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The New York Times On Earth's Magnetic Flip-Flop 519

TolkiEinstein writes "The New York Times reports that, relatively speaking, compasses may soon point South. It's long been known that Earth flips magnetically every half-million years or so, and, with the north pole's magnetic field at about 10-15 percent [less than] its strength of 150 years ago, many geologists feel a flip is coming up. Computer simulations also suggest that the current state of the magnetic field is indicative of an upcoming flip. Though it would take hundreds of years to complete, the impact on life may be significant but not catastrophic, including phenomena such as power-outages, satellite malfunctions and disruptions in the rhythmic functions of some animals such as loggerhead turtles. The EU plans to launch a trio of satellites in 2009 to assume polar orbits & monitor the field." (Cross your fingers for some nice solar wind.) Update: 07/13 17:02 GMT by T : Note: the summary here originally misstated the Times' article; the field 's strength has decreased 10-15 percent, rather than to 10-15 percent.
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The New York Times On Earth's Magnetic Flip-Flop

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 13, 2004 @07:55AM (#9684480)
    I'm sure this is Bush's fault, somehow, according to the left. I'm waiting for Peter Jennings to blame this one on Bush.
    • Re:Bush's fault (Score:5, Insightful)

      by malchus842 ( 741252 ) <> on Tuesday July 13, 2004 @08:00AM (#9684515)

      Modded funny, but you just watch - people WILL blame the government when it happens. No matter how much you try to explain, no matter how clear the explainations are, a significant number of people are going to blame the government.

      It's also the case that whoever is in office is going to get burned by the problems - blamed for "lack of preparedness" or "failure to respond to the situation" etc, etc. And there will be calls for huge governmennt expenditures to "fix" or "solve" the problem.

      • by mveloso ( 325617 ) on Tuesday July 13, 2004 @01:22PM (#9688152)
        You know, it was the first Bush administration that caused this by failing to insert large, autonomous dynamos into the earth's crust. This would have stabilized the magnetic shift by generating huge electromagnetic fields.

        Likewise, by killing the Texan supercollider the government stopped all research into magnetic field movements. This research would not only have helped in our understanding of magnetic fields, but would also have helped in the current War on Terror by providing valuable information on how subatomic particles can affect semi-psychotic behaviors.

        And by ignoring the Kyoto protocols, the US has selfishly allowed its atmosphere to heat up, no doubt affecting the internal stability of the Earth's iron core, making the situation worse.

        Plus, clear-cut logging no doubt has caused rotational differentials across the US and the world (due to less air resistence), placing undue stress on the earth's core.

        Lastly, by killing millions, if not billions, of creatures, modern civilization has hastened the onset of this problem by robbing the world of counterbalancing "life" or "female" energy, energy that would have counteracted the obviously "male" and "destructive" magnetic shift.
    • Re:Bush's fault (Score:4, Insightful)

      by ScottGant ( 642590 ) <scott_gant.sbcglobal@netNOT> on Tuesday July 13, 2004 @08:17AM (#9684636) Homepage
      This will again turn into another non-event like Y2K and everything else these the-sky-is-falling people love drumming up to keep people afraid.

      The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself...oh, and also Carnies. Circus folk. They're nomads you know. Smell like cabbage...very small hands....
    • Why hasn't the government tried to get internation agreement for a Kyoto Accord on magnetism? We have to start cutting down on world-wide use of magets immediately! :)
    • by N Monkey ( 313423 ) on Tuesday July 13, 2004 @08:18AM (#9684647)
      I blame it on too many people walking around wearing tin foil hats.
    • by b0r0din ( 304712 ) on Tuesday July 13, 2004 @08:20AM (#9684663)
      "After careful consultation with my administration's junk scientists, we have expanded our Axis of Evil to include the earth's axis as well. This rogue, um, thingy is responsible for the destruction of...does this thing say turtles? But...we don't care about...oh...anyway, this rogue "magnetic thingy" can only be stopped by drilling in the Alaskan oil reserves, therefore stopping all magnetism from happening. These weapons of magnetic disruption must be stopped at all costs."
  • Worldwide Aurora (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TyrranzzX ( 617713 ) on Tuesday July 13, 2004 @07:55AM (#9684484) Journal
    And, since the magnetic field will be weakened, there'll be a supposed worldwide 24/7 aurora. Now that's kewl.
    • Re:Worldwide Aurora (Score:2, Informative)

