Editor’s Note: The United States State Department has of late been making a lot of noise about ‘health attacks’ of a potentially acoustic nature on 16 of its diplomats in Havana, Cuba. These attacks have apparently taken place over a period of a year beginning sometime in 2016. As such, these claims have once again brought into focus the effects that inaudible sound frequencies may have on human physiology, especially over extended periods of time. In this detailed paper, Air Cmde (Retd.) R.Gopalaswami, who is a celebrated scientist and a pioneer in the field of rocketry in India, advances the hypothesis that seismic infrasound emissions may be correlated with social disorder in India’s Himalayan regions, such as Jammu & Kashmir and the North-eastern states. He therefore recommends the  setting up of a small, relatively inexpensive project that will technically examine this hypothesis and subsequently look at causality, if the existence of the theorized correlation is established.



Infrasound (which among other locations is also extant in the ambient background in various mountain ‘hot spots’) is an inaudible sound wave with frequencies from 0.01 Hz to 20 Hz, that can have deleterious effects on humans which vary with the duration of exposure, and the frequency and intensity of the emitted sound. (See Appendix). Infrasound can bring about a loss of hearing, constant annoyance and irritation; and perhaps even violent behaviour in a significant fraction of any population exposed to this destructive form of noise pollution. It has been reported in the past that compact technologies that generate infrasound may have been used to create crowd frenzy. Moreover, while some researchers are leaning towards an ultrasound based acoustic weapon, this writer believes that the use of infrasound technology cannot be discounted altogether with respect to the recent series of ‘health attacks’ on US and Canadian diplomats in Havana, Cuba.

Be that as it may, scientific and technical studies are urgently needed to examine the hypothesis (the basis for which, we detail below) that infrasound emissions due to seismicity are correlated with societal disorders in such locations as Srinagar, Shopian, and other ‘hot spots’ of terrorism/disorder in India’s North–Eastern States all of which fall in zones of high seismic activity. Once technical validation of the said correlation is demonstrated one can move towards examining the causality between the existence of infrasound ‘hot spots’ in these locations and societal disorder. Ultimately, these studies can lead to the development and use of modern electro-acoustic noise cancellation technologies to disengage the possible influence of mind-and-body polluting infrasound emissions in such ‘hot spots’ from geopolitical disorder and local turmoil.




The aim of this paper is to advocate the setting up a small joint project team drawn from the Indian Military, the Defence Research & Development Organization (DRDO) and the National Geophysical Research Institute (NGRI) to start measuring infrasound emissions in Srinagar, Shopian, Doka La region and other potential ‘hot spots’ along the Line of Actual Control with China and  the North Eastern states in India with a view to examining the proposed hypothesis.




The proposed methodology for the small Military-DRDO-NGRI  team  is as follows:

  1. Locate ‘hot spots’ of violent behaviour and extreme social disorder in the selected regions that could geophysically and geologically support environmental and atmospheric infrasound emissions.
  2. Set up 3-4 mobile ‘infrasound observatory’ in vehicles that can operate in such terrain and tour the suspected ‘hot spot’ regions recording infrasound emission data.
  3. On location of infrasound ‘hot spots’ set up a permanent infrasound observatory with remote data transmission and centralized data collection/analysis with help of satellites.
  4. Progressively expand the network of infrasound observatories along the Himalayan regions identified either as ‘disputed’ border regions or as geophysically and geologically capable of generating environmental and atmospheric infrasound.


The Basis 

The science of infrasound, though well-established abroad is not yet established in India. It is hoped that this study which is important in the Indian context, will create adequate public interest to enable scientists to establish the relationship between environmental infrasound, migratory terrorism and social turmoil in India in its northern and north-eastern territories.


The West started up on science of infrasonics over 50 years ago and several scientific studies and experiments have found infrasound to be potentially harmful to human life, both body and mind.

