Despite scientists and astronomers trying to bust myths, media outlets continued to advise people not to eat, among other things.
Bengaluru: No part of India is a stranger to pseudoscience — all kinds of it pours out every day, both in real life and in the virtual world. Every time an eclipse occurs, this phenomenon of pseudoscience explodes, as newspapers and TV channels also join the party.
Most of the ‘advice’ has to do with not eating food during the eclipse, while some take it to extremes, advising pregnant women to not wear metal and whatnot.
Several scientists and astronomers have taken an active effort to bust harmful myths about eclipses, and have launched the #EclipseEating campaign, encouraging citizens to post pictures eating during the eclipse under the hashtag online.
And yet, Friday, which witnessed the longest lunar eclipse this century, was no different. Publications everywhere interviewed several astrologers who advised the public on customs to follow during the eclipse, which perhaps were commonly practiced in the days of no electricity and less scientific awareness.
1. NDTV published an article in its food section, which said that people should stop consuming food a couple of hours before the eclipse and not carry it outside, as radiation from the eclipse will harm the food.
The article has since been updated, after facing wide criticism online.
— Sandhya Ramesh (@sandygrains) July 27, 2018
2. The Indian Express, in its parenting section, published an article that said, among other things, that expectant mothers should listen to gentle flute music to remain calm during the eclipse, and that Darbha grass as a disinfectant should be used in food. It went on to bizarrely say, “artificial surfaces that mimic hierarchical nano patterns of Darbha are being created for use in places where sterile conditions are required”.
3. The Times of India lifestyle section advised pregnant women to stay inside to “avoid ill effects on the baby”, to not engage in sexual activity, and strangely, to “avoid giving oil massages”.
4. The Hindustan Times attempted to dispel some myths in a series of questions and answers, but very quickly backtracked into peddling additional pseudoscience. For the question “Will partying outdoors during a lunar eclipse bring ill health and bad luck?”, it stated: “Since the Moon has always ruled over emotions and feelings, it will continue doing so in a positive manner, lunar eclipse or no lunar eclipse.”
But on the subject of food, HT was also quick to advise people not to consume any, stating: “It has been found that the physical changes that take place over 28 days during the full lunar cycle, happen within just three hours during a lunar eclipse. These out-of-the-ordinary changes impact the growth of bacteria in food, deteriorating its quality. Thus, it is advised not to partake food during a lunar eclipse, as its quality may get compromised.”
6. Other outlets were not far behind. The Daily Pioneer went on to say that “the wavelength and intensity of light radiations on the earth’s surface is altered. The blue and ultraviolet radiations, which are known for their natural disinfecting property are not available in sufficient quantities during eclipse.”
The article also advised against drinking water, saying coconut water should be consumed instead. The same content seems to have previously appeared in another NDTV article earlier this year.
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