The Bangkok Post has a bizarre story today about how a solar eclipse could cause massive earthquakes and tsunamis in Southeast Asia. It's just so odd, and I cannot find a single other news story, anywhere in the world, that is going with this.
Earlier, Kongpop U-yen, a Thai engineer who works at the US National Aeronatics and Space Administration (Nasa), said the alignment of the planets today could cause natural disasters such as earthquakes and tsunamis.
National Disaster Warning Centre chief Smith Dharmasarojana agreed with the forecast, saying it was backed by scientific data.
The forecast, however, met with criticism from the scientific community as authorities did not clarify the prediction.
Mr Smith recently said during a TV interview that a solar eclipse was due to occur on June 12 as a result of the alignment of the Earth, the moon and the sun.
He said the alignment would release considerable cumulative energy, which could affect the Earth. Mr Smith, quoting Mr Kongpop, said the phenomenon would have a direct impact on the Earth in the forms of climate disruption, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.
Mr Smith said that Southeast Asia could be the first region to be affected if the planetary alignment, due to occur at 6.30pm local time, triggers natural disasters.
A 7.0-8.5 magnitude earthquake on the Richter scale could occur, possibly causing a tsunami.
I did a quick search and found some info about a similar rumour last year in Hong Kong that turned out to be a hoax. At that time, the Hong Kong Observatory released a statement:
A rumour recently circulated over the Internet, claiming that a tsunami would occur during the solar eclipse on 22nd July 2009 and asking recipients to stay away from beaches. There is no scientific evidence substantiating that solar eclipses would cause tsunamis.
With the current scientific and technological capability, there is no reliable method to predict the occurrence of an earthquake, nor the occurrence of a tsunami in the event of an earthquake. Please do not believe in such a rumour and make unnecessary speculations.
And this, from DailyNews:
While it is true that a solar eclipse will occur on July 22 , experts said there is no connection between an eclipse and an earthquake. The e-mail reports that apart from Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia, the giant wave may also hit countries as far as Japan, Australia and India.
Further reading reveals there are theories that an eclipse can trigger earthquakes, but the evidence looks sketchy at best, which may explain why Bangkok Post is the only newspaper in the world running this story. There's even a whole moon-earthquake theory page on Wikipedia.
To further confuse the matter, I can't find any reference to a solar eclipse happening on June 12, 2010. It looks like the next solar eclipse won't happen until July 11, 2010.
June 12 is actually the day we get the new moon, which as far as I know, happens every month. How could the Bangkok Post have got so many things so wrong?
Phuket Gazette had a story yesterday, that obviously slipped by a lot of people.
The Meteorological Department (MET) has dismissed as groundless Internet reports that a celestial alignment will cause a tsunami-producing earthquake and solar flares tomorrow.
The rumor appears to have started in Thailand following a posting on a Thai-language website.
According to the post, a rare alignment of the Earth with Jupiter, Uranus, the Moon and the Sun will create strong gravity effects causing earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and solar flares starting at 6:30pm and persisting for a few days.
So it isn't even an eclipse and the Bangkok Post has completely bodged its reporting of a rumour, a day after the Gazette shot it down.
A commenter on the Bangkok Post website said this:
First of all, the moon and sun aren't planets.
Second, the sun isn't going to suddenly "unleash" its energy during the eclipse. It's unleashing energy constantly in many forms. The only additional energy the earth will notice during the eclipse is the combination of the sun's gravitational force with that of the moon, causing extra high and low tides, depending upon where on earth you are. These unusual tides aren't caused by the eclipse itself, but rather by the alignment of the three masses.
Thirdly, scientists know exactly how the earth will be aligned in terms of its rotation at the time of the eclipse, and exactly when and where the maximum gravitational pull will be experienced.
Are the scientist quoted in the article by any chance responsible for convincing the army to buy those magic wand bomb detectors?
Addendum: This story was covered by the Thai press and was apparently "all over" Thai TV, with "experts coming out to calm down the masses," says Terry Fredrickson from the Post, but that doesn't explain why the Post ran this story today about a solar eclipse that isn't happening. Surely the angle of the story at this point should have been the scientists shooting down the rumours and calming people down, which I didn't see much evidence of here.
What have I missed?