Archive for the ‘sun’ Category

Weathering the storm

January 25, 2012

So, here we are in the midst of the highest level of solar activity since 2005 (the last time that the aurora borealis was visible as far south as New Mexico). My internet access has been extremely spotty for the last few days with major network outages reported over New Mexico and parts of Texas over the weekend. Friends of mine lost cell phone acess for days. Computers have been downright churlish. Other electronics like printers, copiers and faxes have seemed sluggish and uncooperative.

This is nothing new. Given the intensity of the current activity it’s exactly what we’d expect [see earlier post].  After all, there’s been plenty written about the impact of these events on our technology.  Farraday’s experiments showed the power of magnetic fields to induce an electric charge to move through a wire — effectively recreating the impact of geomagnetic storms on a tiny scale. Now that we have a huge power grid, the current from these magnetic disturbances has plent of room to run — often with disastrous results. In 1972, a near quarter-million volt transformer of British Columbia Hydroelectric exploded due to such a spike in current caused by fluctuations in the earth’s magnetic field. In 1989, millions of citizens in Quebec experienced a blackout due to solar activity.

The good news and the bad news is that there seems to be no defense against the X-ray bursts, geomagnetic storms, solar radiation, radio interference, or current spikes that are a product of solar activity. Oh sure, we can influence EMF on a very small scale — say, room by room, or building by building (EMF Services). But blocking larger, more powerful magnetic fields? or solar radiation? or those x-ray bursts? Forget about it.

Why is that good news? Well, if you can’t do anything about it, you might as well let it go. Good news: one less thing to fret over. Why is it bad news? Aside from the self evident, the bad news is that we don’t really know what all this solar activity does to us. Sure, there’s been copious research on the effects of EMF, radiation, etc. on the human body. But no one’s really concocted a solid way to study the impact that these solar events have on our cells, our brains or our behavior. Sure, someone with more time than me could study hospital admissions, police reports, psych ward records and probably find correlations between solar activity and various spikes in certain events, injuries or illnesses. But it would be a correlation at best (if it panned out), there would be no proof of a causal relationship.

I’m not the only one who believes that such a relationship exists. Goodness knows that the Air Force studies geomagnetic activity and its potential effects on our technology in all its permutations (AFRL SVD KAFB). It seems to me, if something is powerful enough to impact the functioning of electronic gadgets and even the power grid, powerful enough to penetrate the planet, well… it’s got to be impacting my functioning as well… right? Well, to my mind, it stands to reason.

What those effects might be is the subject of someone’s research project. Heck, maybe mine. Certainly, if I dig it up I’ll post on it. For the time being, the activity that Yahoo.com called a “solar hurricane” is buzzing along outside in the atmosphere. People in the high latitudes are grooving to Mother Nature’s Lava Lamp. Cell phones are getting crappy reception. Printers are losing jobs. Internet Explorer cannot display the page. And computers are inserting errors into office memos.

What’s a girl to do? Simple. I’m turning everything off: router, computer, television and phone. In a day or so I’ll surface with a shrug and say, “Sun spots.”

References

AFRL Space Vehicle Directorate, Kirtland AFB. “AF-GEOSPACE Fact Sheet.” Retrieved from: http://www.kirtland.af.mil/library/factsheets/factsheet.asp?id=7899

EMF Services. “Magnetic Field Cancellation (Active Shielding).” Retrieved from: http://www.emfservices.com/afcs.htm

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