Earth vs. Sun: Flipping Magnetic Face Off
There are two very big magnets in our lives: the Earth’s and the sun’s. They both have a tendency to flip — or reverse polarity — over time. The sun does it very frequently — once every 11 years or so. Earth, on the other hand, flips polarity very irregularly often taking millions of years between switches.
Why the difference? It has to do with how rowdy and dynamic the two bodies are.
The sun’s flipping is caused by it being a gigantic spinning ball of conductive super-hot plasma. Or, as Discovery News’ resident astrophysicist Dr. Ian O’Neill explains it: “The solar cycle ebbs and flows over an approximate 11 year period. From ‘solar minimum’ to ‘solar maximum,’ our nearest star’s internal magnetic field gets wound up by the sun’s differential rotation. Differential rotation means that the sun rotates faster at the equator than it does at the poles, dragging the magnetic field — like an elastic band — that is embedded in the superheated plasma. As the sun approaches solar max (as it is now) the magnetic field is at its most stressed, causing magnetic arcs to be forced from the solar interior and into the lower corona."
The Earth’s magnetic field, on the other hand, is created in the outer core of the planet. This is a fluid part of the core, made mostly of iron and nickel, and is about 2,000 kilometers thick.
Temperature-driven convection currents in that metal fluid, as well as the Earth’s spin, causes the fluid to spin and create electric currents. That creates magnetic fields, which are made even more powerful by the charged metals passing through them, creating electric currents of their own, and so on and so forth.
This vicious electromagnetic cycle is called the geodynamo. When these flows reverse, which can only happen under rare and complex conditions, the Earth’s magnetic field reverses.
Now there’s always someone who wants to believe that a solar magnetic reversal will cause the end of the world. The matter has been settled regarding the imminent magnetic field switch by the sun: it will not wipe out Earth, civilization, or even afternoon tea. But what about the switch in the Earth’s polarity?
These are thought to include transition periods when Earth’s magnetic field is temporarily very weak, which could expose us to a lot of harmful charged particles from the sun that are currently are deflected.
“If the Earth’s magnetic field is weakened during a reversal, more of these particles will get through to the upper atmosphere. This could be a problem, but most likely the atmosphere is thick enough to protect the Earth’s surface," explained Cathy Jordan, an Earth science educator affiliated with Cornell University.
The fact that the Earth’s magnetic field switches is only known because geologists have detected it in rocks, especially volcanic rocks that are high in magnetic mineral content. When these rocks flow out onto the Earth’s surface they cool and solidify, but not before they “feel" the Earth’s magnetic field and line up their magnetic minerals with that field — like a zillion little compasses.
Since lavas have been flowing out onto Earth’s surface for all of Earth’s history, they have preserved a very long and detailed history of Earth’s magnetic field. What this shows us is that life on Earth has survived ancient switches just fine: there is no connection in the geological record of massive extinction events and magnetic reversals.
Still, there might be effects on wildlife and technology, which would be interesting to observe. Sadly, the window of likely magnetic reversal is anytime in the next few thousand years, so no one living today is likely to have the chance.
© Photo: ru.wikipedia.org
The magnetic field of the sun will change its polarity in a couple of months, according to new observations by NASA. The sun is gearing up for a major solar flip, the agency has warned.
The flipping of the sun’s magnetic field marks the peak of its 11-year cycle and the halfway point in the sun’s “solar maximum,” which is the peak of its solar weather cycle.
As the field shifts, the “current sheet,” a surface that radiates billions of kilometers outward from the sun’s equator, becomes very wavy, NASA officials said.
“The sun’s polar magnetic fields weaken, go to zero, and then emerge again with the opposite polarity,” Stanford solar physicist Phil Scherrer explained. “This is a regular part of the solar cycle.”
While the polarity shift can trigger some stormy weather, it also provides extra shielding from dangerous cosmic rays, high-energy particles that can potentially harm satellites and astronauts in space.
The current solar maximum is the weakest in the last century, experts said, warning that the flip could happen at any time.
“It looks like we’re no more than three to four months away from a complete field reversal,” Todd Hoeksema, a solar physicist and director of Stanford University’s Wilcox Solar Observatory said.
