It’s called the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Project. What could be more innocuous than researching the Northern Lights, right? Depends on who you ask.

HAARP is a research program based in Alaska to “study the ionosphere” and aurora effects in the atmosphere. It’s run jointly by the Air Force and the Navy. If you’re wondering why the Air Force and the Navy care about aurorae, you’re not the only one.

There is, of course, a perfectly reasonable explanation. According to HAARP (which unlike many insidious government conspiracies, has its own Web site), “Because the DoD (Depoartment of Defense) operates numerous communication and navigation systems whose signals either depend on reflection from the ionosphere or must pass through the ionosphere to satellites, there is obvious DoD interest in understanding the ionosphere’s effect on these systems to improve their reliability and performance.”

First off, there’s the basic nature of the project. It’s scores of radio antenna pumping massive high-frequency directional broadcasts into the air for the purpose of heating the ionosphere. Yes, that’s right — it’s blasting electromagnetic radiation into the sky to “microwave” the outer layer atmosphere. Starting to sound less innocuous?

Some people, purporting to be government employees with privileged information, have claimed that HAARP is actually some sort of massive destructor beam for a nefarious purpose.

HAARP claims that the supposed 3,600 kilowatts of energy originating from the project are completely harmless (detractors claim it’s more like a gigawatt) and far less than the normal variation in ionospheric radiation. Which raises the question of why they don’t just study those normal variations.

The claims about HAARP made by these ubiquitous people-in-the-know boil down to the following bullet points:

HAARP: How it works

  • HAARP is a giant death ray, based on a design contained in the notes of inventor Nikola Tesla, seized by the FBI after his death. This is a very popular theory, probably because so much of it is actually true. Tesla claimed to have developed a death ray with a very similar configuration to HAARP’s actual configuration, and the seizure of his scientific papers is a matter of public record.
  • HAARP is a weather-control machine. There’s a certain logic to this one as well. If a butterfly’s wings beating in Tibet can cause el Nino, then a gigawatt of electromagnetic radiation ought to be good for something.
  • HAARP is an earthquake machine which manipulates the ionosphere.
  • HAARP is a doomsday machine ripping a hole in the earth’s atmosphere. Colorful, but scienfitically questionable.

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