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Wed, Oct 15

The Tricky Nature Of Putting Science On Trial

It was spring of 2009, and the Italian mountain town of L’Aquila had suffered a number of small earthquakes in short order, something called a seismic swarm. One local seismology buff stirred the pot by telling the media that the big one was coming soon. Townspeople were terrified. Local officials called in a panel of scientists to try and calm the situation.

The scientists told them that a major quake in the near-term was unlikely. Within days, L’Aquila suffered a quake that hit 6.2 on the Richter scale and left almost 300 dead. Those scientists were then put on trial and convicted of manslaughter. Their appeal started this week. David Wolman wrote about the case for the online magazine Matter. He says that the language of science was on trial as much as those men.

Read more or listen to the story from NPR.