As such it is further shown in this paper that there are reasons to believe that:

  1. Environmental infrasound emissions are correlated with geophysical events like earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.
  2. Earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are in turn closely correlated with geographical regions located at boundaries of clashing tectonic plates.
  3. Boundaries of clashing tectonic plates in Asia are associated with regions of very high seismicity around latitude 340 N; and in India in its north-east regions.
  4. Such regions of high seismicity at latitude 340 N correspond precisely (within 0.50) to regions exhibiting the highest extent of migratory terrorism and ethnic conflict e.g. Srinagar (Kashmir), Rawalpindi (Pakistan), Tora Bora Caves and Kabul (Afghanistan), Lebanon, Damascus (Syria) and Baghdad (Iraq)
  5. Aversion to live in any one place and harmful physiological changes due to environmental infrasound may be responsible for migratory tendencies; while sustained annoyance and anger creating social disorder may be related to exposure to infrasound emissions.

Scientific facts are presented to support statements (1) to (4). The very harmful effect of infrasound in individuals, as also in small groups under experimental conditions is detailed in the Appendix, drawing on past studies. However scientific studies are now needed to provide robust evidence for anomalous human behaviour like sustained social disorder, in larger groups and in specific locations where statements (1) to (4) hold i.e. regions of high seismicity like those around the 34th Parallel (like Kashmir in India through Rawalpindi, Kabul, Baghdad and up to Damascus, Syria) that coincide with regions where tectonic plates clash, including in North East India.

The Physics of Infrasound Emission Sources

Infrasound is generated by natural sources such as earthquakes (1Hz to 12 Hz), cyclones (> 10 Hz; up to 135 db at 100 km/h), thunder, volcanoes etc. Studies have been carried out on emissions of infrasound in the epicentre zone of earthquakes [1]. Infrasound emissions are also due to rock fracture [2] where the characteristic frequency typically ranges from about 2.0 to 8.0 Hz for different kinds of rocks like what takes place when the earth ruptures for great distances after a high intensity earthquake.


From volcanoes infrasound emissions have been recorded where the lava tube system near a vent complex emits almost continuous infrasound generally in the 0.3–10 Hz frequency range [3]. This finding is particularly relevant to Japan and the East Coast of Asia (China and Far Eastern countries).In addition to these geophysical causes, wind turbulence in mountainous regions generates infrasound where it can cause an adverse effect on aviation. For example at Boulder in Colorado, USA, air accident rates rose by 40% over national average, where mid-day Infrasonic signals were recorded over half an hour [4 ]. Infrasound was found to be an annoyance to technicians working in close proximity to a large-scale wind farm [5]. These studies are particularly relevant to wind power stations that are proliferating worldwide.

Harmful Effects of Infrasound on Humans (Further details are available in the Appendix)

Exposure of humans to infrasound, at specific frequencies, amplitudes and durations, at individual and population levels is responsible for harmful effects.

  • The most comprehensive and latest (2014) review brings out the effects of infrasound on human health. Infrasound displays a special capacity to affect human health and adaptation because its frequencies and amplitudes converge with those generated by the human body. Muscle sounds and whole-body vibrations are predominately within the 5- to 40-Hz range. The typical amplitudes of the oscillations are within 1–50 μm, which is equivalent to the pressures of about 1 Pa and energies in the order of 10−11 W m−2. The greatest source of variance in human studies is individual differences. Moderate strength correlations occur between the incidences of infrasound and reports of nausea, malaise, fatigue, aversion to the area, non-specific pain, and sleep disturbances when pressure levels exceed about 50 db for protracted periods. Experimental studies have verified these effects. [6]


  • Sustained annoyance and irritation [7]. This is known to be the primary reaction on exposure to infrasound.


  • Sleep disorders [8] were noted when exposure to infrasound of 6 and 16 Hz at 10 db.


  • The effects of long-term exposure to infrasound were studied in 40 active Swiss Air Force pilots who were exposed to infrasound of 14 or 16 Hz at 125 db. Somatic and psychic functions were affected in the following ways: decrease in systolic blood pressure, increase in heart rate and blood pressure impaired alertness and altered hearing threshold and time perception[9].