NASA describes the flip as a “big event” as the field reversal emits a current stream that extends billions of miles beyond Pluto.
The flip won’t affect weather on Earth, but space weather may get a bit bumpy, scientists say. Stormy space weather can lead to disruptions in high frequency radio and satellite communication. The change in polarity will have certain effects throughout the heliosphere. Astronauts in orbit may see some changes in cosmic rays, which could be a potential danger.
Read more: http://voiceofrussia.com/2013_08_08/Get-ready-Earth-Sun-s-magnetic-field-to-flip-8489/
Birds use quantum theory to literally ‘see’ Earth’s magnetic field as they fly
By Daniel Bates
UPDATED: 13:59 GMT, 28 January 2011
Birds may be able to ‘see’ the Earth’s electromagnetic field as they fly through the sky, scientists have suggested.
Many creatures, including all birds, navigate by sensing the direction of the magnetic forces around our planet to guide them.
But now researchers have found that different reactions are produced in the eyes of all avian creatures depending on which way the field spins.
Direction home: Birds may be able to ‘see’ the Earth’s electromagnetic field as they fly through the sky, scientists believe
These reactions could create a picture of the field in different shades of light and dark across the bird’s eye, they have suggested.
Scientists said that if true it would be another example of Mother Nature’s wonder – in tests using the most exotic chemicals they could find, they could not match the bird’s eye for its ability to do what it does.
The complex theory involves examining the process by which light goes through a bird’s eye, which has intrigued the scientific community for more than 30 years.
In the late 1970s the physicist Klaus Schulten concluded that birds navigate by relying on geomagnetically sensitive biochemical reactions in their eyes.
Since then research has identified special cells in the eye which carry out this function using the protein cryptochrome.
When a light photon enters the bird’s eye, it comes into contact with the cryptochrome and is given an energy boost which puts it into quantum entanglement, a state where the electrons are spatially separated but still able to affect one another.
In tests using the most exotic chemicals they could find, scientists could not match the ability of a bird’s eye
Scientists have long suggested that birds’ eyes have entanglement-based compasses but now they claim in a new paper the process could produce an image of the Earth’s electromagnetic field in the eye as well.
Such an image would not be a clear outline of a shape but just shades of dark and light depending on how the field moves.
None of the experiments have provided conclusive proof, however, and more tests need to be carried out, but the prospect of such a discovery has left them stunned.
The new paper was co-written by quantum physicist Simon Benjamin of Oxford University and the National University of Singapore.
He said that how the bird’s eye works is ‘really amazing’ and was better than their attempt to recreate the process in the lab.
‘The bird, however it works, whatever it’s got in there, it’s somehow doing better than our specially designed, very beautiful molecule,’ he said.
‘That’s just staggering.’
Dr Schulten, who was not involved in the latest research added: ‘I think this is a very nice paper that attacks the problem from an interesting angle.’
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1351429/Birds-use-quantum-theory-literally-Earths-magnetic-field-fly.html#ixzz2bbOu3aOS
Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook
Birds navigate by being able to SEE Earth’s magnetic field with their right eye
By Daily Mail Reporter
UPDATED: 10:24 GMT, 14 July 2010
Birds use their right eye to see the Earth’s magnetic field and use it to navigate, scientists have discovered.
German researchers found that if a bird’s right eye was covered by a frosted goggle, the birds could not navigate effectively, while they could navigate perfectly well if the left eye was covered instead.
It has long been known that birds are able to sense magnetic fields and use them to navigate, particularly when migrating south for the winter.
Snow geese head off on the migratory journey: Scientists have found that birds can actually see magnetic fields
Now researchers have found that the bird actually sees the magnetic fields with their right eye giving information to the left side of their brain.
The magnetic images create light or dark shadings over what the bird usually sees with its normal vision.
The shadings change as the bird turns its head, giving it a visual compass from the patterns of shading.
Scientists believe that the birds have molecules in their retina which shift into an active state when struck by blue light in which each molecule has an unpaired electron, creating a ‘radical pair.’