      by JosKarith ( 757063 )
      "since the magnetic field will be weakened"
      You better pray not. The magnetic field is what keeps some of the nasty radiation in space out of our safe(ish) little bubble. If the magnetic field does weaken signifigantly, may I suggest investing in some Factor 3000 sunblock...
      • by PhxBlue ( 562201 ) on Tuesday July 13, 2004 @08:14AM (#9684603) Homepage Journal

        Someone watched "The Core" one time too many. Earth's magnetic field does nothing to deflect UV radiation. I would recommend lead-lined clothing, not more sunblock. :)

        • Re:Worldwide Aurora (Score:4, Interesting)

          by JosKarith ( 757063 ) on Tuesday July 13, 2004 @08:40AM (#9684854)
          I was actually talking about high energy particles - the "solar wind" - more than EM radiation.
          UV is filtered mostly by ozone, the magnetic field (I think it's the Van Allen belt) catches the particles.
          Their penetration isn't that great on solids/liquids so a decent thick layer of sunblock should help a lot.
          Of course the main danger is atmospheric ablation - the current theory is that the reason Mars can't hold an atmosphere is cos' it has no magnetic field. It (probably) wouldn't be enough to totally strip the atmosphere - at least it hasn't before - but with the increasing toxicity of our atmosphere any change could be catastrophic.
          • Re:Worldwide Aurora (Score:3, Informative)

            by cjameshuff ( 624879 )
            This seems to be a common misconception. The solar wind is not a blowtorch that blasts any unprotected atmosphere into space. It will very slightly increase the rate of atmosphere escape, but it will still happen so slowly that it will probably not make a difference until after the sun ages enough to render Earth uninhabitable anyway. We have one big counterexample to that theory...Venus has slightly less gravity than Earth, and virtually no internally generated magnetic field, only a barely detectable one
        • Re:Worldwide Aurora (Score:3, Informative)

          by Rogerborg ( 306625 )
          Van Allen belts []. Radiation != UV. You're a troll or a junior schooler.
      • Re:Worldwide Aurora (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Besides, the astrounauts survived on the moon, people survive at the poles (where many particles are redirected to). I believe our 80(?) km thick atmosphere is better protection against the particles from the sun than the spacesuit worn by the astronauts on the moon (the moon has no magnetic field). Like so much other things media reports, I believe the dangers to be very little - at most more people will maybe get cancer, more power outages and other electronic problems.

        Do also keep in mind that if this h
  • I for one.. (Score:5, Funny)

    by caston ( 711568 ) on Tuesday July 13, 2004 @07:55AM (#9684485)
    I for one welcome myself as part of the new Australian overlords...

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Yay! We won't be at the "arse end of the world" any more (to quote former PM, Paul Keating)
  • As the Earth's magnetic field is the only thing that protects us from the solar wind...
  • Turtles (Score:5, Funny)

    by Lord_Dweomer ( 648696 ) on Tuesday July 13, 2004 @07:56AM (#9684494) Homepage
    "and disruptions in the rhythmic functions of some animals such as loggerhead turtles. "

    Could they have possibly picked a more random animal for that example?

    And won't someone please think of the turtles?!?!?!?!?!

    • Re:Turtles (Score:2, Funny)

      by kfg ( 145172 )
      Could they have possibly picked a more random animal for that example?

      You're just more interested in the effect this will have on the CPIP. If there were a LTIP you'd think of the turtles a bit more yourself.

      • Re:Turtles (Score:3, Informative)

        by Like2Byte ( 542992 )
        OK, it was bugging the crap out of me so here are what CPIP and LTIP mean.

