The End is Near. Are Magnetic Fields to Blame?

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I don’t want to spoil your Christmas, but we have to talk about this.  The doomsday date of December 21, 2012 is just about here.  Yet no one seems to be too worried about the end of the world.  That is what some are predicting based primarily on the Mayan calendar coming to an end on that date.  All sorts of disasters are being predicted, and any one of them could drastically change or end our lives.  Somehow I am not yet buying the idea.  Apparently you aren’t either.  That’s either a good thing or we are all just living in denial.  It is sort of like knowing the hurricane is coming but believing that it won’t affect you or that you can “ride it out” without major consequence.

That date identified by the Mayans is the end of the so called long count calendar that runs 5125 years and began in 3114 BC.  The Mayans do not necessarily say that anything bad will happen but it is the end of one period and the beginning of another.  December 21st is also the winter solstice.  Another phenomenon on that date is the alignment of the earth and sun with one another and the center of the Milky Way’s black hole.  This unique alignment occurs every 26,000 years. Some claim that event could trigger things like solar flares, earthquakes, floods, storms, volcano eruptions, and no telling what else.

There are all sorts of other stuff to worry about.  War in the middle east is a biggie.  Things have never been worse with all the upheaval going on in Syria, Egypt, Iran, Libya, and Israel.  Can bio, chemical and atomic hazards be far behind?  And let’s not forget the North Korean crazies.  Book author, Steve Alten, predicts that the search for the Higgs-Boson particle at CERN in Switzerland using the Hadron collider will produce a black hole that will trigger a major tsunami or volcano eruption.  Remember too that the Book of Revelations in the New Testament has been predicting Armageddon for years.  Famine, pestilence, floods, war and all sorts of ugly stuff.  Oh yes, there also asteroids and planet X, that hidden planet in our solar system, that may collide with Earth.  Oh dear, what to believe.

Many of the disaster predictions involve electric or magnetic phenomenon that could kill not only our electrical grid but also all our electronic gear.  Now that would be a disaster given how addicted we have become to everything electronic.  How will we update our Facebook pages with our iPad minis? 

One of the predicted disasters is a sun flare or what they call a coronal mass ejection (CME).  A huge plasma flare creates a massive magnetic field that is like an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) from an atomic explosion that can kill our electric and electronic systems.  Can that really happen?  Well, CMEs occur all the time.  Some have even caused damage in parts of the world by burning out electric grid transformers.  Most CMEs are not of any magnitude to do that much harm to us here on planet earth.  And the Earth’s magnetic field protects us from all but the worst of these events.  Like sun spots, CMEs cannot be accurately predicted.  Yet we are at the peak of the sun’s 11 year cycle where solar activity is at its highest.  If I had to bet on one disaster it would be this one.  These things are real and on-going.

Another potential disaster is magnetic pole reversal.  This is where the north and south magnetic poles reverse.  Really?  Seems unlikely but scientists claim that it can occur.  It apparently has happened in the past but I don’t know how they know that.  Apparently this flipping of polarities occurs every 300,000 years and we haven’t seen one for 800,000 years.  So we are overdue.  I can’t imagine what the effect of that will be other than all the compasses are wrong and our GPS navigation maps become screwed up.  That is better than the earth’s magnetic field weakening to the point it no longer offers us a shield from sun affects.  Bummer.

 Who knows what to believe?  Maybe that date is just the beginning of some major event or decline.  Like the fiscal cliff.  Cheery thought.  Since only the fringe elements of society seem to be really worried about this, I suspect we don’t have to be concerned.  Unless the Government knows something and is not saying to allow us to live our overly short lives in blissful ignorance.  I do not have a generator, a stash of food and water, or an underground shelter.  I admit I am just not ready for anything like this.  If the disaster is going to be big enough, being ready probably won’t help anyway.  What, me worry?

Anyway, I will wish you all a happy Y2K-like December 21st and a very merry Christmas. 

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Lou Frenzel

Lou Frenzel is the Communications Technology Editor for Electronic Design Magazine where he writes articles, columns, blogs, technology reports, and online material on the wireless, communications...
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