Wednesday, April 08, 2009

A Physicist Predicted The Italian Earthquake?

This is one of the few times that I'm ashamed of a fellow physicist.

An italian physicist claimed that he had made the prediction of the recent earthquake, based on the radon gas emission.

Gioacchino Giuliani is at the center of a debate about the limits of seismology after Italian officials shrugged off his warnings last month that a devastating earthquake in the central Abruzzo region was imminent.

In fact Giuliani, who works at the National Institute of Physics, was even reported to police for spreading panic.

But what exactly did he predict, and how accurate was he?

Giuliani's forecast was far from perfect. He believed the quake would have struck the town of Sulmona, which is more than 50 km (30 miles) south of L'Aquila. He also got the date wrong, predicting the quake would strike several days earlier.

The head of Italy's Civil Protection Agency, Guido Bertolaso, told reporters that if they had listened to Giuliani, they probably would have evacuated the residents of Sulmona to L'Aquila just in time for the earthquake.

If you take enough number of so-called psychic, I'm sure at least one of them would also claim that they had predicted the earthquake, given enough vague predictions.

The silliness here is that he is bypassing the modus operandi as a physicist, in which his model to predict such a thing should be sent in for peer-reviewed publication and evaluated on its merits. Instead, he chose to claim validity in the public media. Does "Fleishman and Pons" ring a bell?



OilIsMastery said...

He didn't claim he predicted the earthquake!

He predicted the earthquake three weeks ago and the Italian government engaged in censorship and information suppression by forcing him to remove his warnings from Youtube and the internet.

ZapperZ said...

So he predicted the earthquake! And what's worse, he did it on YouTube!


Anonymous said...

I don't know, Zz. It seems you're being rather harsh on him.

I'm not familiar with the seismology, but from what I gather it is not very exact. So one should ask oneself whether being off by three weeks or so, and several tens of kilometres is within the 'error bars' so to speak.

As for his not submitting his findings to peer review: how do you know he hasn't? We both know what a long process that can be. Which raises a second point: if he felt there was an immediate danger to the public, he might have felt it reasonable to go public with his information. Perhaps it was overly sensationalist of him, but in that case the most you can accuse him of is an inability to be understated as most scientists tend to be. ;)

You might be right to castigate him, I don't know. But for me it doesn't seem that there is enough information to go on.