        CPIP: Carrier Pigeon Internet Protocol
        LTIP: Loggerhead Turtle Internet Protocol (I'm guessing)

        {ala Snapple}(There are many other definitions for the acronym LTIP. Choose one that fits you.)
    • Re:Turtles (Score:5, Interesting)

      by sould ( 301844 ) on Tuesday July 13, 2004 @08:27AM (#9684734) Homepage
      Could they have possibly picked a more random animal for that example?

      For some reason this made me curious about turtles & magnetism- a little research [] turned up this guy's [] page about turtle migration [] at UNC.

      It includes this gem:

      To determine how turtles respond to magnetic fields that exist in different parts of the ocean or to magnetic field elements (such as inclination and intensity) that they encounter while migrating, each hatchling was placed into a nylon-Lycra harness as shown below. [empaphis mine]

      Image is here []
    • Look, you may think that sounds funny and all, but in the next Disney movie with singing turtles, you'll be, ahem, singing a different tune when they can't find any singing turtles that have any rhythm left. No more singing ... under the sea!
    • .. and why do we have to so PC as to say "disruptions in the rhythmic functions". Come on, we're all adults, aren't we. It shouldn't come as a surprise to us that animals copulate. ;)
  • by deutschemonte ( 764566 ) <lane.montgomery@ g m a i l .com> on Tuesday July 13, 2004 @07:57AM (#9684499) Homepage
    Dr. Evil has launched several satellites to orbit the polls to harness the energy of the magnetic flop and create a death ray capable of destroying mankind.

    All to extort the wealthiest nations on the planet MILLION dollars.
    • Dr. Evil: So you're saying this is caused by a core of liquid hot Mag-ma?

      Number One: Yes, Dr. Evil, apparently the earth itself is changing.

      Dr. Evil: Number One, what else do you have for me?

      Number One: Well, the magnetic disruption has created an entirely new breed of ill-tempered sea bass.

      Dr. Evil: About frickin time.

      • Dr. Evil did not tolerate any presence of a Number One. Number Two on the other hand (played by Robert Wagner and Rob Lowe) was acceptable...most of the time. :)
  • by BigDork1001 ( 683341 ) on Tuesday July 13, 2004 @07:57AM (#9684500) Homepage
    Am I the only one who sees this becoming the next Hollywood blockbuster disaster movie? They've done asteroids, tidal waves, volcanos, global warming/cooling, alien invasion, and so they have to be digging for ideas. And of course in true Hollywood fashion they'll toss science out of the window for the sake of a better film.

  • by psyklopz ( 412711 ) on Tuesday July 13, 2004 @07:57AM (#9684502)
    I had my homework al done, but the magnetic poles flipped and wiped my harddrive...
    • Re:magnetic disks (Score:3, Interesting)

      by altek ( 119814 )
      While the above comment is amusing, is there some truth to it as well? Would things such as magnetic media be affected?

      I know, it's naive to think that we'd still be using the same types of data storage technology in a few hundred years, but for deep archive it's certainly possible.. I mean look at historical archives and libraries - they're filled with books, and that is simply the storage media of days past, so maybe it's not absurd to think about.

      I don't even know if this would affect these things, but
  • by G4from128k ( 686170 ) on Tuesday July 13, 2004 @08:01AM (#9684524)
    What if we all donated spare refrigerator magnets, magnets from old hard disks, etc. and carefully arranged them at the north and south poles. These giant piles would hold the poles in place. Perhaps a lucky chain letter spam from Bill Gates would help get people to donate magnets to the cause.
  • A few months ago... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Aardpig ( 622459 )

    ...I met Gary Glatzmeier, the guy who originally discovered the reversal effect during computer simulations. He's really smart, but at the same time very nice with it -- often a rarity for scientists who hit the big time.

  • by Zawash ( 147532 )
    The aurora borealis [], or northern lights, occur due to charged particles entering the Earth's magnetic field, being guided to the magnetic poles.

