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    Sorry Mayans, Killer Solar Flares Impossible In 2012
    By Hank Campbell | November 11th 2011 10:15 AM | 25 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Hank

    I'm the founder of Science 2.0®.

    A wise man once said Darwin had the greatest idea anyone ever had. Others may prefer Newton or Archimedes...

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    The last few years have seen a real spike in end-of-the-world conspiracy theories.  Why?  More asteroids, more flares, more earthquakes?  No, just more Internet to talk about them, which gives bored news media something to talk about and bored science sites more news media to debunk.

    At least one end-of-the-world scenario for 2012 has been eliminated already - like the Christmas shopping season, people are pushing debunking the apocalypse farther and farther back and science is already eliminating 2012 apocalypses before 2011 is even over.  Sheesh.  When will we learn to just enjoy the anticipation?

    Solar activity is ramping up in its regular, predictable 11-year cycle and a kernel of data is all conspiracy theorists really need - that, and a willingness to make silly correlations.  Hey, I do it too, for fun - I got tired of reading how video games led to unemployment so I correlated the Arab Spring to the price of steel and was able to contend the Mid-East was rioting for cheaper metal.  You can do that when you use the same method conspiracy people use and match two curves you like and control for nothing outside.

    There are two reasons I won't be worrying: First, this same solar cycle has been happening since ... well, forever...and the real solar maximum likely won't happen until 2014, not 2012.  The good news is that when December 21, 2012 fades without a whisper, doom-and-gloomers will still have 2013 and 2014 to worry about. Second; it takes a lot of energy to destroy the planet from 91-93 million miles away and solar flares don't produce anywhere near enough.
    That's not to say solar flares won't be annoying.  What if you get lost in an Apple orchard and need to call 9-1-1?  Like a hurricane, working around nasty space weather due to coronal mass ejections (CMEs) should be in your action plan. But we won't be living in a solar flare so you should be fine.

    And if you survived October 28, 2003, you will survive 2012.  Well, space weather won't kill you.  That was the most powerful solar flare ever measured and not a single doomsday pundit predicted it.

    end of the world october 28,2003 - the most powerful solar flare ever measure
    The Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) spacecraft captured this solar flare Tuesday, Oct. 28, 2003, the most powerful flare ever measured. No doomsday theorists were disappointed in the making of this photograph because they did not predict it until after it happened. Credit: NASA/SOHO


    Science is not saying we won't be ruined, astronomers are just saying it won't be a solar flare in 2012, just like it wasn't an asteroid this year.  Or a comet.  Or numerology. Or the Norse calendar.  It hasn't been a good year for doomsday predictions. It could still be Mayans emerging from a black hole created by the LHC wielding strangelet-powered weapons, in a universe of string theory anything is possible.  But in such a universe it is also possible I will wake up tomorrow and be The Pope, or at least open my closet and get transported to Narnia.

    Comments

    Well shoot. Next you'll be telling me that Elvis and Hitler aren't really living in Antarctica. Sigh. Guess I'll get back to proving reverse time traveling neutrinos killed my great-grandpa.

    Gerhard Adam
    But in such a universe it is also possible I will wake up tomorrow and be The Pope, or at least open my closet and get transported to Narnia.
    Well, now you got me all messed up, because I thought you were already the Pope of Narnia.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Hank
    That is only in a 14-dimensional universe.  I am still working on the math for that one.
    Oh Good. Finally the voice of reason is debunking the 2012 paranoia. I'm not looking forward to all the lunatics that are going to come out of the woodwork next year.

    Gerhard Adam
    How about we just call bullshit and leave it at that.
    The panel predicts the upcoming Solar Cycle 24 will peak in May 2013 with 90 sunspots per day on average. If the prediction proves true, Solar Cycle 24 will be the weakest cycle since number 16, which peaked at 78 daily sunspots in 1928, and ninth weakest since the 1750s, when numbered cycles began.
    http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2009/20090508_solarstorm.html
    However, congratulations on being the first doomsayer to post.

    NOTE:  The post to which this was a response has since been deleted, which is why it may not make sense.
    Mundus vult decipi
    "And if you survived October 28, 2003, you will survive 2012." well sure, but if an X class "plus" flare is pointed right at us, there will be a few issues.

