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A Logic- based Approach to the Rumour- Triggered Chaos in Sitapur, India CM Nautiyal
The Report • Month of July, 2002 • Place: Biswan tehsil in District Sitapur in central Uttar Pradesh • People reported that a ‘creature’ troubled them • The ‘creature’ would attack/ scratch them
The Place BISWAN Sitapur district (UP)
The Problem Became Serious 1. Most people stopped sleeping out or moving out late. 2. From every family some’d keep awake. A group’d keep watch on the terrace. 3. There was fear, panic and even violent reaction. 4. 20 July: FIR against 1200 people for setting a power substation ablaze, 5 arrested and sent to jail.
During It was an interactive approach, a novel form of communicating and led to telling them science they never knew earlier.
Descriptions of the ‘Creature’ by People • Some claim to have seen cats, one a dog, in one case a 3 feet high ‘babua’. Some mentioned shadows, one or two described metallic feel (surprisingly most denied having touched or felt the object which clung to them, weighed heavily on their abdomen or mounted their shoulder!). Some reported having experienced feeling of weight (20 -50 kg) on abdomen. • It could have as well been momentum rather than weight if at all there was some physical object. Many of those injured had bruises, could have been a result of falling.
Some Funny Descriptions/ Stated Experiences • A 12 year old girl: Early morning at about 5. 10 am went upstairs (open to terrace) to bring father’s specs. Bright light seen at back side, shock, fainted. Remained so for 2 hours. The marks she showed on face were blackish blots which did not have exposed skin. She complained of severe burning sensation in the early stage. • Surprisingly she remembered time rather precisely and I wonder why no one seemed to have bothered about her whereabouts even as her school was at 6. 30 am!
• A boy of about 16 -17 years, felt weight on his abdomen while sleeping on the terrace. The ‘creature’ tried to carry him off, lifted but the boy next held on to him. This boy felt shock. They saw a cat on the terrace. There were some surficial marks near knees. He remembered the time quite precisely- 5. 05 am. Also said another incident in neighborhood at 5. 10. Said lights were seen before the incident. • I enquired how he could be so sure of the time, he said he was wearing watch then. However, now at about 6. 30 pm, he was not wearing any watch.
• One man, over 60 in age, said he experience a small spot of light going up his body and then growing in size. It grew in size and then danced on his head. • He had no convincing explanation as to how he saw it grow once it reached above his eye level and how he saw it dance on his head. He said he ‘felt’ it. Said he experienced shock and fainted. • The observers just smiled. The message had been conveyed.
• Mrs. Gupta, near hospital, saw a light in the room, then a cat which attacked and stuck to her legs. She held her child close to her, fell down, stood up but was thrown away. • A police personnel said she had earlier stated that she fell down when trying to stand up and had not talked of being thrown away. Had minor bruises below knees. Says felt an electric shock and complained of weakness.
• Mrs. Kesari Dixit, a hospital employee, was hit by some heavy (20 Kg or so) object on head while in ground. Some marks (about 6 -7 mm long, rice-like shape) seen on head. She felt some thing soft, collapsible but heavy. Stood up but hit second time. • Usually said to be a very bold woman ( the doctor and CO affirmed), appeared traumatised. Being treated now though as out door patient. She also reported having seen a headlight-less vehicle near the milkman previous evening. She suspected them to be outsiders.
Plenty of Imagination. . • July 20 th, 7 PM. A boy, in early twenties, narrated that he saw a red light hovering over the cyclist in front, about 5 -6 metres ahead on Jahangirabad road (Sitapur). Its body, appearing metallic, had two hands and also had 2 blades extending out. The blades were half blades. This boy saw the cyclist being hit on head and fall down. This boy ran away and also narrated the incident to his mother who confirmed having been told. • We talked to him about 45 minutes after the incident. Such details at 7 PM from a distance, not convincing.
What Could It Be? • • • To have remote controlled things for light display is alright but to maneuver things inside houses requires too high a sophistication also. Navigation for a physical object in the dark would demand infrared camera/ radar and transmitter fitted on the object feeding back images to the controller who’d control movements with precision of centimetres-again through electromagnetic signals. However, not more than 2 or 3 cases of shock occur the same night and there are some cases when no shock occurred (battery/ condensers discharged? ).