    If the magnetic field flips, what about the auroras? Will we have (weaker) auroras all over the place while the field changes?

    • No (Score:4, Interesting)

      by tgd ( 2822 ) on Tuesday July 13, 2004 @09:22AM (#9685235)
      You'd get them everywhere. You only get them at the poles because the field shields the rest of the planet. During the period of largely no magnetic field of any significant organization (the 2000-8000 year "flipping" time people have commented on), you'd get them almost every night everywhere.

      Interestingly, although I can't find a link to it, I've seen estimates that the added solar radiation (NOT UV, so sunblock won't help) will cause 100,000 additional cases of cancer a year, but likely less than 5,000 additional deaths based on current cure rates. Given the increase in cancer treatment technology, the end result could be gorgeous nights and no signficant health impact on the developed world, and gorgeous nights and another health issue to raise money for, for the developing world.

      I'd personally worry more about a climatic flip to an ice age than a dramatic weakening/flip of the magnetic field. Its hard to grow food for ten billion people on half the land, after all.

  • It will be hilarous if the poles flip about the time
    the Mayan calendar ends, hopefully it will go as gracefully
    as scientists have predicted .

    As The southern hemisphere has its winter during our summer,
    I am wondering if the seasons will flip flop as well ???

    I also wonder if the polar shift will effect magma flows ...

    I wonder if the magnetic field has any effect on plate tectonics too .

    Hopefully not, It is suppose to be a weak force .

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 13, 2004 @08:06AM (#9684554)
      The seasons are such because of the earth's tilt, rather than any magnetic effects.

      If you have kde run kworldwatch in speeded up mode to watch the sunlight distribution.
    • by Aardpig ( 622459 ) on Tuesday July 13, 2004 @08:08AM (#9684566)

      It will be hilarous if the poles flip about the time the Mayan calendar ends, hopefully it will go as gracefully as scientists have predicted.

      Unlikely, since a full flip takes a few hundred years; it is not a sudden, catastrophic effect.

      As The southern hemisphere has its winter during our summer, I am wondering if the seasons will flip flop as well ???

      Unlikely, since the seasons are defined by the orientation of the Earth's rotation axis to its Solar orbital axis; they have nothing whatsoever to do with the magnetic axis.

      I also wonder if the polar shift will effect magma flows ...

      Unlikely; the fields are far to weak, and get even weaker during a field reversal.

      I wonder if the magnetic field has any effect on plate tectonics too .

      Unlikely, for the reasons I give above.

      • "Unlikely, since a full flip takes a few hundred years; it is not a sudden, catastrophic effect."

        In one of the few observed magnetic field reversals, it took only a few years [] for the Sun's magnetic field to reverse. Actually this appears to happen every 11 years, corresponding to the sunspot cycle. The Sun's magnetic poles are different than our Earth's, since they are located on the surface at sunspots.

        Perhaps the earth could not flip-flop poles altogether. Instead, maybe we could have two north pole []

    • As The southern hemisphere has its winter during our summer,
      I am wondering if the seasons will flip flop as well ???

      If it takes the physical poles along with it, yes.

  • the impact on life may be significant but not catastrophic, including phenomena such as power-outages, satellite malfunctions and disruptions in the rhythmic functions of some animals such as loggerhead turtles

    And just how would this be different to any other day.

    Apart from compasses pointing south and and increased demand for factor 500, we shouldn't all begin to panic needlessly.
    The compass was a pretty shoddy means of navigation anyway, with the movement of the poles and all. And sunbathing?! What kind of pasttime is that?!

    This could affect global warming though. Combined with the greenhouse effect we could all be fried little geeks.