    Gerhard Adam
    ...and I'll bet that if you trip and fall and hit your head, you'll have even bigger issues.
    Mundus vult decipi
    http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2008/16dec_giantbre...

    Maybe pay specific attention to the last few paragraphs. Sure - it may not matter at all - sort of like a Deer walking across the highway may NOT get hit.

    Hank
    What does this have to do with anything?  They got lucky they were able to monitor it because THEMIS happened to be right there, it could have been happening for 5 million years.  Do you blame HAARP or are these geomagnetic storms the new fashionable tell for quackery? 
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Wow Anonymous, that's an AMAZING link! Thanks, I don't know how I have missed this in the past, it says :-

    Dec. 16, 2008: NASA's five THEMIS spacecraft have discovered a breach in Earth's magnetic field ten times larger than anything previously thought to exist. Solar wind can flow in through the opening to "load up" the magnetosphere for powerful geomagnetic storms. But the breach itself is not the biggest surprise. Researchers are even more amazed at the strange and unexpected way it forms, overturning long-held ideas of space physics.

    "At first I didn't believe it," says THEMIS project scientist David Sibeck of the Goddard Space Flight Center. "This finding fundamentally alters our understanding of the solar wind-magnetosphere interaction."

    And here are some nice illustrations of what NASA was reporting :-

    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Gerhard Adam
    Here we go ...

    That's the best you could come up with is an article that is 3 years old?  It's also pretty obvious that this isn't something new, but rather that this is the way the magnetosphere has worked for as long as anyone has known.

    In addition, it appears that something like this has been suspected for some time, but no one knew the extent of its operation.
    Researchers have long suspected that this "closed door" entry mechanism might exist, but didn’t know how important it was. "It's as if people knew there was a crack in a levee, but they did not know how much flooding it caused," said Oieroset.
    http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/themis/news/themis_leaky_shield.html
    Mundus vult decipi
    Ok, I came to this page hoping someone could explain how this HOLE in the electromagnetic field isn't a concern. Especially when the article I pointed out specifically mentions the dangers of a CME hitting this hole. Did anyone read that far into the article? I'm not a conspiracy theorist, just someone looking for answers from science. Why else would I have come to this page? Thanks, by the way, for calling me a quack, and pointing to HAARP. Malybe I'll go put my tinfoil hat on and research DUMBs. I'm sure that will make me feal better. :-|

    Hank
    There are always holes in the electromagnetic field - no one knew about that one because an aircraft with sensitive equipment had to literally be in the hole the moment it happened.  Should you be concerned about it?  Only if you were using a cell phone to make an important call on that plane.

    The question was answered, twice, but you say those don't count because no one was concerned enough for your taste - that says you aren't looking for answers you are looking for affirmation.
    Gerhard Adam
    OK, what assurance would you like?  The fact that this data has been out there for three years and no one's mentioned it?  nor have there been any reported problems because of it?  We've always known that large solar storms are capable of disrupting communications and power grids, so that's hardly new.

    If you're looking for guarantees, then you should know better than to ask science.  If you want the scientific perspective, then you've already obtained it, by reading the information describing what is currently known.  If you want to know what steps/processes are in place in the event that something happens, then that's not science but public policy.  Look to your national leaders/politicians for those kinds of answers.
    Mundus vult decipi
    "The last few years have seen a real spike in end-of-the-world conspiracy theories. Why? More asteroids, more flares, more earthquakes? No, just more Internet to talk about them"

    No! No! That is not the reason at all! People feel very unstable because the economy went through a major loop, and the news is filled with the fear that the economy is about to get even worse (euro crisis, ridiculous debt and deficit etc.) When people feel unstable, like their world is falling apart, they will clamp onto any explanation for that feeling of instability, and blame it.

    This is an emotional defense. They hope that when no solar flares or earthquakes happen as prophesied, their feeling of stability will return. However, their feeling of stability will not return until we re-establish economic stability.

    Hank
    The economy was just fine - well, fine to everyone who believed an artificial expansion was okay - in 2007 and there were just as many projections of doom then.  I am sticking with 'it used to be people had to buy books for doomsday stories and now they get them for free on the Internet' as the reason more people invent them.
    Well obviously it don't kill humanity. Nevertheless if such storm with large capacity like the one that hit the States back in the late 1800s would hit us now(or 2012), wouldn't all our tech/elct power.... Etc be completely fried for months? Is that possible any time soon?

    quote: it takes a lot of energy to destroy the planet from 91-93 million miles away and solar flares don't produce anywhere near enough.