The presence of magnetic fields affects the time it takes for the radical pair molecules to revert to their inactive state.
Both the visual and magnetic images involve variations in light and shade, but visual images tend to have sharp lines and edges, while the magnetic images have more gradual changes from light to dark.
Researchers led by Katrin Stapput of Goethe-Universitat in Frankfurt, Germany, discovered that when this magnetic sense is distorted the patterns of light and dark make little sense because the bird cannot separate the information from the visual and magnetic images.
Stapput decided to test the theories by fitting robins with goggles that were covered with clear foil on one side and frosted foil on the other.
Both sides of the goggles were equally translucent, allowing 70 percent of the light to get through, but on the frosted side the image was less clear. The birds were then kept in cages until it was time for them to migrate.
The birds were released into a funnel-shaped cage with its walls painted with fluid, which was scratched if the birds touched them.
The results were that birds with no eye coverings, and birds with the left eye covered set off in a northerly direction as expected, while those with the right eye covered were disoriented and headed in random directions.
Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook
Do Migratory Birds ‘See’ The Magnetic Field?
Oct. 1, 2007 — A visual pathway links brain structures active during magnetic compass orientation in migratory birds.
Every year millions of migratory birds fly towards their wintering quarters and come back in next year´s spring to breed. Behavioral experiments have shown that the Earth´s magnetic field is the main orientation cue on their journeys.
Nevertheless, surprisingly little is known about the neuronal substrates underlying these navigational abilities. In recent years, it has been suggested that sensing of the magnetic reference direction involves vision and that molecules reacting to the Earth´s magnetic field in the birds’ eye form the molecular basis for a vision-dependent compass mechanism.
Cryptochromes, which fulfill the molecular requirements for sensing the magnetic reference direction, have recently been found in retinal neurons of migratory birds (Mouritsen et al., PNAS, 2004).
Furthermore, studies investigating what parts of a migratory bird´s brain are active when the birds use their magnetic compass showed that the cryptochrome-containing neurons in the eye and a forebrain region (“Cluster N”; Mouritsen et al., PNAS, 2005; Liedvogel et al., EJN, 2007) are highly active during processing of magnetic compass information in migratory birds.
Sensory systems process their particular stimuli along specific brain circuits. Thus, the identification of what sensory system is active during magnetic compass orientation, provides a way to recognize the sensory quality utilized during that specific behavior.
In the current study the research group from Oldenburg, Germany and their collaborators traced the neurons from the eye and from Cluster N. The results “link” the recent findings by demonstrating a functional neuronal connection between the retinal neurons and Cluster N via the visual thalamus.
Thus, the only two parts of the central nervous system shown to be highly active during magnetic compass orientation are linked to each other by a well-known visual brain circuit, namely by parts of the so-called thalamofugal pathway. For the first time, clear neuroanatomical data suggest which specific brain pathway processes magnetic compass information in migratory birds.
These findings strongly support the hypothesis that migratory birds use their visual system to perceive the reference compass direction of the geomagnetic field and that migratory birds are thus likely to “see" the geomagnetic field.
Citation: Heyers D, Manns M, Luksch H, Gu¨ ntu¨ rku¨n O, Mouritsen H (2007) A Visual Pathway Links Brain Structures Active during Magnetic Compass Orientation in Migratory Birds. PLoS One 2(9): e937. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0000937
Dozens of birds mysteriously drop dead from the sky in Canada
Screen capture YouTube
Earlier this week, in the clear skies over Winnipeg, Canada, an ominous-seeming scene unfolded as dozens of birds abruptly began to rain from the sky — casualties of an undetermined cause.
According to CBC News, more than 50 dead birds, identified as common grackles, were discovered scattered throughout Winnipeg’s North End on Wednesday. Although clues are scarce as to why, shortly before dead birds began raining from the sky, residents in the area reported witnessing unusual behavior from a large flock lingering in trees and on rooftops around town.
“There was probably, I would say … almost up to the thousand birds in the trees, and then I was looking up and then one fell right in front of me," said Tanya Lee Viner.
