These days I’m studying astrophysics and wildlife — which means I’m watching those videos on Netflix. It is part of the reason why I want to visit Galapagos Islands. The place helped Charles Darwin shape his theory of evolution. I’ll probably just bring back some photographs.

Every day I learn something staggering. Today’s tidbit: Solar maxima occur every 11 years. The next one is in 2012. During solar maxima, 3 coronal mass ejections occur every day and are dispersed into space like bullets. If any one of them points at earth we face a solar storm, like the one recorded in 1859.

The effect then wasn’t nearly as catastrophic as it can be today. Today’s satellites around the earth and power lines have much more to lose — in terms of communication and power. Not so much in terms of we turning into self-immolating Buddhist monks.

Here’s a website with large fonts and red color to drive home the seriousness of this problem. The only — well, relative — good news is that scientists monitor the sun’s surface for CMEs constantly. It takes 16 hours for the fastest of them to get to the earth. So we will get a warning.

How do you prepare? Aforementioned scary website gives details. Or you could count on Twitter to give you information when it strikes. Before Twitter goes down, that is.

***

Another bit: The earth and all life of earth will end around 5 billion years from now. That’s when our sun runs out of fuel. On the bright side, you will die well before it happens. On the earth’s timescale, you’ll die before you finish reading this sentence.

***

If I had a kid, I’d be pushing it towards astrophysics and trying to get it into the team that monitors CMEs. I’d love to get a few minutes head-start on the warning to beat traffic.

Advertisements