Field of Science

Earthquake and nuclear disaster hoaxes

The earthquake and the catastrophic tsunami in Japan unfortunately were, are and will be misused by cranks to promote their personal political or pseudoscientific worldview.
Especially the Fukushima nuclear disaster and the chaotic situation in the last weeks at the plant have raised concern about use of nuclear energy in Europe - an objective discussion could be a good thing, unfortunately most people base their subjective opinion on false premises.
For real information about the earthquake and nuclear situation in Japan I advise to visit impartial sites like reliably news or science magazines or neutral blogs - for example:

Scientific American
The excellent series by Evelyn and Mark L. Mervine at the Georneys Blog

I will try to collect internet hoaxes about the earthquake I came aware in this post:

The following map, posted by some blogs some days after the earthquake and apparently showing the distribution of radioactive fallout particles is an internet hoax - the cited Australian company (recognizable by the logo in the corner) denied to have produced it and declined every responsibility. Note also the incorrect use of an obselete unite like "rad (radiation absorbed dose)":

Fig.1. HOAX !!

A newspaper from April 6. reported a fraud to exploit the fear of the local population: several men sold forged medicine to prevent "radiation disease" to more than 1.000 people, earning in total 24 million Yen.

The presumed predictability of earthquakes based on the position of stars and the moon was addressed already here.

Most concerning are the quotes of religious fanatics like for example the Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara, the American Glenn Beck or Roberto De Mattei, vice-president of the Italian National Research Council (!), in his religious broadcast "radici cristiane (Christian roots)" on the radio station "Radio Maria" 20. March 2011.
Other cranks claim that the erathquake was caused, or could be foreseen, by the American HAARP-project (anyway - the power used to run the facility is less than for a common radio station).

Other pseudoscientific claims are the supposed trigger of earthquakes by other large earthquakes; this issue is addresses by Chris Rowan, who also points out the general problem how to report natural hazards risk in the media.

The eruption of the Shinmoedake volcano in the south-western end of Japan was reported in some journals and attributed to the aftermath effects of the earthquake, however the volcano was active already since January and Jessica Ball explains why earthquakes and eruptions are rarely linked and the long term effects of tectonics on volcanoes.

A month after the earthquake news begun to misinterpret the results of various paleoseismic studies with headlines like "The Man Who Predicted the Tsunami" or "The new Cassandra from Japan", referring to an online text published in 2010. Claiming that a geologic study to interfere the probability in time of past tsunamis enables us to predict a future tsunami (implying exact time and extant of a catastrophe) is an incorrect media statement.


  1. You missed a doozy! There's a whole contingent of conspiracists out there who insist that the earthquake (and the one in Haiti, and others) were caused by a Super Weapon(tm) called "HAARP."

    HAARP is a radio-telescope in Alaska that is being used to study the ionosphere. Somehow, these people have convinced themselves that the US government has built a weapon that can either bounce extremely low frequency sound waves off the ionosphere and blast the floor of the ocean hard enough to move continental plates; or alternatively, that the telescope can be aimed downward (it's a bunch of radio towers, so good luck with that), toward the ground, and ... same as above.

    There is no convincing them that (a) the high frequency waves being emitted by the telescope are not extremely low frequency waves; nor can one convince them that it's literally impossible to move that much mass with microwaves, sound waves, or any other kind of waves via any object physically located on the planet.

    All this came about because an idiot claims to have accidentally triggered a significant earthquake on the US west coast years ago with sounding equipment for oil exploration. He's written a book.

    He also claims that the earth is actually hollow (no molten core), and that there's a hole in the earth at the north pole through which one can access the planet's interior and meet the people who live in there. No, this is NOT a joke. He really does. I have no interest in helping his google rankings, so I won't post a link, but searching on HAARP will bring you to him quickly enough...

  2. Thanks for the info - I will be honest and admit that I skipped the most ridicule conspiracy ideas - like earthquake and HAARP or earthquake and Corean atomic bombs or the earthquake machine (yes, there are people who claim that such a thing exist) - I don´t want to give these cranks an ulterior possibility to spread their crap, also most of them do not rely on science or even pseudoscience but simply feeling or opinion - there is nothing to debunk and there is no fun in recognizing their complete lack of knowledge, especially in geology.

    And oh yes - the hollow earth - worth a future post....


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