Magnetic Hill (India)

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Magnetic Hill in Ladakh, India.
A sign near the Magnetic Hill in Ladakh, India

Magnet Hill is a so-called "gravity hill" located near Leh in Ladakh, India.

The “Hill” is located on the Leh-Kargil-Srinagar national highway, about 30 km from Leh, at a height of 11,000 feet above sea level. On its south side flows the Indus, which originates in Tibet and goes to Pakistan. The magnetic hill has become a popular stop for domestic tourists on car journeys. The alignment of the road with the slope of the background can give the illusion that cars are able to drift upwards.

However 5 undergraduate students conducted investigation and their research proves gravity does the trick of 'pulling' vehicles uphill.

Every year, thousands of motorists visit Ladakh to witness the phenomenon of the 'Magnetic Hill' where it is said vehicles are pulled uphill automatically. Travellers park their vehicles in the white-marked box on the road to witness the phenomenon. But five students decided to visit the region with magnetometers to know what exactly was happening at the place. And the results were interesting. The students were Sanjay Lakshminarayana (project lead), hailing from Bengaluru, Yashwanth Singh Chauhan, Vinit Soni, Anil Yogi and Devinder Kumar, all second year mechanical engineering students.

The Magnetic Hill is located on the Leh-Kargil-Baltik National Highway, about 30 km from Leh, at a height of 14,000 feet above sea level. "The investigation using magnetometer was conducted at various different sites along the hill and we made efforts to check for scientific accuracy of the claims," said Chauhan, an engineering student.

He added, "If one can imagine a giant bar magnet underneath our feet and the field produced by that magnet is what we have measured at the hill. Earth's surface magnetic field varies from place to place depending upon the magnetic properties of the soil or rocks. Generally, the magnitude of the earth's magnetic field varies at the surface from 25 microtesla to about 65 microtesla. (Tesla is symbolised with a 'T' and is the SI derived unit of magnetic flux density.)

The magnetic field of the earth interacts and varies not only because of magnetic properties of the soil, but at a high altitude, this is also affected by space weather. Hence the student team conducted experiments; first to measure the magnetic intensity at the road, the Magnetic Hill itself and also at the nearby hills.

Another student, Soni, said, "We have found relatively high magnetic intensity readings and observed from the data that it fluctuates at a relatively higher rate at other places closer to the sea level. However, the magnetic intensity produced by the refrigerator at home is about 100 T and it is not strong enough to influence any motion.

Hence, we measured the highest magnetic intensity of about 60 microtesla which is about a million times weaker than the strong magnet found in the refrigerator or likewise. Hence, it is physically impossible for the magnetic field intensity measured at the hill to produce enough force to have any accelerating effect on automobiles."


Jitendar Kumar, head of physics department, Arya Institute of Technology, Jaipur, told Bangalore Mirror, "The magnitude of magnetic field in upward direction is relatively fluctuating. But again, this is not strong enough. So claims such as a turbulence experienced by planes, in all likelihood, are caused by wind and air molecules which rise steeply due to the mountain terrain which causes rapid cooling and pressure variations which give rise to various weather anomalies. We were not able to find any evidence of magnetic interference with the flight instruments.


"We believe the geographical location of the hill, at a high altitude of about 14,000 feet, ensures that a significantly high dosage of radiation is received. As per records, Leh receives the highest radiation for any place on Earth, hence the effects are also significant. So we can attribute the fluctuations in magnetic intensities to the geomagnetic interactions with radiation. In support of the above, we observed noticeable fluctuations of magnetic fields especially during the day, relative to the night at the same place," added Yogi.


The team conducted experiments with a bike and observed that the bike reached a speed of about 22 km/h on the first attempt and 19 km/h on the second. The average reported by their own experiment was about 20 km/h. "We also observed the magnetic intensity variation along the length of the bike, we have found that it doesn't vary and remains constant. Considering a possibility that the bike can be attracted by Magnetic Hill, the magnitude of the magnetic field along the bike should vary and also there would be a noticeable difference in the magnitude of magnetic intensity in the front of the bike and the rear.

However, we didn't find anything as such. So, the magician here is the gravity. It is eighth standard physics that objects fall to the ground under the action of gravity at a constant acceleration and also the object continues to accelerate unless there is an external force opposing it. We have observed and also noted that the terminal speed attained by the automobiles irrespective of its size is about 20 km/h on an average. Hence automobiles are influenced by gravity. There is a negative gradient, though very less in magnitude, which causes the body to slide under the influence of gravity (wheels make it easier and they roll much further due to inertia). The other contributing factor to the speed of the automobile are gusts of wind which are known to reach up to 15 km/h," added Kumar.


"The so called 'Magnetic Hill Effect' observed, is not gravity-defying as claimed but is in fact due to gravity coupled with minor influences from its geographical position and altitude. But we do acknowledge that the magnetic intensity is relatively higher but within the expected range hence nothing unnatural is to be assumed. People visiting the place claim to experience some sort of an influence of the magnetic field. However, we are not sure whether it is a psychological illusion being at such high altitude," said the project lead Sanjay Lakshminarayana.



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