Friday, March 27, 2009
History Channel: Universe: Cosmic Phenomena: can solar flares, cosmic rays, ozone depletion shut us down?
The History Channel “Universe” series on Tuesday, March 24, 2009 aired “Cosmic Phenomena” and this episode did bring up a few major hazards. The website for the show is this.
The show covered the solar wind, solar flares, cosmic rays, and ultraviolet. The show started by showing aurora borealis and aurora australis, caused by collisions of particles in the Earth’s magnetosphere.
As for solar flares, no, the show did not replicate the “mega-disaster” ending of the movie “Knowing” (Summit Entertainment, directed by Alex Proyas, but there have been major problems. In October 2003 there were some minor disruptions to communications from them, but there were major power failures in 1989 because of solar events.
More interesting are the upper atmosphere luminescent phenomena, such as “sprites” (sort of like brief lightning flashes), and ELVES, which sound more dangerous becayse they related to naturally occurring electromagnetic pulses, which so far don’t seem to have harmed anything on earth, but in theory could.
Cosmic rays are responsible for biological mutations. They are actually particles (electrons, protons, alpha particles). The ozone layer protects above-water organisms from over bombardment, but the ozone layer, as we know, has undergone depletion near polar regions (that would make another show for this series). They could cause electronic failure on occasion, such as in car engine processors, or maybe even personal computers. A problem that occurs once and never recurs (such as a keyboard failure one time on my PC), might conceivably relate to this.