Elon Musk did NOT comment on any Mysterious Gravity related to Sri Lanka!

International Misleading

Elon Musk, the world’s wealthiest man, is no stranger to creating international headlines with his controversial statements and actions. However, some media users use this business tycoon’s popularity to attribute bizarre and false claims in the name of Elon Musk, to get increased eyeballs.

Factcrescendo Sri Lanka team came across a misleading viral video about low gravity in Sri Lanka attributed to Elon Musk. However, our team found these to be yet another hoax.

Social Media Posts

A video titled “Elon Musk explained the mysterious gravity of Sri Lanka” claimed that it would cost around USD 190,000 less for SpaceX to launch a mission from Sri Lanka than Florida, USA. The video claims the lower operational cost is due to the low gravitational forces experienced in Sri Lanka. The full video can be seen below.

Facebook

And we detected that some users share the YouTube link of the same video via Facebook. Facebook| Archived. The YouTube video with the same claim is seen below.

Archived

Fact Check

First, we watched the entire video. Even though the video title attributed the claim to Elon Musk, there was no voice cut or video clip related to Elon Musk in the entire three and half minute footage. 

The video creator uses a photograph of Elon Musk as the video thumbnail. This implies that the statements made related to lower fuel consumption of a spacecraft due to less gravitational forces experienced in Sri Lanka were made by the business magnate and owner of SpaceX, Elon Musk.

We checked whether there were any international media reports about Elon Mask explaining the topic of “mysterious gravity and Sri Lanka”. However, we were not able to find any such statements either. 

Origins of Low gravitational claim on Sri Lanka 

We discovered that the source of this content goes back to a 2019 Medium article written by a Sri Lankan writer, Indrajith Samarajiva. Full article here. Archived.

In his article, Samarajiva explains the reasons behind the region shown by the dark blue colour, which directly coincides with Sri Lanka, owing to the water-rich material that lies over the dehydrated remnants of long-subducted tectonic slabs. 

However, since the article has not mentioned the above image as a snapshot of Earth’s global surface mass anomalies, many related to Sri Lanka had misinterpreted this data. Based on this map, claims were viral a few years ago, claiming that Sri Lanka, more specifically Ruwanweli Maha Stupa, is the most powerful location in the entire universe, as claimed by NASA. Read our fact check from Sinhala related to these claims below.

FACT CHECK: විශ්වයේ බලසම්පන්නම ස්ථානය රුවන්වැලි මහා සෑය බව නාසා ආයතනය පැවසුවා ද?

Reasons Behind Changing Low Gravitational Areas

Below is an extract from an article explaining the above map and related theories.

“Scientists have unearthed a new explanation for several low-gravity spots detected worldwide. They’re blaming the anomalies on vast “slab graveyards” buried deep near the planet’s core.

When these slabs of rock were buried long ago, they released water that reduced the density of overlying rock, Caltech geophysicist Michael Gurnis and his colleagues reported online on May 9 in Nature Geoscience. Low-density rock has less mass and so less gravitational pull.”

Wired | Archived

The above finding is in line with the universal gravitational equation. The force of gravitational attraction is directly dependent upon the masses of both objects and inversely proportional to the square of the distance that separates their centres. Newton’s conclusion about the magnitude of gravitational forces is summarised symbolically below.

In this scenario, for an object in space, two masses influence. One is the object’s own, the other being the Earth’s mass directly below it. While the Earth’s mass changes due to internal flows, the gravitational force also differs and the gravitational acceleration changes accordingly. Earth`s mass is directly proportional to gravitational acceleration. More details are here. Archived.

Clarification from NASA

For further clarification, we inquired about this claim from NASA. In an email reply, the NASA Office of Communications confirmed that the map which had been widely shared, and shown above, belonged to the European Space Agency (ESA)`s GOCE (Gravity Field and Steady-State Ocean Circulation Explorer) mission, and it had represented only two months of data gathered from 2010. Furthermore, NASA clarified that the data of this image is constantly updated with the changes in the Earth`s gravity and water flow.

All this information from the satellites is used to construct monthly maps of the Earth’s average gravity field, offering details of how mass, in most cases water, is moving around the planet. Understanding the subtle variations in Earth’s gravity field is necessary to provide clues to how ice is changing in Greenland and Antarctica, how the amount of water in river basins and the oceans is varying, what’s causing sea level rise and even the effect that large earthquakes have on our planet.”, NASA added in the email reply.

NASA’s communications office further stated that the latest map could be taken from NASA`s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE-FO) project from here. We found more recent data from NASA related to Gravity Field Map and the below video shows how this has varied from Jan-Julu 2022. The satellite image of the map depicting the earth`s recent gravity can also be reached from here.

Global surface mass anomalies observed by the GRACE-FO satellites are indicated on the above map. It does NOT show a dark blue (low gravity area) corresponding to Sri Lanka for 2022 as well.

We also checked the website of ESA about the map of viral social media posts. And were able to find out the 2010 article related to the viral social media map. The article can be read here. Archived.

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Conclusion

According to our investigation, Elon Musk had not said anything related to the lower gravity experienced in Sri Lanka and the possibility of launching SpaceX space missions from the island nation compared to the US.

These claims were based on a map, highlighted in an article published in 2019. However, NASA confirms that the map represents global surface mass anomalies observed by the GRACE-FO satellites for two months in 2010, and the data is constantly changing. We observed that the most recent data do not show any significant low gravity area related to Sri Lanka either, as mass, in most cases internal water, is moving around the planet constantly; the gravity of one particular spot is not permanent and changes dynamically. This is not a mysterious phenomenon and can be explained by scientific theories.

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Title:Elon Musk did NOT comment on any Mysterious Gravity related to Sri Lanka!

Fact Check By: Kalana Krishantha 

Result: Misleading

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