Second Wave

               For Spiritually Evolving Humans

Archive for July, 2008


Joanie July 31st, 2008

By Geoffrey Lean and Jonathan Owen
The Independent
July 13, 2008

Humanity stands on the threshold of a peaceful and prosperous future, with
an unprecedented ability to extend lifespans and increase the power of
ordinary people — but is likely to blow it through inequality, violence and
environmental degradation. And governments are not equipped to ensure that
the opportunities are seized and disasters averted.

So says a massive new international report, due to be published late this
month, and obtained by The Independent on Sunday. Backed by organisations
ranging from Unesco to the US army, the World Bank to the Rockefeller
Foundation, the 2008 State of the Future report runs to 6,300 pages and
draws on contributions from 2,500 experts around the globe.

Its warning is all the more stark for eschewing doom and gloom. “The future
continues to get better for most of the world,” it concludes, “but a series
of tipping points could drastically alter global prospects.”

It goes on. “This is a unique time in history. Mobile phones, the internet,
international trade, language translation and jet planes are giving birth to
an interdependent humanity that can create and implement global strategies
to improve [its] prospects. It is increasingly clear that the world has the
resources to address our common challenges. Ours is the first generation
with the means for many to know the world as a whole, identify global
improvement systems, and seek to improve [them].”

What is more, say the authors of the report, produced by the Millennium
Project of the World Federation of the United Nations Associations
<>, many important things are already
getting better. Life expectancy and literacy rates are increasing worldwide,
while infant mortality and the number of armed conflicts have been falling
fast. Per capita income has been growing strongly enough to cut poverty by
more than half by 2015 — except, importantly, in Africa.

Even better, it says, “advances in science, technology, education, economics
and management seem capable of making the world work far better than it does

Medical breakthroughs, for example, are offering the hope of defeating
inherited diseases, tailoring cures to individual patients, and even
creating replacement body parts. And computers are spreading even to remote
villages in developing countries and dramatically increasing in power to
provide “collective intelligence for just-in-time knowledge to inform

The report reserves its greatest enthusiasm for the internet, which it says
is “already the most powerful force for globalisation, democratisation,
economic growth and education in history.

“The internet allows self-organisation around common ideals, independent of
conventional institutional controls and regardless of nationalities or
languages. Injustices in different parts of the world become the concern of
thousands or millions of people who then pressure local, regional or
international governing systems to find solutions.

“This unparalleled social power is reinventing citizens’ roles in the
political process and changing institutions, policy-making and governance.”

And this is happening in a world that is already becoming freer and more
democratic. Over the past 30 years, the number of free countries has more
than doubled from 43 to 90, it reports, while those that are partly free
increased from 46 to 60. Just over one-third of humanity still lives in the
43 countries with authoritarian regimes, but half of these people are in

On the other hand, the report warns “half the world is vulnerable to social
instability and violence due to rising food and energy prices, failing
states, falling water tables, climate change, decreasing water-food-energy
supply per person, desertification and increasing migrations due to
political, environmental and economic conditions”.

These — and other threats such as increasing terrorism, corruption and
organised crime — threaten to undo the improvements of recent years and
blight the chance of a better future.

Food prices have more than doubled in a year and have already plunged 37
countries into crisis, greatly increasing hunger and poverty. And price
rises seem set to continue because food production needs to increase 50 per
cent by 2013 and double in 30 years.

“With nearly three billion people making $2 or less per day, long-term
global social conflict seems inevitable without more serious food policies,
useful scientific breakthroughs and dietary changes,” says the report.

Global warming is occurring faster than expected. This could cause southern
Africa to “lose more than 30 per cent of its maize crop by 2030″ and help to
increase the number of people facing water scarcity fourfold to a massive
three billion by 2025.

The rate at which the world’s ice is melting, it says, “has doubled over the
last two years”, and it quotes a US military report which predicts that
global warming “can be an incubator of civil strife, genocide and the growth
of terrorism”.

