2012: Killer Solar Flares Are a Physical Impossibility

Solar storm

Given a legitimate need to protect Earth from the most intense forms of space weather – great bursts of electromagnetic energy and particles that can sometimes stream from the sun – some people worry that a gigantic “killer solar flare” could hurl enough energy to destroy Earth. Citing the accurate fact that solar activity is currently ramping up in its standard 11-year cycle, there are those who believe that 2012 could be coincident with such a flare.

But this same solar cycle has occurred over millennia. Anyone over the age of 11 has already lived through such a solar maximum with no harm. In addition, the next solar maximum is predicted to occur in late 2013 or early 2014, not 2012.

Most importantly, however, even the biggest solar flares are not powerful enough to physically destroy Earth.

This is not to say that space weather can’t affect our planet. The explosive heat of a solar flare can’t make it all the way to our globe, but electromagnetic radiation and energetic particles certainly can. Solar flares can temporarily alter the upper atmosphere creating disruptions with signal transmission from, say, a GPS satellite to Earth causing it to be off by many yards. Another phenomenon produced by the sun could be even more disruptive. Known as a coronal mass ejection (CME), these solar explosions propel bursts of particles and electromagnetic fluctuations into Earth’s atmosphere. Those fluctuations could induce electric fluctuations at ground level that could blow out transformers in power grids. The CME’s particles can also collide with crucial electronics onboard a satellite and disrupt its systems.

In an increasingly technological world, where almost everyone relies on cell phones and GPS controls not just your in-car map system, but also airplane navigation and the extremely accurate clocks that govern financial transactions, space weather is a serious matter.

But it is a problem the same way hurricanes are a problem. One can protect oneself with advance information and proper precautions. During a hurricane watch, a homeowner can stay put . . . or he can seal up the house, turn off the electronics and get out of the way. Similarly, scientists at NASA and NOAA give warnings to electric companies, spacecraft operators, and airline pilots before a CME comes to Earth so that these groups can take proper precautions. Improving these predictive abilities the same way weather prediction has improved over the last few decades is one of the reasons NASA studies the sun and space weather. We can’t ignore space weather, but we can take appropriate measures to protect ourselves.

And, even at their worst, the sun’s flares are not physically capable of destroying Earth.

for more information see this video: solar storm

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Earth’s magnetic field

This is another posts that connects to the page”12/21/2012” to confirmed what has already been written:

Scientists understand that Earth’s magnetic field has flipped its polarity many times over the millennia. In other words, if you were alive about 800,000 years ago, and facing what we call north with a magnetic compass in your hand, the needle would point to ‘south.’ This is because a magnetic compass is calibrated based on Earth’s poles. The N-S markings of a compass would be 180 degrees wrong if the polarity of today’s magnetic field were reversed. Many doomsday theorists have tried to take this natural geological occurrence and suggest it could lead to Earth’s destruction. But would there be any dramatic effects? The answer, from the geologic and fossil records we have from hundreds of past magnetic polarity reversals, seems to be ‘no.’

Reversals are the rule, not the exception. Earth has settled in the last 20 million years into a pattern of a pole reversal about every 200,000 to 300,000 years, although it has been more than twice that long since the last reversal. A reversal happens over hundreds or thousands of years, and it is not exactly a clean back flip. Magnetic fields morph and push and pull at one another, with multiple poles emerging at odd latitudes throughout the process. Scientists estimate reversals have happened at least hundreds of times over the past three billion years. And while reversals have happened more frequently in “recent” years, when dinosaurs walked Earth a reversal was more likely to happen only about every one million years.

Sediment cores taken from deep ocean floors can tell scientists about magnetic polarity shifts, providing a direct link between magnetic field activity and the fossil record. The Earth’s magnetic field determines the magnetization of lava as it is laid down on the ocean floor on either side of the Mid-Atlantic Rift where the North American and European continental plates are spreading apart. As the lava solidifies, it creates a record of the orientation of past magnetic fields much like a tape recorder records sound. The last time that Earth’s poles flipped in a major reversal was about 780,000 years ago, in what scientists call the Brunhes-Matuyama reversal. The fossil record shows no drastic changes in plant or animal life. Deep ocean sediment cores from this period also indicate no changes in glacial activity, based on the amount of oxygen isotopes in the cores. This is also proof that a polarity reversal would not affect the rotation axis of Earth, as the planet’s rotation axis tilt has a significant effect on climate and glaciation and any change would be evident in the glacial record.