    I wonder if it would be possible to set up a network of gigantic electromagnets and attempt to impede or even reverse the earths magnetic flip flop?
  • by johnmig ( 638946 ) on Tuesday July 13, 2004 @08:06AM (#9684549)
    It has to be pointed out that there is a significant difference between "The field's strength has waned 10 to 15 percent." which is what the article says; and "the north pole's magnetic field at about 10-15 percent it's strength of 150 years ago" which is what Timothy says. The former means that the field strength is still 85 to 90 percent of the original value (still nearly intact), while the latter means that it is only 10-15 percent of that value (nearly gone). This distiction not insignificant. That being said, it's still neat to follow (even though I don't think that I'll be around at the end).
    • The former means that the field strength is still 85 to 90 percent of the original value (still nearly intact), while the latter means that it is only 10-15 percent of that value (nearly gone).

      And yet, miraculously, my I-top still functions. Better try to break that spin record while I still can...
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Just REDUCED by 10-15 percent? Aw man, I crapped my pants for nuthin'.
  • Typical - So typical (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 13, 2004 @08:09AM (#9684572)
    As is the case with most /. posts, paying attention to detail gets thrown out the window.

    From the poster's text:

    "and, with the north pole's magnetic field at about 10-15 percent it's strength of 150 years ago"

    From the article itself:

    "The field's strength has waned 10 to 15 percent, and the deterioration has accelerated of late"

    Those two quotes are not the same. The poster's lack of attention to detail has turned the articles 10 to 15 percent reduction (a relative value) into a 10 to 15 percent strength (an absolute value). The meaning is totally different, and the poster should apologize for spreading mis-information.

    • by Ron Bennett ( 14590 ) on Tuesday July 13, 2004 @10:36AM (#9685982) Homepage
      Poor editing, or should I say the apparent total lack of, is among the reasons Slashdot will always remain relegated to a novelty site of sorts; among the reasons I won't buy a membership here.

      I don't understand why the Slashdot staff doesn't at least briefly research considered submissions to ensure they're are not dups and, more importantly, are accurate; spell checking submissions before posting them would be helpful too.

      End of my rant ... now relaxing knowing the pole reversal is likely not going to happen anytime soon.
  • PBS special on this (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 13, 2004 @08:09AM (#9684575)
    They talked about global cancer rates rising from the years of diminished radiation protection. They also showed how during the transition period the magnetic "poles" will travel randomly around the globe, making random locations radiation hot spots.
  • by orin ( 113079 ) on Tuesday July 13, 2004 @08:10AM (#9684577)
    This would be good for Australia. No longer "down under" ... finally "on top".
    • Yeah. the belly button of the world.. collecting all the fluf...
    • North and South are completely arbitrarily chosen conventions in any case. Wouldn't it be cool if when the compasses showed north to be what we now consider the south pole to simple flip around all the maps :) People don't realise how it's all relative in any case, it's very strange to look at 2D world maps from Europe or far east Asia when you're familiar with USA produced maps. All the different maps are centered over their respective areas. It makes sense of course, but it looks alien at first glance.

  • Interesting Show (Score:5, Informative)

    by fdiskne1 ( 219834 ) on Tuesday July 13, 2004 @08:11AM (#9684587)
    I had heard about this theory, but never believed it. Then I saw a Nova [] show on PBS [] called Magnetic Storm []. It's very well made and very interesting. By the end of the show, I believed the poles are set to reverse and it's just a fact of nature. Nothing we can do about it except research and prepare our way of life so things don't go to Hell in a handbasket.
  • Does this mean we'll all have to walk on our hands, and hamburgers will eat people?

  • I'll be living in the nothern hemisphere... going home now to turn my world map upside-down to get used to it that way... (north always up?)

