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Voodoo Science

Yogi Adityanath hilariously blames Chinese activity of deforestation in Tibet for the earthquake in Nepal

1000The comment of the Member of Parliament from Gorakhpur, representing the Bharatiya janata Party, that the 25 April earthquake in Nepal and some parts of India and China were caused due to human activity on the other side of the border has no scientific basis. In 2013, flash flood in Kedarnath was attributed to demolition of a temple in the area, which was still plausible, as some science known to our forefathers, who lived in harmony with nature, actually did not reach the present generations. But a flood is a phenomenon on the surface of the earth, not hundreds of miles beneath it; while past knowledge of how not to fiddle with nature could have prevented lithospheric consequences, to say that ancient or mediaeval India had also studied the mantle and the crust would be a desperate claim. The earth has three layers: innermost core, mid-level mantle and upper crust. The thickness of the crust is the least, and yet it is 5-60 km from the surface downwards while the lithosphere is 5-200 km deep. No human construction, whether a tunnel or the foundation of a building, involves digging anywhere close to this distance downward. That means all our activities on earth are restricted to the uppermost layer whereas earthquakes and volcanoes involve the mantle. An earthquake may be caused by relative movement of tectonic plates or unsuccessful attempt of hot, molten magma from the mantle trying to burst out of the surface of earth in the form of a volcano. Therefore, the observation by some people, including MPs, that the earthquake in Nepal was caused by human activities affecting the Himalayan ecology is misplaced.

Let’s not go by phobia-mongering private websites. There have been credible reports, though, of closure of natural geothermal vents due to drilling for oil exploration in the United States, which might have blocked effusion of heat (hypothetically magma as well, though there is no active volcano in the region) from the mantle. This is serious. Closing — intended or accidental — of natural vents must be avoided. But neither did anybody build houses on such orifices nor was anybody exploring oil in the affected areas. The areas devastated the most had small huts everywhere around; and even if there are a few oil fields hundreds of miles away, from where a possible volcanic eruption could have found its way through the soil of Nepal, no such thing happened indeed. This earthquake was a result of northward movement of the Indian tectonic plate. As for testing of a nuclear device, the trench dug for the purpose does not transcend the crust either. And the tremors caused by such a test register far less vibration than an earthquake on the Richter scale. There is no thesis in a science journal that concludes dams can cause earthquakes either.

Finally, there used to be earthquakes and volcanoes before human beings began their existential journey on earth. And this planet will also perish, spiralling into the sun, even if we take all precautionary measures to conserve the nature. The sun will one day reduce to a white dwarf or burst into a supernova, too. We must conserve nature to lead healthy lives, not because it would otherwise cause earthquakes. Loving the nature is a good ideology; the ‘yogi’ and his ilk will do well not to stretch it beyond the realm of plausibility.

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