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Team of scientists bust Covid-19 myths

PUBLISHED ON APR 05, 2020 11:18 PM IST

Have you been receiving messages such as, “Indians have better immunity to fight coronavirus”, or “Home remedies can offer protection against the infection?” A group of scientists have taken the onus to falsify such myths which have been doing the rounds on social media.

Less than 10 days after their first meeting, the hoax-buster team of the Indian Scientists’ Response to Covid19 (ISRC) has released “hoax-busting messages” in English and 14 Indian languages on https://indscicov.in/busting-hoaxes/ that can be downloaded and shared.

A volunteer team comprising scientists, graphic designers and translators from across the country have countered hoaxes, myths and superstitions using short and simple social media messages accompanied by detailed responses with additional references to scientific evidence and technical manuscripts. You can report a hoax or any unverified claim at hoaxbusters.isrc@gmail.com

“Some misinformation takes off and some do not. When some misinformation finds resonance and reinforces previously held beliefs, a critical number of people share or retweet it,” said Dibyendu Nandi, astrophysicist, Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Kolkata, who helped assimilate many of the hoaxes and superstitions in to specific scientific questions for effective science communication.

With several astrologers and spiritual masters claiming that the calendar followed by the spread of coronavirus follows a certain pattern that can be predicted by astrology, the hoax-busters have clarified that the motion of planets do not impact human bodies and tiny microorganisms and there is no connection between astrological beliefs and the spread of epidemics.

“A nanometre sized virus has brought the world to its heels. For the person on the street, this is hard to fathom,” said R Ramanujam, theoretical computer scientist at the Institute of Mathematical Sciences, Chennai, and coordinator of the ISRC. “Our group not only tries to debunk the hoaxes that are going viral but is also spreading general scientific awareness by various other means. This is critical since the success of measures coming from the government depends on citizens playing their role rationally.”

Aniket Sule, astrophysicist and science educator at the Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education, who played an important role in coordinating translations, said scientists, including astronomers from IUCAA-Pune and IIT-Bombay worked to automate the process of generation of images in all languages.

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