Yet nuclear power — the solution increasingly favoured by governments,
which are planning to add another 350 reactors to the 438 already operating
around the world — will not do the job. “For nuclear energy to eliminate
the greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels, about 2,000 nuclear power
plants would have to be built, at $5-15bn per plant, over 15 years — and
possibly an additional 8,000 plants beyond that to 2050.”

The report says that there is not enough uranium in the world to fuel all
those reactors, that another Chernobyl-type accident could halt the
expansion in its tracks, and that the rapid spread of the atom around the
world increases the chances of nuclear proliferation and terrorism.

It estimates that there is a 75 per cent chance that terrorists will have
acquired nuclear weapons within the next 10 years, adding: “Links between
terrorists and organised crime are worrisome, especially considering that,
on average, there were 150 reports of unauthorised use of nuclear or
radioactive materials to the International Atomic Energy Authority per year
between 2004 and 2007.”

Organised crime, it adds, “continues to grow in the absence of a
comprehensive, integrated global counterstrategy”. It reckons that it is now
worth some $2 trillion a year.

There are grounds for hope, however. The use of renewable energy is growing,
and China’s largest car maker plans for half its cars to be hybrids within
two years. But the report’s authors say that governments are not up to the
job: “Many of the world’s decision-making processes are inefficient, slow
and ill-informed, especially when given the new demands from increasing
complexity [and] globalisation.” They call on world leaders to do more
long-term planning, and to join in global approaches to the interlocking
crises. “Climate change cannot be turned around without a global strategy.
International organised crime cannot be stopped without a global strategy.
Individuals creating designer diseases and causing massive deaths cannot be
stopped without a global strategy. It is time for global strategic systems
to be upgraded.”

Jerome Glenn, the report’s main author added: “There seems to be an interest
in creating global strategies, but it needs a little push. There’s more
within us now to collaborate in the face of shared problems.”

Computer power

25 years until a computer’s capacity equals the power of the human brain.
After another 25 years, everyone will be able to access processing power
greater than that of all the brains on Earth combined.

The great melt

5 years before the Arctic could be ice-free in summer. Sea-ice last year
shrank to 22 per cent below the previous record low, a level that had not
been expected to be reached until 2030-50, opening up the Northwest Passage.

Fossil fuel

850 coal-fired power stations are planned to go into operation across the
US, China and India over the next four years. Each station would operate for
about 20 years, greatly accelerating global warming.

Solar energy

25% of Europe’s electricity could come from solar-powered stations in North
Africa by 2050. African leaders and aid organisations are to invest $10bn
(£5bn) a year in renewable energy over the next five years.


Joanie July 31st, 2008

Posted by Casey Kazan
Daily Galaxy
July 29, 2008

Prevailing theory of aging challenged by Stanford University Medical School
researchers. Their discovery contradicts the prevailing theory that aging is
a buildup of tissue damage similar to rust. The Stanford findings suggest
specific genetic instructions drive the process. If they are right, science
might one day find ways of switching the signals off and halting or even
reversing aging.

³We were really surprised,² said Stuart Kim, who is the senior author of the

Kim¹s lab examined the regulation of aging in C. elegans, a millimeter-long
nematode worm whose simple body and small number of genes make it a useful
tool for biologists. The worms age rapidly: their maximum life span is about
two weeks.

Comparing young worms to old worms, Kim¹s team discovered age-related shifts
in levels of three transcription factors, the molecular switches that turn
genes on and off. These shifts trigger genetic pathways that transform young
worms into social security candidates.

The question of what causes aging has spawned competing schools, with one
side claiming that inborn genetic programs make organisms grow old. This
theory has had trouble gaining traction because it implies that aging
evolved, that natural selection pushed older organisms down a path of
deterioration. However, natural selection works by favoring genes that help
organisms produce lots of offspring. After reproduction ends, genes are
beyond natural selection¹s reach, so scientists argued that aging couldn¹t
be genetically programmed.

