Thursday, June 17, 2010

The sun is exploding

A NASA scientist announced that a super magnetic storm on the sun, strong enough to do all kinds of bad things, is expected in 2013. Instapundit picked up the Slashdot story and passed it on.
Gotta wonder about that one. In actual fact, sun spot activity is at an all time low. The 11 year sunspot cycle is almost stopped. Astronomers and radio amateurs are waiting for it to start up again. So a prediction of intense solar activity three years from now arouses a certain amount of skepticism among those who pay attention to the state of the sun.
By that as it may, how much badness could an intense solar storm do? The last really bad one was back in the 1850's and it scared the bejesus out of telegraph operators. It was strong enough to cause sparks to fly off the telegraph wires, lighting up the telegraph offices.
Today we have built more targets for solar storms to disrupt. Telephone, cable TV and electric power wires, plus all the station and central office equipment, and everything electrical plugged into those wires. However, all these networks have been hardened against lightening hits. It is doubtful that a solar storm is a bad as a lightening stroke, which can toast anything electrical and set the place on fire to boot. So the networks will stay up. We may have truckloads of melted modems, scorched stereos, and toasted TV sets, but I think the lights will stay on, and the phone will work.

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