  • Magnetic chaos (Score:5, Informative)

    by Nosher ( 574322 ) <> on Tuesday July 13, 2004 @08:18AM (#9684643) Homepage
    Then real fun with the flipping of the magnetic field is not that it moves uniformly from one pole to another over time, but that as it breaks down, tens or hundreds of "north" and "south" poles can develop which are spread all over the planet - see this article in New Scientist []. With any luck, maybe my house might end up at one of these new "North Poles" for a while, so at least I can say I've been there :-)
  • by arrogance ( 590092 ) on Tuesday July 13, 2004 @08:21AM (#9684672)
    How about Scientific American [] for how long the reversals take?
    the average duration of a reversal is close to 7,000 years. The analysis further suggests that the timescale of the transition differs at various latitudes. During the last polarity shift, approximately 790,000 years ago, sites close to the equator underwent the 180-degree change over the course of 2,000 years, but the process took closer to 10,000 years in midlatitude regions.
    There's also a good article on WHY the reversals take place [] by Gary A. Glatzmaier, the guru of terran magnetic reversals. You gotta specialize in something I guess.
  • by TheQuestion ( 124286 ) on Tuesday July 13, 2004 @08:21AM (#9684679) Homepage
    I'm not a geologist, but don't things on this scale happen very slowly? You wouldn't go to sleep one night with your compass pointing north and suddenly have it point south when you woke up. This would happen gradually over hundreds or thousands of years. Although this is geologically overnight, the magnetic pole wouldn't move significantly during a person's, or turtle's, lifetime.

    Having said that, I doubt even the turtles that rely on the field for navigation would notice. They would adapt to sense the less powerful field over time or they would loose the need to use it. Navigation is done by point of reference. And since the navigational lines of force are moving so slowly, the turtles wouldn't care. The North Pole being 200 miles from where it was for the turtle's great grandparents really doesn't matter to today's turtle. He just wants to get back to where he started from a year or so ago. The shift should be slow enough for him to do this.

    The reduced magnetic field seems to be much more of a concern. But, again, we will adapt much like the turtles will. But instead of adapting our biology, we'll adapt our technology. It's not that we can't make a satellite or power grid that can handle solar wind and storms; it's just that we haven't done it. Why not? We haven't needed to. Think of the reduced magnetic field as job security.
  • Evana Kiniski -- it was amazing. you couldn't take your eyes off her. She had huge....tracts of land.

  • flushing ? (Score:2, Funny)

    by TTL0 ( 546351 )
    the impact on life may be significant

    i wonder if toilets will flush counter-clockwise ?

  • by SkreamNet ( 610802 ) on Tuesday July 13, 2004 @08:38AM (#9684833) Homepage
    Has anyone thought of his relocation???
  • Magnetic Reversals (Score:5, Informative)

    by JollyGreenLlama ( 795396 ) on Tuesday July 13, 2004 @08:38AM (#9684838)
    The Geological Survey of Canada has a well written and informative article [] on this subject. Some basic findings from the article include:

    "Although fast by geological standards, reversals are by no means quick on the human time scale. They take roughly 5,000 years, with estimates ranging from 1,000 years and 8,000 years.

    Both the total magnetic field and its dipole component decrease substantially during a reversal to values that range from 10% to 25% of the pre-reversal strength.

    A reversal does not proceed in a uniform fashion. Large and rapid changes in direction and intensity are punctuated by periods of little change. During some transitions the field starts to change but then rebounds to near normal before the reversal finally goes to completion.

    The scarcity and ambiguity of observations have led to two competing theories explaining how the magnetic field pattern changes, and how the magnetic poles behave during a reversal. According to one theory, the magnetic field remains predominantly dipolar during a reversal, and the poles migrate along preferred paths from one hemisphere to the other. According to another theory, the dipole portion of the magnetic field shrinks to zero but then regrows with opposite polarity. During the interval during which there is no dipole, the non-dipole part of the field persists, and the magnetic poles would not migrate in a systematic fashion."