  • It is also reported that in World War II, Nazi engineers methodically used infrasound to stir up hostilities of crowds gathered.


  • In late 2016 a series of U.S. and Canadian diplomats in Cuba began suffering unexplained losses of hearing, according to officials with knowledge of the investigation into the case, attributed by many to a covert ultrasonic device. But as stated above, infrasound technology cannot be ruled out altogether.


Possible Relationship between Seismicity, Infrasound and Ethnic Conflict

The scope of this paper is specifically along boundaries of the Indian and Arabian tectonic plates (between 300N and 450N latitudes) as shown in the Figure below.

Environmental infrasound is now increasingly being studied by a few scientists with modern instruments as a dangerous geo-physical and man-made phenomenon.

Long strings of earthquakes exist in regions of high seismicity (> M w 5.5). They are located on the West coast of North and South America; along the eastern coast of China and South-east Asia; and in Central, West and South Asia along the fault lines where the Indian and Arabian tectonic plates are colliding with the Eurasian plate. [10]. Of interest to this paper are the regions of high seismicity around the 34th Parallel, along India’s Himalayan boundaries with China and in North East India as shown in Fig 1. below.


Fig 1.: Regions of High Seismicity in the Eurasian Landmass

Needless to say that confirming the hypothesis developed in this paper by scientific studies (that migratory terrorism and seismicity are closely connected), studies with international cooperation if needed, would lead to further scientific investigations in geophysical similar regions in the rest of Asia; and lead to a better understanding of what is now termed “global terrorism” but is actually a phenomenon of migratory behaviour by persons who are afflicted by damage to body and mind created by environmental infrasound. [11]

More Evidence Table 1 shows regions around Latitude 340N that have experienced earthquakes greater than Mw 5.5, which shows the close correlation between regions of intense ethnic conflict with regions of high seismicity. Table 1 gives clinching evidence of the direct relationship of regions of high ethnic conflict with regions of high seismicity.

Table 1

Distribution of Regions of High Ethnic Conflict in Regions of High Seismicity (> Mw 5.5)

(Around Latitude 340N [+/-] 10)

Sl. No Regions of High Seismicity (> Mw 5.5) Regional Ethnic Conflict Perceptions
Location Latitude (Degrees) Variation from Average Latitude (33.880)
1 Kabul, Afghanistan 34.56 0.68 Under constant attack by terrorists.
2 Tora Bora Caves Afghanistan 34.12 0.24 Known sanctuary for terrorists. Bombed by the US with world’s largest bomb
3 Srinagar, India 34.08 0.2 Region of conflict for centuries and now afflicted by migratory terrorism from Pakistan and Afghanistan
4 Lebanon, West Asia 33.85 -0.03 Region of intense terrorism
5 Rawalpindi, Pakistan 33.73 -0.15 Gateway for migratory terrorism into India at the 34th Parallel
6 Damascus , Syria 33.51 -0.37 Region of intense terrorism
7 Baghdad , Iraq 33.31 -0.57 Region of intense terrorism and intense warfare.

High seismicity regions further up to 450N are known to have exhibited a sustained high level of tribal migration from 4000 BC when Fergana Valley was the seat of population migration from Central Asia and ethnic conflict over centuries. The relationship between exposure to infrasound and aversion to live in such a locality becomes relevant here. But, no one has given any thought so far to a possible connection between infrasound emission and population migration. Migratory incursions into north-west India continue to this day.

North-eastern India is a region of high seismicity in India. Here too, one has historically witnessed population migrations from mountainous regions of South-East Asia.[12] Seismic simulation studies in north-east regions of India have brought out that dominant frequency of vibrations of the soil in the Guwahati region are in the infrasound region, 0.24 Hz to 7.54 Hz for simulated earthquakes of Mw 8.0. [13] So when there is an earthquake in Guwahati at Mw 8.0, the earth will vibrate in infrasound frequencies and dangerous infrasound emissions would follow. These are yet to be measured.