Earth’s polarity is not a constant. Unlike a classic bar magnet, or the decorative magnets on your refrigerator, the matter governing Earth’s magnetic field moves around. Geophysicists are pretty sure that the reason Earth has a magnetic field is because its solid iron core is surrounded by a fluid ocean of hot, liquid metal. This process can also be modeled with supercomputers. Ours is, without hyperbole, a dynamic planet. The flow of liquid iron in Earth’s core creates electric currents, which in turn create the magnetic field. So while parts of Earth’s outer core are too deep for scientists to measure directly, we can infer movement in the core by observing changes in the magnetic field. The magnetic north pole has been creeping northward – by more than 600 miles (1,100 km) – since the early 19th century, when explorers first located it precisely. It is moving faster now, actually, as scientists estimate the pole is migrating northward about 40 miles per year, as opposed to about 10 miles per year in the early 20th century.

Another doomsday hypothesis about a geomagnetic flip plays up fears about incoming solar activity. This suggestion mistakenly assumes that a pole reversal would momentarily leave Earth without the magnetic field that protects us from solar flares and coronal mass ejections from the sun. But, while Earth’s magnetic field can indeed weaken and strengthen over time, there is no indication that it has ever disappeared completely. A weaker field would certainly lead to a small increase in solar radiation on Earth – as well as a beautiful display of aurora at lower latitudes — but nothing deadly. Moreover, even with a weakened magnetic field, Earth’s thick atmosphere also offers protection against the sun’s incoming particles.

The science shows that magnetic pole reversal is – in terms of geologic time scales – a common occurrence that happens gradually over millennia. While the conditions that cause polarity reversals are not entirely predictable – the north pole’s movement could subtly change direction, for instance – there is nothing in the millions of years of geologic record to suggest that any of the 2012 doomsday scenarios connected to a pole reversal should be taken seriously. A reversal might, however, be good business for magnetic compass manufacturers.

cosmic alignment

if you don’t believe in me (an italian boy), believe in NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration)

p.s: this post will be published here but then will goes on the page “12/21/2012

One of the most bizarre theories about 2012 has built up with very little attention to facts. This idea holds that a cosmic alignment of the sun, Earth, the center of our galaxy — or perhaps the galaxy’s thick dust clouds — on the winter solstice could for some unknown reason lead to destruction. Such alignments can occur but these are a regular occurrence and can cause no harm (and, indeed, will not even be at its closest alignment during the 2012 solstice.)

The details are as follows: Viewed far from city lights, a glowing path called the Milky Way can be seen arching across the starry sky. This path is formed from the light of millions of stars we cannot see individually. It coincides with the mid plane of our galaxy, which is why our galaxy is also named the Milky Way.

Thick dust clouds also populate the galaxy. And while infrared telescopes can see them clearly, our eyes detect these dark clouds only as irregular patches where they dim or block the Milky Way’s faint glow. The most prominent dark lane stretches from the constellations Cygnus to Sagittarius and is often called the Great Rift, sometimes the Dark Rift.

Another impressive feature of our galaxy lies unseen in Sagittarius: the galactic center, about 28,000 light-years away, which hosts a black hole weighing some four million times the sun’s mass.

The claim for 2012 links these two pieces of astronomical fact with a third — the position of the sun near the galactic center on Dec. 21, the winter solstice for the Northern Hemisphere — to produce something that makes no astronomical sense at all.

As Earth makes its way around the sun, the sun appears to move against the background stars, which is why the visible constellations slowly change with the seasons. On Dec. 21, 2012, the sun will pass about 6.6 degrees north of the galactic center — that’s a distance that looks to the eye to be about 13 times the full moon’s apparent size — and it’s actually closer a couple of days earlier. There are different claims about why this bodes us ill, but they boil down to the coincidence of the solstice with the sun entering the Dark Rift somehow portending disaster or the mistaken notion that the sun and Earth becoming aligned with the black hole in the galactic center allows some kind of massive gravitational pull on Earth.

The first strike against this theory is that the solstice itself does not correlate to any movements of the stars or anything in the universe beyond Earth. It just happens to be the day that Earth’s North Pole is tipped farthest from the sun.

Second, Earth is not within range of strong gravitational effects from the black hole at the center of the galaxy since gravitational effects decrease exponentially the farther away one gets. Earth is 93 million miles from the sun and 165 quadrillion miles from the Milky Way’s black hole. The sun and the moon (a smaller mass, but much closer) are by far the most dominant gravitational forces on Earth. Throughout the course of the year, our distance from the Milky Way’s black hole changes by about one part in 900 million – not nearly enough to cause a real change in gravity’s pull. Moreover, we’re actually nearest to the galactic center in the summer, not at the winter solstice.

Third, the sun appears to enter the part of the sky occupied by the Dark Rift every year at the same time, and its arrival there in Dec. 2012 portends precisely nothing.

Enjoy the solstice, by all means, and don’t let the Dark Rift, alignments, solar flares, magnetic field reversals, potential impacts or alleged Maya end-of-the-world predictions get in the way.