The alternate, competing theory holds that aging is an inevitable
consequence of accumulated wear and tear: toxins, free-radical molecules,
DNA-damaging radiation, disease and stress ravage the body to the point it
can¹t rebound. So far, this theory has dominated aging research.

But the Stanford team¹s findings told a different story. ³Our data just
didn¹t fit the current model of damage accumulation, and so we had to
consider the alternative model of developmental drift,² Kim said.

The scientists used microarrays — silicon chips that detect changes in gene
expression — to hunt for genes that were turned on differently in young and
old worms. They found hundreds of age-regulated genes switched on and off by
a single transcription factor called elt-3, which becomes more abundant with
age. Two other transcription factors that regulate elt-3 also changed with

To see whether these signal molecules were part of a wear-and-tear aging
mechanism, the researchers exposed worms to stresses thought to cause aging,
such as heat (a known stressor for nematode worms), free-radical oxidation,
radiation and disease. But none of the stressors affected the genes that
make the worms get old.

So it looked as though worm aging wasn¹t a storm of chemical damage.
Instead, Kim said, key regulatory pathways optimized for youth have drifted
off track in older animals. Natural selection can¹t fix problems that arise
late in the animals¹ life spans, so the genetic pathways for aging become
entrenched by mistake. Kim¹s team refers to this slide as ³developmental

³We found a normal developmental program that works in young animals, but
becomes unbalanced as the worm gets older,² he said. ³It accounts for the
lion¹s share of molecular differences between young and old worms.²

Kim can¹t say for sure whether the same process of drift happens in humans,
but said scientists can begin searching for this new aging mechanism now
that it has been discovered in a model organism. And he said developmental
drift makes a lot of sense as a reason why creatures get old.

³Everyone has assumed we age by rust,² Kim said. ³But then how do you
explain animals that don¹t age?²

Some tortoises lay eggs at the age of 100, he points out. There are whales
that live to be 200, and clams that make it past 400. Those species use the
same building blocks for their DNA, proteins and fats as humans, mice and
nematode worms. The chemistry of the wear-and-tear process, including damage
from oxygen free-radicals, should be the same in all cells, which makes it
hard to explain why species have dramatically different life spans.

³A free radical doesn¹t care if it¹s in a human cell or a worm cell,² Kim

If aging is not a cost of unavoidable chemistry but is instead driven by
changes in regulatory genes, the aging process may not be inevitable. It is
at least theoretically possible to slow down or stop developmental drift.

³The take-home message is that aging can be slowed and managed by
manipulating signaling circuits within cells,² said Marc Tatar, PhD, a
professor of biology and medicine at Brown University who was not involved
in the research. ³This is a new and potentially powerful circuit that has
just been discovered for doing that.²

Kim added, ³It¹s a new way to think about how to slow the aging process.²


NHNE On Aging & Anti-Aging:


Joanie July 9th, 2008

By Amanda Ripley

The world had long assumed that Americans were just unrepentant energy pigs.
If gas prices went up, well, we kept our Explorers aimed at the horizon, and
little changed. We truthfully didn’t have lots of options. Unlike Europeans,
we didn’t have jobs we could bike to or convenient public transit. Gasoline
prices never stayed high enough long enough to force those kinds of shifts
in how we lived.

Now here we are. Gas prices are near $4 per gal., as no one needs to tell
you, and they are likely to stay that way. Most of us still don’t have the
alternatives we need to adapt with grace, which means that many will adapt
just by suffering. We will run out of gas on I-80, ease our minivans over to
the shoulder and tell the kids everything is O.K. We’ll fall behind on Visa
bills to pay for gas so we can buy food made ever more expensive by energy

But it’s also true that Americans are finding options where there seemed to
be none. They’re ready to change — and waiting for their infrastructure to
catch up. They are driving to commuter-rail lines only to find there are no
parking spots left. They are running fewer errands and dumping their SUVs.
Public-transit use is at a 50-year high. Gas purchases are down 2% to 3%.
And all those changes bring secondary, hard-earned benefits.

