Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Scientists Try to Counter Rome Earthquake Fear for May 11

by Edwin Cartlidge - Empty schools, semiabandoned offices, and huge traffic jams. That is the potential scenario in Rome tomorrow, as inhabitants flee the Italian capital for fear that a catastrophic earthquake will strike their city. Their concern comes in response to rumors that an obscure Italian scholar had warned years ago that Rome would be razed to the ground by a huge tremor on 11 May 2011. But geologists are trying to calm the situation, arguing that there is no scientific basis for such a prediction and pointing out that in fact the scientist in question, the self-taught Raffaele Bendandi, never actually made the forecast attributed to him. Bendandi died in 1979 at the age of 86, having made over the course of his lifetime hundreds of predictions of earthquakes from his home in Faenza in central Italy. His strategy was to calculate the gravitational force exerted on Earth’s crust as the moon, the sun, and the planets change their position relative to one another. Rumors of his supposed 11 May prediction have been circulating for at least several months, via the Internet, through word of mouth, and in the country’s media, with apprehension only increasing as the date draws near. Indeed, according to press reports, there will be as many as 20% more public workers in Rome taking the day off tomorrow as compared with



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