    Most 2012ers envision TEOTWAWKI - The End of The World As We Know It. Obviously solar flares can't destroy the planet, if they could we wouldn't be here...

    NASA recently warned that a CME could knock out the power grid of either the USA or Europe, and that it could take months to repair. That actually means that millions would die.

    Even if a CME just took out GPS satellites, guess what? ATM machines would stop working, they need the satellites for timing. The day that happens supermarket shelves will empty. I doubt you've considered or prepared for that!

    Hank
    NASA recently warned that a CME could knock out the power grid of either the USA or Europe
    NASA is basically a job works organization these days. Every month someone there also issues a press release claiming something new they saw in a telescope could mean life on other planets.  Pres. Obama hates NASA, clearly (oddly, so did Clinton - maybe because a Republican president created it?), so they will do what they can to get funding.

    An asteroid could also knock out a huge chunk of real estate.  If I issue a press release about it, that doesn't mean it is happening any time soon. It means someone wants funding to start working on a way to prevent it - and the longer it takes, the better.
    Gerhard Adam
    ATM machines would stop working, they need the satellites for timing.
    No, they don't.  Synchronized clocks for computer systems are only necessary in cases where the systems must share real-time data between separate operating systems.  However, these systems will continue to operate even with the loss of these clocks, since it is only the higher speed sharing of data that would be impacted; not sharing in general.  So, while it might cause a performance glitch in these systems, it wouldn't render them inoperable.

    In particular, ATMs use the clocks of the host systems they are connected to. 
    The day that happens supermarket shelves will empty. I doubt you've considered or prepared for that!
    That makes no sense at any level.
    Mundus vult decipi
    According to New Scientist nagazine, GPS jamming devices can cause ATMs to stop working and much more:
    http://www.gizmodo.com.au/2011/03/gps-chaos-how-a-us30-box-can-jam-your-...

    You don't think that the panic caused by satellite failure won't cause panic buying? People are primed to do just that, and they will. They'll probably do it if Facebook goes down for a day ;)

    Gerhard Adam
    The problem with the article in New Scientist is that a  lot of what it reported wasn’t true. Although the Navy did admit to accidentally jamming GPS signals in San Diego in 2007, the outcome wasn’t anywhere nearly as catastrophic as the magazine made it out to be.
    http://www.fieldtechnologies.com/navy-accidentally-jammed-gps-system-in-san-diego/

    So did the incident actually happen? I contacted the port and the Federal Aviation Administration to ask about the problems it created. They said they had no idea what I was talking about. The Navy said it was mystified too. So I dug deeper.
    http://www.voiceofsandiego.org/fact/article_350bec34-93a6-11e0-beac-001cc4c03286.html

    You seem to have missed the point that panic buying can't occur without money.  Since your scenario precluded access to money, then it obviously can't result in "empty shelves".
    Mundus vult decipi
    Yes, good point - I guess some other type of panic would occur if people find they can't shop for food.

    The article is new to me - thanks - I never think to verify the accuracy of articles from magazines like New Scientist. But it says the ATM aspect is still undecided...

    The real fear is not satellites going down, but the entire power grid. US Congress recently decided not to reinforce the grid, despite being told it is at risk. That's as stupid as New Orleans not adequately preparing for the 1-in-100 year hurricane they knew would come some day.

    Gerhard Adam
    Bear in mind, that systems like ATMs are subject to far more failures than signaling, so it's extremely unlikely that a single event can take them out.  Most of these systems are backed up in a variety of ways (not the least of which is reverting back to manual processes - i.e. human tellers).

    It is also useful to remember that people still use cash, and can write checks.  While the loss of ATMs might be inconvenient, it is hardly a crisis [such losses have occurred, even over a period of weeks in some areas].  Even the use of credit cards is still capable of being resolved using the old style paper documents.



    Mundus vult decipi
    Hank
    The article is new to me - thanks - I never think to verify the accuracy of articles from magazines like New Scientist.
    If you do a search on here, you will find it is the number one science publication we ridicule.  If there is a hysterical claim to be made, they make it. Anything to sell a magazine.