The Kashmir region has been repeatedly and severely affected by most of the earthquakes for centuries. The slow-motion of tectonic plate collision has created one of the planet’s most active ‘earthquake hotspots’. However, no attempt anywhere so far has been made to correlate these ‘earthquake hotspots’ with ‘infrasound hotspots’. Migratory incursions from Central and West Asia continue to this day. The composite culture of Kashmir and ethnic identity that had evolved over many centuries has come under severe pressure under the influence of violent insurgents. The Kashmir Valley is a mountainous rectangular/U-shaped [14]. It has been modeled as a rectangular cavity and its atmospheric resonant frequency is estimated by the Helmoltz equation at 0.12 Hz in 1D mode and 0.04Hz in 3D mode. These frequencies lie in the infrasound region.


On October 8, 2005, one of the geological faults underlying Kashmir gave way, resulting in a magnitude Mw 7.6 earthquake which killed more than 80,000 people while an estimated 4 million others were left homeless The economic impact was horrendous. [15].

Massive fissures and rock fractures occurred that have the potential to release high intensity infrasound. World-over large-scale natural disasters do tend to have an impact, directly or indirectly on geo-politics. However, without scientific measurements it cannot be established whether sustained disorder and increasing violence in Kashmir especially after the 2005 earthquake, is also among other factors, an outcome of environmental sources of infrasound being amplified by the geo-acoustics of the size and shape of the Valley; and its soil characteristics.



Need for Infrasound Emission Monitoring & Studies

The science of Infrasonics is still very much at its infancy. It is almost non-existent in India and needs to be urgently revived as an extension of the well-established research centres in acoustics. But this field of very low frequency acoustics is fairly well developed in the US which has an extensive worldwide network of a variety of sensors (including infrasound) to monitor underground nuclear explosions under the Comprehensive Test Ban Treat.

Multidisciplinary scientific experiments over extended time periods are needed to monitor infrasound emission from ground and atmospheric sources along with toxicology studies of infrasound to provide robust and more realistic insights on the adverse influence of such geophysical and geoacoustic phenomena at population level. A network of national and international Geo-acoustic Observatories need to be set up along the Himalayas and North East regions, including Nepal, Bhutan and Pakistan. Limitations and difficulties in using these methodologies need to be documented and it can then be established definitively whether there is any relationship between environmental emissions of infrasound and anomalous human behaviour not only in South Asia but also in other regions of high seismicity. These studies can lead to use of modern electro-acoustic noise cancellation technologies to disengage the possible influence of mind-and-body polluting infrasound emissions in ‘hot spots’ from geopolitical disorder and local turmoil.


