giuliani’s predictions.

“Every time there is an earthquake there are people who claim to have predicted it,” he said. “As far as I know nobody predicted this earthquake with precision. It is not possible to predict earthquakes.”

They are crazy? Oh well, what about some other quotes:

Yahoo:

But there was still room for controversy. Weeks before the disaster, an Italian scientist had predicted a major quake around L’Aquila, based on concentrations of radon gas found around seismically active areas.

He was reported to police for “spreading alarm” and was forced to remove his findings from the Internet. Civil Protection assured locals at the end of March that tremors being felt were “absolutely normal” for a seismic area.

(Writing by Silvia Aloisi; additional reporting by Reuters Rome bureau; editing by Tim Pearce)

New York Daily News:

Giuliani’s warnings were wiped from the internet and he was threatened with prison for fearmongering.

Turns out he was only a week off.

“Underestimating the application of new technologies simply because they are brought forward by researchers who are not part of the reigning establishment is an act of criminal negligence and today we are paying for its consequences,” said nuclear physicist Michelangelo Ambrosio, who works with Giuliani.

But even as dust and faint cries continued to rise from the rubble of L’Aquila, Bertolaso kept insisting Giuliani – who also lost his house in the quake – was no Cassandra.

“There is no possibility of predicting an earthquake. This is a fact in the world’s scientific community,” he said.

Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi ducked defensively at a press conference when pressed about Giuliani’s warning, saying attention should be focused on relief efforts.

“We can discuss the predictability of earthquakes later,” he said.

But the question isn’t whether earthquakes can be predicted. Maybe, maybe not. It is the increasing increasing difficulty of challenging establishment views that worries me.

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14 Responses to Italian scientist who accurately predicted Italian earthquake had been reported to police …

  1. Ms O’Leary,

    He should come to Japan. Earthquake prediction is very important in Japan. But we also have quack stuffs like predicting personality based on blood type. :(

  2. Thanks, Nakashima!

    I would say only this: Predicting earthquakes is vastly more important than predicting personality.

    Having to break off a relationship with a person one misjudged is – to most people – of less significance than losing life, limbs, or senses.

    At least, in my experience.

    What intrigues me about this story is that no one considered the possibility that that scientist might be providing a warning worth heeding.

    I have heard that something similar happened with the 2006 tsunami.

    I posted this story with the tag “eyes rolling”. = We sll hope it isn’t really this much of a cork-up.

    But, if it is, it revisits my long-running personal question of what the word “scientific” really means.

    My heartfelt condolences to all those who have lost loved ones to this disaster, or are lying in hospitals or shelters tonight, and to the many other people who anxiously await phone calls from overseas.

  3. 3

    I don’t know anything about this guy’s method. But it’s quite correct that earthquake prediction is a decidedly fringe activity. People make predictions earthquakes all the time, but almost all of them are wrong. Dollars to donuts this guy is wrong most of the time too. Should he be taken seriously becuase he was right once? Should everybody scramble when he opens his mouth?

  4. The way to find out if this scientist’s predictions are valid is to subject his predictions to statistical testing. If they are valid, it will show up; if they aren’t, it won’t. Nowhere in any of the stories that I have read about this does it state how many false positives (i.e. predicted earthquakes that didn’t happen) nor false negatives (i.e. earthquakes that did happen that he hadn’t predicted)he had accumulated using his method, and so it is literally impossible to tell if his prediction was valid or a fluke.

    Anybody could predict earthquakes in an earthquake-prone region using any method, and if they did it often enough, some of their predictions would precede actual earthquakes. Under such circumstances, the only way to determine if the predictions were valid would be to show that the proportion of “true” positives to false positives surpassed a generally accepted statistical threshold.

    So, O’Leary, have you read anything like the foregoing, or are you just bashing science and scientists in any field as a way of casting doubt on evolutionary biologists?

  5. I would say only this: Predicting earthquakes is vastly more important than predicting personality.

    With all warranted respect, Denyse, isn’t this a rather matter-oriented (i.e., materialistic) point of view?

    If we could have predicted the L’Aquila earthquake, how many lives could we have saved? Upwards of 250? On the other hand, if we could predict Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s response –as well as the responses of the other major players in the region– to a variety of initiatives regarding Iran’s nuclear capabilities with equal certainty, we could potentially save tens of thousands of lives.

    To me, predicting personality seems vastly more important than predicting physical catastrophes…but also vastly less possible.

  6. Lutepisc,

    The story of political scientist Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, aka The New Nostradaumus, is fascinating. He uses game theory to predict the future actions of people and groups.