    While the article does little to posit the consequences of these competing theories, it does provide a good deal of insight as to why and when the changes occur. It does conclude, however, that "many investigators believe that the trend [magnetic pole weakening] will not continue and the field will regain its strength, as it has many times in the past."
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 13, 2004 @08:50AM (#9684934)
    There was a big "DO NOT PUSH" sign right next to the degauss button!
  • Migratory Birds (Score:4, Interesting)

    by FauxReal ( 653820 ) on Tuesday July 13, 2004 @09:05AM (#9685075) Homepage
    Wow... I remember seeing a show in discovery about carrier pigeons using the magnetic pole to navigate... (or at least that was the theory)... How will this affect migratory birds at large?
  • Thank God (Score:5, Funny)

    by teebo80 ( 796260 ) on Tuesday July 13, 2004 @09:10AM (#9685120)
    I'm not a loggerhead turtle
  • by Overzeetop ( 214511 ) on Tuesday July 13, 2004 @09:12AM (#9685137) Journal
    Have you noticed how many foolish ideas have flourished in this supposed hotbead of intellegence this morning? According to the last poll responses, I'm guessing the average IQ is above 130 here (and well above most of your bosses).

    Even if some posts are in jest, we've had folks questioning the results of a simple magnetic shift affecting the direction of the coreolis affect, (toilet flushes), tilt of the earth (seasons), loss of the atmosphere, and viability of all satellites in orbit.

    Even if it happened over a couple years (which it doesn't), the only affect I've seen which is certain to happen is that the Government will be blamed for it.
  • by Odin's Raven ( 145278 ) on Tuesday July 13, 2004 @09:24AM (#9685267)

    So once the poles finish reversing, will I have to hack my GPS receiver and invert its display to make its compass point to the new "North" pole?

    And will we have to switch around all the highway signs so that I-95 North heads towards Mexico and I-95 South leads to Canda?

    And will we have to rename North and South Dakota, North and South Carolina, etc?

    The hell with the loggerhead turtles, I've got serious questions that need to be answered! :-)

  • by xyote ( 598794 ) on Tuesday July 13, 2004 @09:25AM (#9685271)
    if they weren't already. What most people don't know is that CRT monitors come in northern hemisphere and southern hemisphere models due to the the effect of the vertical component of the magnetic field on the electron beam in the CRT.

    Same reason there are northern and southern hemisphere compasses except it's a needle balancing issue. In the northern hemisphere, the "north" end of the needle gets pulled down, and it gets pulled up in the southern hemisphere. There are global compasses that work by allowing you to readjust the balance or by using a gimbaled disk magnet.

  • by prisoner-of-enigma ( 535770 ) on Tuesday July 13, 2004 @10:48AM (#9686113) Homepage
    I know the New York Times is a blatantly left-slanted, Democrat-loving publication, but referring to John Kerry as "magnetic" is just too much.

    Oh well, at least they did have the decency to call him what he really is: a flip-flop.

    Moderators: Laugh. It's called political humor.
  • by peter303 ( 12292 ) on Tuesday July 13, 2004 @10:50AM (#9686134)
    One needs to look only a few million miles away for a spectacular example of what happens during a magnetic field flip. Our Sun has been flipping its field direction every 22 years. When its gets close to flipping its magnetic field lines sometimes break away from the main field and become localized loops in what we see are sunspots. A sunspot is a region of the surface through which a field loop passes and cools the temperature a few percent and appears less bright than the surround solar surface. Sunspots usually occur in pairs or groups of alternating polarity coresponding to the parts of the magentic field line loops either entering or exit the solar surface. Sun spots occur in patterns migrating fromt he equator to poles over the course of a flip cycle. Huge solar storms and explosions are associated with these solar magnetic disruptions.
  • by goatbar ( 661399 ) on Tuesday July 13, 2004 @11:07AM (#9686330) Homepage
    Okay yall... being a paleomagnetist and dealing with this topic all the time, I have to say that it is NOT LIKELY that this is the beginning of a reversal. The field goes up and down at all kinds of frequencies. If you look at a graph of the Sint 800 [] (sorry it's a tiny figure) you will see all sorts of ups and downs for the last 800000 years during the bruhnes normal period. The last big low is called the Laschamp and was about 35-40 thousand years ago. Today's field is so far above that.

    The magnetic field is a 'random process'. There is no real good statistical predictor of when the next reversal will happen.

In the realm of scientific observation, luck is granted only to those who are prepared. - Louis Pasteur