  1. J. Laštovičkaa,J. Bašea, F. Hruškaa, J. Chuma, T. Šindelářováa, J. Horálekb, J. Zedníkb, V. Krasno “Simultaneous infrasonic, seismic, magnetic and ionospheric observations in an earthquake epicentre” Journal of Atmospheric and Solar-Terrestrial Physics, Volume 72, Issue 16, October 2010, Pages 1231–1240
  2. Xing Zhua, QiangXua, JianbinZhoub, MinggaoTanga“Experimental study of infrasonic signal generation during rock fracture under uniaxial compression”https:// doi.org/ 10.1016/ j.ijrmms.2012.12.023M.
  3. Garce´s, A. Harris, C. Hetzer, J. Johnson, and S. Rowland “Infrasonic tremor observed at K’lauea Volcano, Hawai’i” Geophysical Research Letters, Vol. 30, No. 20, 2003
  4. Alfred J Bedard Jr, NOAA Project MCAT , Experimental Technology Lab.1998
  5. Inagaki, T., Li, Y. & Nishi, Y. Int. J. Environ. Sci. Technol. (2015) 12: 1933. doi:10.1007/s13762-014-0581-4 Analysis of aerodynamic sound noise generated by a large-scaled wind turbine and its physiological evaluation 27 March 2014
  6. Michael A. Persinger “Infrasound, human health, and adaptation: an integrative overview of recondite hazards in a complex environment” Behavioural Neuroscience and Biomolecular Sciences Programs Laurentian University Sudbury Canada, Open AccessOriginal Paper, 06 August 2016 (Cited Persinger, M.A. Nat Hazards (2014) 70: 501. doi:10.1007/s11069-013-0827-3)
  7. Baliatsas C, van Kamp I, van Poll R, Yzermans.“Health effects from low-frequency noise and infrasound in the general population: Is it time to listen?” Sci Total Environ. 2016 Jul 1 557-558:163-9.doi: 10.1016/ j.scitotenv. 2016.03.065. E.pub 2016 Mar 17, 2017
  8. Landstrom, U., and M. Bystrom “Infrasonic threshold levels of physiological effects” J. Low Freq. Noise Vib. 3(4):167-173. EMBASE record 85174229, 1984
  9. Lindström, I.M. et al. “The effects of ultrasound on humans” Rep. (Umea University, Sweden) 33:1-42. (Swedish) NIOSHTIC record 1997:71512, 1978]
  10. Charles DeMets, Richard G. Gordon and Donald F. Argus “Geologically current plate motions” Geophys. J. Int. (2010) 181, 1–80, Page 3 , Figure 1 (a). Figure reproduced with permission
  11. 10% of local population: Baliatsas C, et.al Health effects from low-frequency noise and infrasound in the general population: Is it time to listen?” Sci Total Environ. 2016 Jul 1557-558:163-9
  12. James C. Scott “ The Art of Not being Governed” published 2009, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Art_of_Not_Being_Governed
  13. Sankar Kumar Nath, Kiran Kumar Singh Thingbaijam and Abhishek Raj “Earthquake hazard in Northeast India – A seismicmicrozonation approach with typical case studies from Sikkim Himalaya and Guwahati city ” Department of Geology and Geophysics, Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur 721 302, India, J. Earth Syst. Sci. 117, S2, November 2008, pp. 809–831
  14. Akhtar Alam et al “Tectonic evolution of Kashmir basin in northwest Himalayas ” Geomorphology 239 (2015) 114–126 Elsevier publication ,Available online 6 April 2015 http://www.researchgate.net/profile/Akhtar_Alam3/publication/ 274572826_Tectonic_evolution_of_Kashmir_basin_in_northwest_Himalayas/ links/558e3f5108ae47a3490be2f1.pdf
  15. 2005 Kashmir earthquake http://www.history.com/topics/kashmir-earthquake


Air Cmde (Retd) (VSM, AVSM) Raghavan Gopalaswami is a pioneer of rocketry in India who from the 1960s onward helped build India’s missile R&D institutions and manufacturing base. His experience covers a very wide spectrum of operational, managerial and strategic assignments with the Indian Air Force, the Government of India, Indian industry, and academic Institutions. He retired from Industry in June 1994 as Chairman and Managing Director, Bharat Dynamics Ltd. He has published several technical papers in national and international journals over the years. He was a close professional associate of India’s former President, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, with whom he served from 2003-07 as non-official Adviser to the President in the areas of aerospace and renewable energy policy. His contributions to technology, and industrial development and management have been recognized with numerous felicitations. In June 2011, he received a ‘Lifetime Award’ from the Government of India for exceptional contributions to a multifold array of technology and management initiatives. His work in Space Solar Power won an Award for Space Systems Management (in 1995) from the Astronautical Society of India. He is also noted for making several significant technical and managerial contributions to the evolution of fully reusable space transportation designs and their applications.





Sl. No. Nature of Harmful Effects Measures of Exposure to Infrasound Source of Data






1 Reviews of research on performance and subjective responses (of infrasound in man) concludes that adverse effects of infrasound (frequencies below 16 Hz) reported at low intensity levels either do not exist or have been exaggerated. Research suggests that levels considerably higher than the 130 db level prescribed by the US Environmental Protection Agency are safe. <16 Low intensity levels Review of the effects of infrasound on man.