“You suddenly are reminded how the economy works,” says Eric Roston, author
of a new book about energy, The Carbon Age. “Nobody wants high prices for
oil. But there’s also no faster mechanism to change behavior.” The suffering
will go on. But the story, like any good tragedy, is not without redemption.


By Amanda Ripley
With reporting by Maya Curry

The world suddenly seems big again. A family of four can’t fly cross-country
for much less than $2,000. The cost of shipping a standard 40-ft. (12 m)
container of couches from Shanghai to New Jersey has tripled since 2000.
Trucking carrots from Mexico to Georgia makes less and less economic sense.

When John Smith started a high-end furniture company in Washington in 2003,
he couldn’t make everything in the U.S. and stay competitive. So his
company, Willem Smith, started operations in Vietnam and Ecuador. He found
himself visiting factories 11 time zones away from his four small daughters.

By last year, the cost of making and importing one of his favorite pieces,
the Caballero chair, was ballooning. He was shipping Italian leather to
Vietnam and then shipping the large chair back to the States. There were
other problems too, like inflation in Vietnam. So last January, Willem Smith
“repatriated” the Caballero to Hickory, N.C. That shift helps contain
shipping costs and has other perks. “People are happy to buy American,”
Smith says. “And it felt kind of nice to bring this one home.”

In more industries, such as steel, lawn-mower batteries and upscale
furniture, doing business in the U.S. is starting to look slightly more


By Amanda Ripley
With reporting by Maya Curry

Across the country, real estate agents are reporting that many home buyers
are looking to move closer to cities. Gas prices are shaping their
decisions. A May study that examined housing values in five cities found
prices had fared worse in more-distant neighborhoods. “The collapse of
America’s housing bubble — and its reverberations in financial markets –
has obscured a tectonic shift in housing demand,” wrote economist Joe
Cortright in the study, sponsored by CEOs for Cities, a nonprofit group that
promotes cities. “Housing in cities and neighborhoods that require lengthy
commutes and provide few transportation alternatives to the private vehicle
are falling in value more precipitously than in more central, compact and
accessible places.”


By Amanda Ripley
With reporting by Maya Curry

Companies, colleges and governments are moving to four-day weeks. Brevard
Community College in Cocoa, Fla., went to four days for the 2007 summer
session and saved $268,000 in energy costs. There were unforeseen benefits
too. Over the year, sick leave fell 50%, and turnover among the 1,500-person
staff dropped 44%. “We thought the energy savings would be a plus. But the
reaction was about what it meant to people’s family lives and their ability
to take care of themselves,” says college president Jim Drake. Brevard is
doing four-day weeks again this summer and may make the change year-round.


By Amanda Ripley
With reporting by Maya Curry

As people consume less fuel in America, vehicle emissions should drop. Less
pollution means bluer skies and longer lives — and the potential to slow
global warming, albeit slightly. Lower energy demand means the air will
contain fewer toxic agents, like particle pollution, which can get deep into
your lungs and cause serious health problems. Bottom line? About 2,220 lives
have already been saved over the past year because of higher gas prices and
less pollution, according to an estimate calculated for TIME by J. Paul
Leigh, a University of California at Davis health-economics professor who
co-wrote a study on the topic in the March 2008 Journal of Occupational and
Environmental Medicine. If prices remain high, we can expect some 2,000
people to avoid dying from pollution in the next 12 months.


By Amanda Ripley
With reporting by Maya Curry

Trucking companies are using software to help identify optimal places for
drivers to refuel and the most efficient delivery routes. Waste haulers are
checking tire pressure twice a day instead of every couple of days. We’re
all wasting less. Vespa scooter sales increased 106% in May compared with
the same time last year; Ford SUV sales dropped 55% in June. Columbia, Md.,
resident Glenn Conrad, 58, bought a Honda Insight a few years ago and, like
many so-called hypermilers, became obsessed with his miles-per-gallon gauge.
“That thing is really addictive,” he says. Although a police officer
recently gave him a warning for going too slowly, he is undeterred. “If I
roll both of my windows up,” he says, “I instantly get about two more miles
per gallon.”


