Posts tagged ‘CSI’

Italy Jails Scientists for Failing to Predict Earthquake

Unbelievable.  We will be burning witches next.

Six Italian scientists and an ex-government official have been sentenced to six years in prison over the 2009 deadly earthquake in L'Aquila.

A regional court found them guilty of multiple manslaughter.

Prosecutors said the defendants gave a falsely reassuring statement before the quake, while the defence maintained there was no way to predict major quakes.

The 6.3 magnitude quake devastated the city and killed 309 people.

It took Judge Marco Billi slightly more than four hours to reach the verdict in the trial, which had begun in September 2011.

The seven - all members of the National Commission for the Forecast and Prevention of Major Risks - were accused of having provided "inexact, incomplete and contradictory" information about the danger of the tremors felt ahead of 6 April 2009 quake, Italian media report.

This is what I call the layman's "CSI" view of science, which assumes that certainty is possible in analyzing and forecasting complex systems.  I am not going to blame the victim here, but I will note that scientists have to some extent made this situation far worse by insisting that they have levels of certainty they do not have, particularly in highly charged political debates (e.g. economics and climate).

Harvard physicist Luboš Motl argues it will give scientists roughly the same incentives doctors have in areas with lots of malpractice suits:

The verdict de facto lionizes crackpots who were screaming that there had to be a large earthquake and they just happened to be right in that case – while isomorphic and sometimes the very same crackpots are wrong in 99.9% of other cases in which they cry wolf – and it condemns the scientific method. They are wrong in 99.9% of cases because their predictive framework has nothing to do with science – it's all about a psychopathological paranoia – but even a broken clock is right twice a day.

The lesson for the scientists is clear: If you are a scientist who is qualified in a discipline that has implications for the safety of people, you must always recommend precautionary measures to be taken even if you conclude that the probability that something bad will happen is tiny. Italy may expect much more hysteria in various similar science-related situations than it has had so far because a court has declared a war on everyone who is honest and balanced.

Can you imagine that this sick logic would be applied e.g. to surgeons? Surgeons could spend 6 years in prison after every death of a patient whom they or others were optimistic about. It's just insane. People sometimes die, natural catastrophes sometimes occur, and it's just impossible to identify a human culprit in most cases. Only if a professional makes a mistake in which he or she has demonstrably violated some established and functional rules to reduce the risk – and whether or not this was the case may only be determined by another expert – he or she could be considered co-responsible for the deaths.

JonBenet Case Not Over

I'm not really into all that crime drama and true crime stuff.  I have not watched a singled episode of either CSI:Whatever or America's Most Wanted.  I don't even know what the whole Scott Peterson thing was about.  But from 1996 to 1999, I lived in Boulder, Colorado.  And for much of that time, the murder of JonBenet Ramsey dominated the news.  You may think you got tired of hearing about it, but in Boulder we lived in it like a fish lives in water.  There was no escaping it.  One could become an expert on the case just by osmosis.  The local paper seemed to have a whole section dedicated to the case.  The US could have invaded a small nation in Asia and I would have missed it in those years.

That being said, I can't believe this guy they arrested in Thailand did it.  Or at least did it alone.  There is just too much evidence in the case that if the murderer was not one of the parents, it at least had to be someone very close to the family.   I won't bore you with specifics:  If you don't know it all by heart, you certainly don't want to hear it from me.  But someone will somehow have to explain all the ransom note stuff.  Someone who knew JonBenet would have an incentive to fake up the ransom note as a way to create a motive for the killing that diverted police attention away from people close to the child (who are always the police's first suspects).  But why would a mysterious third party feel such a need, and how did the ransom demand exactly match the amount of Mr. Ramsey's recent bonus check?  And if the Ramseys are entirely innocent, they have a lot of explaining to do about why they did absolutely everything they could to impede the investigation into the daughter's death.   Already his story is breaking down.  I guess the guy could conceivably be involved but in that case expect the story to be bizarre.

Update: In searching for news on this case, I found this insightful analysis of her murder based on astrology:

This opposition squares another opposition: the
opposition between the Sun and the Moon. The Sun often represents the
father in a birthchart
and the Moon the mother, and here it appears that the father was the
more nurturing parent and the mother was more dominant. Jonbenet's Moon
conjuncts the Midheaven, or cusp of the tenth house of career and
public life, showing Patsy Ramsey (Moon) was instrumental in Jonbenet's
young stage life (having herself been a beauty queen). The Sun, or the
father, is conjunct the cusp of the fourth house of the home and
Jonbenet may have been close to her father, but the square of both Mars
and Pluto to both the father and mother archetypes (Sun and Moon) shows
that there was very little safety in the relationship with either
parent. Pluto in particular, when in challenging aspect to the Sun (the
essential Spirit) and the Moon (emotional security and safety), can be
deeply frightening and there is a sense that the parents, and life
itself, are dangerous.

LOL, this is only a short taste of a much longer analysis.

CBS News Ethical Priorities

CBS News really is falling to some new lows.  Courtesy of is this article from Reuters that CBS is firing the producer who had the temerity to break into a top-rated show (CSI-NY) with news that a major world figure had died (Arafat):

CBS News has fired the producer responsible for interrupting the last five minutes of a hit crime drama with a special report on the death of Palestinian President Yasser Arafat (news - web sites), a network source said on Friday.

Great.  CBS has an hour-long show using documents my 10-year-old could see were forged attacking a presidential candidate a few weeks before the election, and no one gets fired - and no apology to viewers is issued.  But, pre-empt a few minutes of a top rated show to announce that one of the most prominent world figures of the last 50 years has died, and you get fired (within hours) and CBS publishes an apology to viewers.