Harris, C. S.; Sommer, H. C.; Johnson, D. L.

Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine, Vol 47, Apr 1976, 430-434


Annoyance and irritation

(The estimated pooled prevalence of high subjective annoyance attributed to Low Frequency Noise was about 10%)

Baliatsas C, van Kamp I, van Poll R, Yzermans J.“Health effects from low-frequency noise and infrasound in the general population: Is it time to listen?” Sci Total Environ. 2016 Jul 1 557-558:163-9. doi: 10.1016/ j.scitotenv. 2016.03.065. E.pub 2016 Mar 17, 2017


Broner, N “  The effects of low frequency noise on people—A review” J. Sound Vib. 58(4):483-500, 1978

3 Sleep Disorders 6-16 10

(above threshold hearing level)

Landstrom, U., and M. Bystrom “ Infrasonic threshold levels of physiological effects” J. Low Freq. Noise Vib. 3(4):167-173. EMBASE record 85174229, 1984
4 Feeling of fatigue, apathy, and depression, pressure in the ears, loss of concentration, drowsiness, and vibration of internal organs; and effects in the central nervous system, the cardiovascular system, and the respiratory system 5 and 10 100 and 135 15 Karpova, N.I., S.V. Alekseev, V.N. Erokhin, E.N. Kadyskina, and O.V. Reutov. 1970. Early response of the organism to low-frequency acoustic oscillations. Noise Vib. Bull. 11(65):100
5 Blood pressure was decreased causing deterioration of blood suffusion of vital organs; heart rate and blood pressure were increased during psychological tests; alertness was decreased; and hearing threshold and time perception were altered 14 or 16 125 Lidstrom, I.M. et al.  “The effects of ultrasound on humans”  Rep. (Umea University, Sweden) 33:1-42. (Swedish) NIOSHTIC record 1997:71512,1978.
5 Nausea, malaise, fatigue, aversion to (live in) the area, non-specific pain, and sleep disturbances when pressure levels exceed about 50 db for protracted periods


All infrasound frequencies >50 For ‘protracted’ periods Michael A. Persinger “Infrasound, human health, and adaptation: an integrative overview of recondite hazards in a complex environment” Behavioural Neuroscience and Biomolecular Sciences Programs Laurentian University Sudbury Canada, Open Access  Original Paper, 06 August 2016
6 Pressure in and damage to the ears and pressure sensation in the middle ear (see below for animal studies on ear damage) 127-133 Broner, N “ The effects of low frequency noise on people—A review”       J. Sound Vib. 58(4):483-500, 1978
7 Increase in diastolic blood pressure of 8 mm Hg, decrease in systolic blood pressure and pulse rate. 16 125 30 Danielsson, A., and U. Landstrom. “Blood pressure changes in man during infrasonic exposure. An experimental study”Acta Med. Scand. 217(5):531-535. MEDLINE record 85275572 (1985).

Strandberg, U.D. et.al.  “Studies of Circulation Changes During Exposure to Infrasound” Arbetarskyddsstyrelsen, Publikationsservice,  Solna, Sweden, 29 pp. (Swedish) TOXLINE record 1988:73119 [1986]



Effects of Infrasound on Animals

Animal studies reported far more serious consequences of damage to the ear. Pathologies observed in chinchilla (cats) exposed for about 25 minutes to continuous or intermittent infrasound (1 Hz at 170 dB; 10 Hz at 150, 160, or 170 dB; or 20 Hz at 150, 160, or 163 dB SPL) included the following (percent of incidence induced by continuous exposure in parentheses):

  1. Tympanic membrane perforation (100%)
  2. Stapes subluxation
  3. Bleeding from mucosa of the middle ear
  4. Bleeding from the tensor tympani muscle
  5. Blood in the cochlear scalae (73%)
  6. Hair cell damage (67%) among many other damages.

Although the highest intensity, 170 db, induced the highest percentage of ears with damage, the percentage of ears with pathologies decreased with increasing infrasound frequency.


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