By Amanda Ripley
With reporting by Maya Curry

Every year, about 40,000 people die in traffic accidents in the U.S. If you
are age 5 through 34, you are more likely to die this way than any other
way. Ordinary things we do — or don’t do — have extraordinary
consequences. We know that higher gas prices cause many of us to slow down
and drive less — which means fewer people die. Early research into 2006
accident data suggests that many lives have already been spared. If gas
remains at $4 per gal. for a year or more, expect as many as 1,000 fewer
fatalities a month, according to professor Michael Morrisey at the
University of Alabama at Birmingham and associate professor David Grabowski
at Harvard Medical School, who calculated that estimate for TIME. That means
annual deaths could be cut by almost one-third — a public-health triumph.


By Amanda Ripley
With reporting by Maya Curry

If you are driving less, you could qualify for lower car-insurance rates.
For example, if you have stopped driving to work, your classification has
changed to “pleasure driver,” and you could save 10% to 15% (or $94 to $142
on an average premium), according to the Consumer Federation of America. So
if you’re parked more, call your insurer.


By Amanda Ripley
With reporting by Maya Curry

Travel on all roads dropped 2.1% in the first four months of 2008, according
to the Federal Highway Administration. Wherever people can take public
transit, they are doing so. Even before the biggest gas-price hikes, a
Congressional Budget Office study of California freeways from 2003 to 2006
showed that the number of freeway trips went down 0.7% for every 50-cent
increase in gas prices — but only in areas near public transit. Cities are
struggling to keep up. BART, the San Francisco Bay Area rail system, removed
seats to open up more standing room. In Boston, where turnpike use declined
by 600,000 cars in May, officials are pleading with public-transit
passengers to travel at nonpeak times.


By Amanda Ripley
With reporting by Maya Curry

Across the country, police bike and foot patrols are up, and cops are being
told to cut down on idling their cruisers — which is sort of like telling a
teenager to stop using his cell phone. Georgia state police have been told
to cut driving time 25%. In Shelby, N.C., police officers have been ordered
to park their cars for 15 min. every two hours and to stop taking patrol
cars out for lunch. In May the city government’s fuel consumption decreased.
The longer-term effects may include better community relations — and
slimmer police.


By Amanda Ripley
With reporting by Maya Curry

People walk more, bike more and eat out less when gas is pricey. A permanent
$1 hike in prices may cut obesity 10%, saving thousands of lives and
billions of dollars a year, estimates Charles Courtemanche, an assistant
professor of economics at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. At
Orange Cycle, the largest bike store in Orlando, Fla., sales of upright
urban bikes from March to June rose 57% compared with the same period last
year. The shop was around for the 1970s gas crisis too, but this feels
different, says co-owner Deena Breed. “I don’t think it’s just gas,” she
says. “It has to do with weight, exercise, community — a general sense of
not being so wasteful.”


Joanie July 9th, 2008

By Duncan Graham-Rowe
New Scientist
July 4, 2008

More and more of the body is becoming, if not obsolete, then certainly
replaceable. But which of our body parts can be engineered today, and which
will we have to make do with?

Building bones

Implants that copy the simple structural job of skeletal tissue are the
easiest to build. One UK woman suffering from rheumatoid arthritis was
recently left with only two of her original joints after having the rest
replaced by metal and plastic alternatives.

Hips, teeth and vertebral discs can all be replaced, and customised to match
the patient. A 3D printer can even be used to tailor-make parts within hours
for a perfect fit, useful after accidents. One device prints “bone” using a
new porous polymer that is nearly as strong as the real thing.

But artificial bones are not perfect. One idea that may see them match
natural bone’s strength and lightness is to build implants by zapping
titanium powder with a laser. That can makes pores of different sizes in
different areas of the finished product, controlling strength and stiffness
in the same way as real bone.