The day After Our First Interaction • Intervening night of 20 th and 21 st July, 2. 30 am. On terrace. A man, in twenties saw a dog which jumped down from sill to ground floor. • The man hurled a Hockey stick and followed. The black dog attacked and clawed him once with both front legs leaving 15 (!) marks, some of which criss-crossed. Claimed that the people on the terrace, about 60 feet away, also saw the dog. • When confronted with the matter of difficulty of seeing a black dog at 2. 30 am from this distance, said they had torch. It should have taken a dog less than a a second to reach the ground floor (about 25 feet down). The visible part of flight was about 10 feet. The duration of unobstructed vision to those at the other terrace must have been still smaller as the starting point was blocked from view due to a staircase.
General Observations and Possible Explanations How to get at observations without which science part can’t proceed? In my opinion, most of the reports suffer from the interpolating tendency of mind. There are some mix-ups too (bruises from fleeing and falling in fright taken as if caused by face- scratcher). Some were deliberate lies. Here psychological and medical tests should come before the physical or chemical sciences. Physics-wise, many of the reported observation are possible. But are they probable too? If one tries to take all the observations as true to build a comprehensive model, a somewhat funny and contrived, though by no means impossible, picture is arrived at. What are the possible physical explanations? COULD IT BE BALL LIGHTNING?
Properties Attributed to Ball Lightning • • It glows It floats as a sphere (up to ~30 cms) Has a life time of about 10 seconds Luminosity is about 100 W bulb (it gives 8 W in visible with W filament at 3000 ºC at It can cross physical barriers (Powell and Finkelstein, 1970 in Ame. Sci. 58, 114 -115) It may respond to electric fields as it contains charges It’s light Orangish in colour
BL under scanner of Physics Abrahamson and Dinnis (2000)Lightning strikes the ground, causes evaporation of silica, its nano particles form a cloud which glows. In Israel, scientists carried out an experiment creating BL in a microwave oven. At Ohio, the ideal conditions for producing electric fireballs (1989): 1. Concentrated C and metal particles 2. Large electric field 3. Rapid temperature- elevation (The photograph is from net)
Arguments Against Ball Lighting (BL) 1. All describe BL as a rare phenomenon 2. All the reports that I came across on internet(in hundreds, e. g. on http: //amasci. com/weird/unusual/bl. html) mentioned it as occurring close to thunderstorm, rains, overcast sky etc. 3. The period in question was extremely dry (June- July, 2002) 4. No rains, no lightning and no clouds. (The photograph is from net)
1. Dry soil can cause lower conductivity and hence charge at surface caused by unbalanced load may lead to charged surface. These charges may be due to rails also (Arora, 2004). 2. Glowing methane ball (The photograph is from net)
Other Alternative Explanations? 1. Aeroplanes 2. Meteors 3. Mischief: small light source tied to birds (cranes); there wetlands close by 4. Laser lights shone on trees 5. Occasional stray animals from nearby forested areas
The Attitude of People 1. Only 2 out of the supposed ‘victims’ seemed traumatised 2. Some were only trying hard to convince that they had been harmed 3. Some let their imagination loose 4. By the time the interaction ended, the majority was convinced to the untruthfulness of the statements
Some Other Possible Reasons There may have been some stray genuine case. In general, no real incident. 1. Lure of compensation 2. Lure of limelight 3. Sub- conscious imitation 4. Local polarisations 5. Drawing attention to the atrocious power situation
Proof of the Pudding. . • There was not a single report of such incident after the visit though rains occurred several weeks later! • The places and details may change, but such situations are encountered all developing societies
The Conclusions & Lessons • People do listen to logic • One has to generate faith • This requires patience to listen to them • Science shows the power of logic • Science, by its predictive powers, increase people’s faith in the reason and eradicates superstitions etc.
Acknowledgement • Director, BSIP • SAASTA, GCC and organisers of 2 nd ASCC