12/21/2012 collective mania

Wandering on the net i saw that many people ask what it means the reverse of the magnetic fields and the end of the world scheduled for 12/21/2012. This makes me think that maybe people want to have a scientific view to clarify the issue, so I decided to dedicate a page to clarify this issue. This page will be continually modified as the magnitude of  topic

Tracking the magnetic south pole

Two scientists from New Zealand will travel to Antarctica today in a quest to continue a 100-year-long record of Earth’s magnetic field: a record begun by British explorer Robert Scott at the start of his ill-fated expedition to the geographic south pole.

Record-keeping is necessary because the magnetic poles move about, thanks to the complex circulation of Earth’s fluid outer core. During the past century, both magnetic poles have been moving northwest: the north pole from Canada towards Siberia, as fast as 60 kilometres per year, and the south pole towards Australia at 10–15 km per year. “It’s quite an astonishing rate,” says Stewart Bennie of GNS Science in Avalon, one of the two scientists due to head to the Antarctic on 28 December. The movement is thought to be a normal feature of the planet’s magnetic wobble, and could change direction at any time.Precise ground measurements of Earth’s magnetic field are used to help calibrate satellite measurements and inform global models, such as the World Magnetic Model, which is used by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and national departments of defence. That model is updated every 5 years, with the current version covering 2010–14.There are more than 100 observatories around the globe taking such measurements on a regular basis, and nations supplement these with occasional field work — New Zealand has taken its measurements at Scott’s hut once every 5 years or so since 1957. Hundred-year records are not in themselves unusual, but the location of this one is. “Most records longer than that are sitting somewhere comfortable in Europe,” notes Tony Hurst, the second scientist on the trip.

Rocky outposts

Hurst and Bennie will take measurements at two sites, the first at Lake Vanda in Antarctica’s dry valleys, where it almost never snows. “It’s very startling scenery — there’s no soil, just solid rock and stones, and mummified seals that must have turned right instead of left at the coast,” says Hurst, who went on the same trip 6 years ago. They’ll then visit Cape Evans, where Scott’s hut and iron-free observation shelter still stand. “The observation shelter is made of something we suspect is asbestos but we’re not going to touch it to find out,” says Hurst. Both sites are located on dry rock; ice-bound stations would move too much to allow for repeat observations.At each site, the duo will align their instruments using geographical features (a compass can’t be used because the magnetic field it would follow is the very thing they are measuring). A magnetic theodolite will allow them to measure the angle of the magnetic field both parallel and perpendicular to the ground; the latter measurement, called the dip, is 90 degrees at the pole itself, where magnetic field lines dive straight into the ground. The researchers will also use an Overhouser effect magnetometer to measure the strength of the magnetic field. The planet’s field has been declining since the 1800s, perhaps by chance, perhaps as a precursor to a ‘flip’ of the poles thousands of years from now.Making a full set of measurements takes about an hour, says Bennie, but they’ll make continual measurements throughout the day because the field wobbles a tiny amount owing to Earth’s rotation and the effect of the Sun. “We probably should be making these measurements in the Antarctic winter, when the magnetic field would be quieter. But it’s a lot nicer in the summer,” says Bennie.  It will be Bennie’s first trip to the Antarctic, an adventure he is hesitantly looking forward to. “I’ve never been a big fan of really cold weather,” he admits.Satellites would provide an easier way to make such observations, but only a few are capable of doing so: the German CHAMP satellite collected data from 2000 until 2010, and the Danish Ørsted satellite, launched in 1999, is still working. A European trio of satellites, called Swarm, is due to launch in 2012.“The challenge with satellite-based maps is to produce something that’s relevant at the surface. Satellites are in or above the ionosphere,” notes Jeffrey Love, a US Geological Survey adviser for geomagnetic research in Denver, Colorado. Hurst says he has been told that ground measurements will become more, not less important, as they will be needed to calibrate the satellite devices.

 

 

design of enhanced learning protocols

Learning and memory are influenced by the temporal pattern of training stimuli. However, the mechanisms that determine the effectiveness of a particular training protocol are not well understood. We tested the hypothesis that the efficacy of a protocol is determined in part by interactions among biochemical cascades that underlie learning and memory. Previous findings suggest that the protein kinase A (PKA) and extracellular signal–regulated kinase (ERK) cascades are necessary to induce long-term synaptic facilitation (LTF) in Aplysia, a neuronal correlate of memory. We developed a computational model of the PKA and ERK cascades and used it to identify a training protocol that maximized PKA and ERK interactions. In vitro studies confirmed that the protocol enhanced LTF. Moreover, the protocol enhanced the levels of phosphorylation of the transcription factor CREB1. Behavioral training confirmed that long-term memory also was enhanced by the protocol. These results illustrate the feasibility of using computational models to design training protocols that improve memory.