HANDOUT RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE AND EDITORIAL SALES - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / HO / NSF / ROBERT SCHWARZ"In a handout picture taken on December 18, 2010 released by the US National Science Foundation (NSF) on December 23, 2010 the final Digital Optical Module (DOM) is prepared to be deployed in the IceCube array, the world''s largest neutrino observatory, built under the Antarctic tundra near the US Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station. The observatory, finished after a decade of toil on December 18, is located 1,400 metres underground and will help scientists study space particles in the search for dark matter, invisible material that makes up most of the Universe''s mass. The cube is a network of 5,160 optical sensors which will detects the blue light emitted when a neutrino crashes into ice at almost the speed of light. AFP PHOTO / HO / NSF / ROBERT SCHWARZ ( NSF / ROBERT SCHWARZ)

Antarctic research facility does not produce energy weapons

An Antarctic research facility completed in 2010 has been used by US and international scientists to study subatomic particles from space, but claims on social media that it used directed energy weapons and caused a major 2011 earthquake are false. Researchers say the facility -- known as the IceCube -- has a network of optical sensors designed to detect neutrinos for basic science, and a defense expert said it lacks the capacity to produce energy capable of penetrating the Earth.

"The IceCube Neutrino Detector is not simply a passive listening device... it's the world's largest directed energy weapon system," a man identified as Eric Hecker, claiming to be a contractor for Raytheon, says in a video shared on Facebook February 11, 2024.

"It is responsible for the earthquakes in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 2011," the man says in the video, which is from a podcast on the Shawn Ryan Show and shared on YouTube in July 2023. Hecker made similar claims in a video shared on TikTok in August 2023.

The claim was amplified by popular podcast host Joe Rogan, who called it a "wacky conspiracy theory" and added "I have no idea if any of this is nonsense."

Screenshot from a Facebook reel taken February 21, 2023

But the facility does not emit energy and cannot produce anything capable of triggering an earthquake, according to scientists affiliated with the center and an independent expert.

"IceCube doesn't emit anything. It records particles coming from space for astronomical studies. It is a conventional particle detector made out of a cubic kilometer of natural ice," said Francis Halzan, lead scientist for IceCube and a physics professor at the University of Wisconsin, which coordinates the research of around 300 scientists from 14 countries, in a February 20 email.

Ignacio Taboada, a Georgia Tech astrophysicist and spokesperson for the IceCube, told AFP in a February 20 interview that the facility is part of "basic science" without an immediate practical application and aims to get a better understanding of neutrinos, including those created by black holes.

Taboada said any impact outside the facility "is not possible" and noted that the sensors are contained in the facility drilled 2.5 kilometers deep in the Antarctic ice using hot water. "In terms of disturbing the ice this is truly minimal," he said.

The sensors produce "very faint LED lights" that help in the study of neutrinos, Taboada said. He said Raytheon had been a previous contractor at the facility, but he had no knowledge of Eric Hecker or any role he played. AFP contacted Raytheon, but no response was forthcoming.

AFP and other news organizations have written about the IceCube research since the opening in 2010.

Graphic on the IceCube neutrino observatory in Antarctica (AFP)

Iain Boyd, a professor of aerospace engineering and director of the Center for National Security Initiatives at the University of Colorado, said the claims in the video are not plausible.

"The energy detector could not simply be operated as a transmitter of energy at the flip of a switch. There would be a host of additional large-scale infrastructure needed to generate and manage the energy in the Directed Energy configuration," Boyd said in a February 21 email. "That infrastructure and the associated supplies needed to generate a beam could not be hidden from public view even in the Antarctic."

Boyd added that power levels to send a beam through the Earth that could potentially generate an earthquake would be "off the charts."

"The IceCube detector is so large because it is trying to detect very small particles at low levels of energy. It is not designed to handle the large amounts of energy needed for the effects that are being claimed," he added.

Additionally, Boyd noted that conventional directed energy systems such as lasers and microwaves "do not penetrate through the ground," and noted that "if the claim is that some other form of energy is being used then it is still a long way from explaining how an earthquake was triggered 1,000s of miles away."

The US Geological Survey says on its website (archived here) that human-induced earthquakes are rare -- generally caused by fracking -- and no large earthquakes have been attributed to human activity. New Zealand was rocked by a major 6.3 magnitude quake in February 2011, preceded by a 7.1 magnitude temblor a few months earlier.

AFP has debunked other claims on Directed Energy Weapons here and here.

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