By around 10:30 am, what began as just a few birds falling from the sky turned into a downpour that blanketed the streets. Local merchant Susan Tiganagis described to CBC a sight that must have been quite unsettling — and perhaps even a bit apocalyptic:
“My husband said, like, ‘This is a Hitchcock movie.’ It’s crazy! They were just dizzy. They didn’t know where they were going. I’ve never seen them act like that. They were literally falling out of the trees and they were still dying," says Tiganagis.
“You couldn’t step anywhere without stepping on a bird."
Conservation officers arrived to collect the dead birds, along with about a dozen which were still alive but unable to stand or fly. Samples from the deceased birds have been sent for toxicology testing in hopes of pinning down a cause for the sudden die-off, but authorities are speculating that exposure to toxins may be to blame.
The mysterious bird casualties, while apparently isolated to this one area of Winnipeg, are reminiscent of other mass avian die-offs. In 2011, thousands of birds reportedly fell dead from the sky in several cities across the globe. While the exact causes of each were varied, direct and indirect human activity was deemed to blame for a significant number of those deaths.
Dozens of black birds drop dead in Manitoba
WINNIPEG, Manitoba, Aug. 8 (UPI) — Wildlife experts in Manitoba said they are attempting to determine what caused dozens of black birds to fall dead from the sky.
Authorities said conservation officers removed more than 50 bird carcasses from a Winnipeg neighborhood Wednesday and the Winnipeg Humane Society took custody of 11 black birds that fell from the sky but remained alive, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reported Thursday.
Erika Anseeuw, the humane society’s director of animal health, said the surviving birds seem to be alert, but they are unable to fly or stand up. She said the birds will be euthanized and autopsies will be performed at a pathology lab.
Anseeuw said investigators still do not know the cause of the bird deaths, but they may have been exposed to disease or something poisonous.
“My suspicion is this is what it’s going to be rather than any kind of apocalyptic foretelling of birds falling from the sky," she told CBC Radio’s “Up to Speed" program.
- Arrests made in Nova Scotia assault, cyberbullying leading to suicide
- Railway whose runaway train killed dozens in Canada files bankruptcy
- Python that killed 2 Canadian boys euthanized
- Man passing by Montreal construction site killed by falling metal
- Man, 18, falls from Toronto carnival float, is hit by it and dies
Bird experts and scientists left puzzled as birds fall dead from north Queensland skies
- Peter Michael
- The Courier-Mail
- July 19, 2013 12:00AM
A juvenile black kite soaring on thermals in the wild. Scientists are investigating a mass run of deaths among the raptors. Source: News Limited
EXPERTS are looking for clues as to why common black kites are falling dead from north Queensland skies.
Black kites, also known as shite-hawks and firebirds, are medium-sized birds of prey and are among the few raptor species which gather in flocks.
Testing has so far excluded bird flu and Newcastle disease, both highly contagious viral infections linked to mass deaths of migratory wild birds, and transmissible to humans.
But the cause of the latest spate of deaths, possibly linked to a cross-border infection, is still a mystery.
Biosecurity Queensland has confirmed it is testing “several kites in relation to unexplained deaths in the tropical north Queensland region".
“The exact number of bird deaths is unknown and estimates are not available at this stage of the investigation," a spokesman told The Courier-Mail.
He said a range of tests were being undertaken for potential causes.
“Laboratory testing is ongoing to determine the cause of this mortality incident."
Environment Department wildlife director Beck Williams said her office would investigate if it was suspected the birds might have been illegally killed.
Bird of prey expert James Biggs said it was highly unusual for raptors to die in large numbers or, literally, drop dead from the sky.
“If it is not disease, it could possibly be poisoning, but without being familiar with the ongoing tests it is hard to know," the Cairns Tropical Zoo bird supervisor said.
Black kites prey on insects, small animals and birds, and can spend all day soaring on the wing, hawking insects out of the air and eating them on the fly.
“They are often seen hovering around fires, like cane burn-off, where they catch the insects pushed up on the updraft," Mr Biggs said.
“But if there is a road kill they will feed on that too.
“Whatever it is that is killing them I’d be very keen to know why. It’s a puzzle."
Members of the public can report bird deaths by calling 1300 264 625.