Other recently developed ways to improve implants include making them
magnetic to attract drugs or giving them surface textures able to promote
new bone growth.

But growing living bone and cartilage to order is probably the best way to
tackle the problems with getting the body to accept man-made materials.

Regeneration game

In the first human trial of this approach, lab-grown cartilage proved able
to fix damaged knees. This type of tissue-engineering cultivates cells over
a scaffold that is usually based on compounds found in connective tissue.

Ligaments can also be grown this way. Placing a scaffold in the body allows
in-situ growth, a technique that can also work with nerves and returned
sight to blind hamsters.

In fact, by culturing normal or stem cells it is now possible to grow pretty
much any type of tissue. Some complete organs have already been grown from

Artificially grown bladders have changed the lives of some spina bifida
patients. Even working penises have been grown, for rabbits, who could
ejaculate and successfully mate using them.

But growing more complex organs with intricate systems of blood vessels is
difficult. One possible solution involves making a plastic cast of an
organ’s blood vessels by filling a donated organ with polymer.

The recovered cast is then seeded with cells that grow into blood vessels,
after which the organs’ new cells are grown over the top. A liver complete
with blood vessels has been made this way, but was not fully functional.

Organs live on

A way to sidestep the problems of growing intricate structures like blood
vessels or alveoli in the lungs is to borrow the structures from donated

A process called “decellularisation” chemically strips away cells, leaving
connective tissue, including blood vessels, behind. This also has the
advantage that, without living cells, the transplant will not be rejected by
the host.

First used to replace heart valves, the technique was this year used to
reincarnate a whole rat’s heart. After a few electric shocks, the newly
grown heart was beating regularly.

Heart helpers

That technique is still far from reaching human hospitals, but cardiac
patients are already spoilt for choice when it comes to replacements.

The most common are pacemakers, which take over from the clumps of cells
that synchronise heart muscle with pulsing electricity. Scientists have
recently developed a pacemaker powered by the heart itself, saving later
operations to change the battery.

Human heart transplants have been carried out for decades, while artificial
hearts can help people waiting for a transplant.

Other parts of the body¹s plumbing network, such as the lymphatic system,
are becoming replaceable too. Last year, mice were implanted with an
artificial lymph node made from collagen and cells taken from a gland in
newborn mice.

This approach could one day be used to rebuild an immune system compromised
by disease like AIDS.

Nervous reaction

The brain’s complexity makes it doubtful we will ever recreate it. But some
of its functions, and those of other parts of the nervous system can already
be replaced by electronics.

The most successful example is the cochlear implant. More than 100,000
people can hear again thanks to microphone output directly stimulating the
cochlea of the inner ear.

This approach has limitations, though, so a new design stimulates the nerve
connecting the ear to the brain instead, an approach that should offer
better quality hearing and even music to the deaf.

Implants can also help the blind see, by stimulating the retina, optic nerve
or the brain’s visual cortex. However, the quality of results varies. Making
better bionic eyes hinges on better understanding how the retina and brain
process images.

Perhaps the most ambitious neural implant yet attempts to replace a whole
section of the brain — the hippocampus — which is involved in spatial and
short-term memory. Researchers are working on an electronic hippocampus that
accepts, processes and produces electrical signals just like a real one.

Out on a limb

Other research seeks to replace entire limbs with robotic replacements.
Electronics and motors must simulate bone, muscle and nerves working in
unison, and integrate smoothly with the real thing.

The Italian CyberHand project aims to let a person control and receive
sensation from an artificial hand just as they would from a real one.
Electrodes will connect the nerves that previously served the missing hand
to the robotic prosthetics motors and force sensors.

Some advanced bionic arms require the nerves that once controlled to a
missing limb be “rewired” to a person’s chest. When they try to move the
prosthetic limb, it causes the chest muscles to twitch, triggering sensors
that control the arm. Rewiring the sensory nerves from a limb in the same
way makes it possible to feel feedback from the arm as if it were real.

