2012 - Science Or Superstition?/Segment/5

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It's the Sun, stupid!

Narr: Unprecedented activity on the Sun and increasingly frequent natural disasters on Earth have led some scientists to predict an ominous climax in or about the year 2012. Author Lawrence Joseph has single-mindedly forged an understanding of the scientific data and the perils we may be facing.

LEJ: Solar storms will climax in 2012 and the global satellite system is, therefore, at risk. Let's examine what the global satellite system means to us: telecommunications, funds transfers, military, climate - everything bounces off a satellite. The fact of the matter is that a lot of these satellites are not "hardened" sufficiently against increased solar output. Moreover, I found out that a lot of our military communications had been, for reasons of budget - and I'm not sure why else - fobbed off onto commercial satellites, which are not hardened. So a lot of the basic military security that we rely on in the satellite system is open to solar attack.

Now what does that mean - solar attack? It's not that the Sun doesn't like us and is after us, there's no paranoia in this, it's simply that when the Sun has storms, it shoots out million-ton blasts of protons and other radiation. Most of it goes off in other directions, but a certain percentage of it will hit the Earth - it's just the law of averages.

Recently, we have found strange occurrences: usually it takes about 2-3 days for a coronal mass ejection - a CME, which is the term used for this blast - to travel from the Sun to the Earth. But in January 2005 there was one that made it in 30 minutes! Unless I'm suddenly seriously mistaken, if that thing had cut another 22 minutes off of its travel time - went down to eight minutes, which would be the speed of light, we would have been completely obliterated.

California-sized cracks are opening up in the Earth's magnetic field. The magnetic field is our shield against these coronal mass ejections and solar radiation, and when the crack opens up, our shields are down, Scotty. [Talk]

Narr: Not all scientists agree with Joseph's findings. Colgate University professor of Astronomy and Anthropology, Anthony F. Aveni is skeptical that external forces are creating most of the changes we are experiencing on Earth.

AFA: If a stream of solar particles can cause radio fade-out, it can also affect satellite communications. But I don't think that it's going to have any large-scale geophysical effect on the Earth. And I suppose you could, if you really want to push it, you could connect with weather, but we have to remember that the bulk of the effects it produces - hurricanes, tornadoes - is entirely encased within the Earth. It's got a lot more to do with rotation and circulation of air than it does with these outside effects. But I would admit that it could have a meteorological effect. [Talk]

LEJ: There are a number of theories as to why the Sun is acting up in this way, and why in 2012 will be the next climax of such activity. I have become familiar with the world of a Dr. Alexey Dmitriev, a Russian geophysicist who for about a decade [as of 2008], has contended - in a nutshell - that our entire solar system is moving into an interstellar energy cloud. And this cloud is responsible for exciting the atmospheres of the planets, including the Earth, and particularly, the Sun. And the reason why the sunspots are growing stronger and more frequent is because we are moving into this cloud.

He based his findings on a lifetime of esteemed work and particularly, his team meticulously analysed Voyager satellite data. And we're seeing things we've never seen before. And he believes, and has devoted a good fifteen years to proving, that we've entered an energy cloud that we will remain in - probably, he guesses and cannot verify this - for about 3000 years, and this energy cloud is simply shaking things up. It's having its strongest direct effect on the Sun, which in turn, has effect on all the other planets, including the Earth.

So that's the most well-researched theory as to why the Sun is behaving strangely. Most scientists, I think, will give you that it may well be the most active that the Sun has been since the end of the last ice age. So we can't really infer reliably from earthbound data, which is all we have, how the Sun acted before the end of the last ice age. But it appears that since then, this is the wildest it has been. Virtually everyone well agree that 2012 is the next year of solar climax. [Talk]

2012 - Science Or Superstition?/Segment/6