I received an email a little while ago that said that there was a theory going the rounds on various internet sites that, not only has there been a significant increase in world seismicity this year, there is a conspiracy in the seismological community to conceal this. I thought it was deeply ironic, given that climatologists are accused of inventing a peril to improve their funding opportunities, that seismologists should be accused of concealing a peril. Why wouldn’t we be making the most of it to get new research programmes funded?

Anyway, I attempted to find some of these posts, without much success. What I did find was specific allegations that recent earthquakes were deliberately caused by the US military, and that the USGS was being leant on to conceal the fact.

Let’s pass over the many physical impossibilities in the mechanism proposed, which seems to be the diversion of energy from the ionosphere into the seismogenic system. Let’s also pass over the rather unlikely target list (Haiti and Chile and not Cuba or Venezuela? Is their aim that bad?) and consider the sheer implausibility of this.

First comes the usual killer for so many conspiracy theories: how can you possibly keep it quiet? How can anyone, for instance, arrange the rigging of the World Trade Centre with explosives without someone giving the game away? If anyone attempted to bludgeon the entire USGS into covering up some dastardly deed, there would be something posted to Wikileaks before the day was over and the gaff would be blown.

Secondly, what some people don’t appreciate is what an international science seismology is. If there was to be a cover-up, it would not be enough to suborn the USGS, one would have to do the same with all the other monitoring agencies, in countries where the US Government has no leverage. How could one even begin to think about it?

Which is why no country can develop nuclear weapons without the world knowing. You can’t confine the shock waves from a test explosion to within your own territory.

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