US defence agency DARPA has made improved prosthetics a priority, with one
funded project, the “Luke arm”, recently unveiling impressive results.

Future imperfect

Despite all these successes and promising leads, the human body is still
more complex than any machine, and we don’t have the advantage of an
instruction manual.

All too often, artificial replacements come with a catch. Organ transplants
require lifetime treatment with immunosuppressant drugs to prevent
rejection, while some evidence suggests stem cells treatments can cause

Electronic devices suffer corrosion, wear and tear, and can require repeated
operations to replace batteries. Powering them using movement or other
energy from the body could be the answer.

Electronic implants can also be vulnerable to electromagnetic interference
or even remote attacks. Earlier this year researchers used radio waves to
hack a pacemaker in a way that could cause a heart attack.

Working out how to encourage a body to grow its own replacements avoids most
of these problems. However, superhuman abilities like controlling machines
with your thoughts will always depend on electronics.


Joanie July 6th, 2008

“… the shielding effect of the magnetic field is severely reduced, thus allowing high energy particles of the hard radiation belt to penetrate deep into the upper atmosphere to altitudes below a hundred kilometers (62 miles), Mandea said…  This radiation does not influence temperatures on Earth. The particles, however, do affect technical and radio equipment and can damage electronic equipment on satellites and airplanes, Olsen of the Danish space center said.”

By Kimberly Johnson
National Geographic News
June 30, 2008

Rapid changes in the churning movement of Earth’s liquid outer core are
weakening the magnetic field in some regions of the planet’s surface, a new
study says.

“What is so surprising is that rapid, almost sudden, changes take place in
the Earth’s magnetic field,” said study co-author Nils Olsen, a geophysicist
at the Danish National Space Center in Copenhagen.

The findings suggest similarly quick changes are simultaneously occurring in
the liquid metal, 1,900 miles (3,000 kilometers) below the surface, he said.

The swirling flow of molten iron and nickel around Earth’s solid center
triggers an electrical current, which generates the planet’s magnetic field.

The study, published recently in Nature Geoscience, modeled Earth’s magnetic
field using nine years of highly accurate satellite data.


Fluctuations in the magnetic field have occurred in several far-flung
regions of Earth, the researchers found.

In 2003 scientists found pronounced changes in the magnetic field in the
Australasian region. In 2004, however, the changes were focused on Southern

The changes “may suggest the possibility of an upcoming reversal of the
geomagnetic field,” said study co-author Mioara Mandea, a scientist at the
German Research Centre for Geosciences in Potsdam.

Earth’s magnetic field has reversed hundreds of times over the past billion
years, and the process could take thousands of years to complete.

Upper Atmosphere Radiation

The decline in the magnetic field also is opening Earth’s upper atmosphere
to intense charged particle radiation, scientists say.

Satellite data show the geomagnetic field decreasing in the South Atlantic
region, Mandea said, adding that an oval-shaped area east of Brazil is
significantly weaker than similar latitudes in other parts of the world.

“It is in this region that the shielding effect of the magnetic field is
severely reduced, thus allowing high energy particles of the hard radiation
belt to penetrate deep into the upper atmosphere to altitudes below a
hundred kilometers (62 miles),” Mandea said.

This radiation does not influence temperatures on Earth. The particles,
however, do affect technical and radio equipment and can damage electronic
equipment on satellites and airplanes, Olsen of the Danish space center

Keep Watching

The study documents just how rapidly the flow in Earth’s core is changing,
said Peter Olson, a geophysics professor at Johns Hopkins University in
Baltimore, Maryland, who was not involved with the research.

By using satellite imagery, researchers have a nearly continuous measurement
of changes, he said.

“They provide a good rationale to continue this monitoring longer,” Olson






NOVA’S ‘MAGNETIC STORM’ (11/28/2003):

The Earth’s Collapsing Magnetic Field (8/9/2003):