    Bueno de Mesquita is still fighting to gain acceptance for his take on how political science should be done. But he’s winning converts. This gives an idea of how you gain acceptance for methodology that looks like black magic:

    To verify the accuracy of his model, the CIA set up a kind of forecasting face-off that pit predictions from his model against those of Langley’s more traditional in-house intelligence analysts and area specialists. “We tested Bueno de Mesquita’s model on scores of issues that were conducted in real time—that is, the forecasts were made before the events actually happened,” says Stanley Feder, a former high-level CIA analyst. “We found the model to be accurate 90 percent of the time,” he wrote. Another study evaluating Bueno de Mesquita’s real-time forecasts of 21 policy decisions in the European community concluded that “the probability that the predicted outcome was what indeed occurred was an astounding 97 percent.” What’s more, Bueno de Mesquita’s forecasts were much more detailed than those of the more traditional analysts. “The real issue is the specificity of the accuracy,” says Feder. “We found that DI (Directorate of National Intelligence) analyses, even when they were right, were vague compared to the model’s forecasts. To use an archery metaphor, if you hit the target, that’s great. But if you hit the bull’s eye—that’s amazing.”

    Deliver the results, and people will listen.

  7. Guys, keep in mind that this story was posted under Eyes Rolling.

    So no, I have not researched earthquake predictions in any detail and do not intend to do so now, due to the press of more immediate business.

    But this widespread report is interesting and may prove a useful source of information if that guy had legitimate information that was ignored because it did not front a government-funded establishment view.

    Someone quoted me as saying “Predicting earthquakes is vastly more important than predicting personality” and referenced Iran’s Ahmadinejad’s personality as worth predicting.

    I thinkhis capabilities and intentions – and the loyalty of his officers – are far more worth predicting than his personality (which those outside his private circle cannot really know, in a country where the government controls media, and foreign media visit only on sufferance).

    A Canadian journalist, Kazemi (investigating Iranian prisons), died under highly questionable circumstances in Iran a few years ago.

    I would give nothing for predictions of the president’s personality, but a lot to know the exact circumstances of Kazemi’s untimely death.

    I believe in evidence, not vague speculation or reports prepared by people with an obvious interest in misrepresentation. If that makes a person a materialist, then you can call me one.

  8. Sal Gal…interesting! I wonder whether CBS got its plotline for “Numbers” from Bueno de Mesquita.

    Denyse…yes, predicting an individual’s capabilities and intentions is what I thought you had in mind in the first place…since you don’t actually “predict” someone’s personality; you measure it, evaluate it, assess it, etc.

  9. Denyse says,

    But this widespread report is interesting and may prove a useful source of information if that guy had legitimate information that was ignored because it did not front a government-funded establishment view.

    My eyes are rolling.

    A source of predictive information is validated (legitimized) prior to its use, not after someone happens to use it to make one correct prediction.

    Scientists have accepted for decades that an elevated radon level is a precursor of earthquakes. But they have also established that the best earthquake forecasting methods — which in fact perform poorly — take measurements of multiple predictors into account.

    Giacchino Giuliani invented a device for radon gas measurement. Using Google Scholar, I can find no indication that he has ever published on use of radon measurements in earthquake prediction. It was irresponsible in the extreme for Giuliani to claim that he had a reliable forecast, when he had observed only one earthquake precursor — one it has been established does NOT yield accurate forecasts.

    Suppose that I am friends with the starting quarterbacks of both teams competing in the Super Bowl. On the eve of the game, I ask each to confide how he’s feeling. Then I wager all of my family’s wealth that the team with the better-feeling quarterback will win. My behavior is exceedingly irresponsible, no matter the outcome of the game.

  10. 10
    AmerikanInKananaskis

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  11. 11
    AmerikanInKananaskis

    I guess the forum doesn’t like Japanese characters. I was trying to talk to Nakashima……

    Why isn’t there a “preview” button anyway?

  12. AmerikaninKananaskis asks:

    “Why isn’t there a “preview” button anyway?”

    I’ve often wondered the same thing. Telic Thoughts has an excellent preview function, and it’s a WordPress blog just like this one. Can one of the site moderators/coders take a look and see if this can be implemented here? It would be greatly appreciated!

  13. Having a “preview” option might also help in making some of these discussions a little more civil. Some people (myself included) find themselves wishing they could redact their more inflammatory statements once they see them appear in final form.

    I realize that the preview (below) is supposed to allow this, but multiple layers of “protection” are always a good idea, IMHO.

  14. …and so it is literally impossible to tell if his prediction was valid or a fluke.

    It depends on what “as far as I know” applies to in the following quote since it can be read as saying it’s “not possible to predict earthquakes”.

    the head of the National Geophysics Institute dismissed Giuliani’s predictions.

    “Every time there is an earthquake there are people who claim to have predicted it,” he said. “As far as I know nobody predicted this earthquake with precision. It is not possible to predict earthquakes.”

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