In one of the more bizarre twists we have seen on reactions to earthquake prediction, we are watching news of the trial in Italy in which several scientists are accused of manslaughter because they DID NOT predict the L’Aqinas M6.8 quake that killed more than 300 people on 6 April 2009. The blog expertscolumn.com has good reporting on the situation. We had never even thought about being accused of not predicting an earthquake. Our concern is that when we do make a forecast, we might be held responsible for any panic or disruption that the forecast causes – especially if there’s no earthquake! Forecasts will never be 100% reliable, and we expect it will take a long time to hone the accuracy. That’s why when we see an indication that there might be a quake, we’re not going to go public with the information – we’re going to tell the appropriate emergency management authorities, and let them make the determination about what to do about it. In other earthquake warning news, there are reports that the US Government has been quietly testing a system similar to the one operational in Japan that can give a few seconds warning prior to the shaking starting when a quake hits. The San Jose Mercury News has coverage of it here. The problem with this kind of warning is that there is very little one can do to respond or prepare with only a few seconds warning. There are certainly some practical ways to use the information, such as stopping trains and starting the process of shutting down power plants. But it’s not enough warning for people to get out of harm’s way, and it’s very expensive. The kind of warning that QuakeFinder is working toward would give several days’ notice that a quake was likely in a particular area. This would allow people to prepare by avoiding activities and travel that would place them at risk. Rescheduling hazardous shipments, or even pre-positioning emergency supplies are other effective responses we expect to see when earthquake forecasting eventually comes on-line. That day would come sooner if even a tiny fraction of the money spent on seismological research were redirected toward the effort to identify and understand electromagnetic precursors.