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Is Earth's Magnetic Field Flipping Soon? (space.com)
128 points by wglb 14 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 127 comments

"While any magnetic-field flip would still be thousands of years away...". Sneaky sentence right at the end. Sure the last one happened 700,000 years ago, so it is "soon", the but article made it sound like it was happening tomorrow!

There are a couple of issues here and it is important to be careful about not conflating them.

One, is the question of "how long" does a flip take? There is some evidence that it can take as few as 100 years[1], the previous consensus estimate (2004) was about 7000 years[2]. That is important because the faster it happens the more havoc it is likely to cause. If it happens over thousands of years then humans will adapt to a 'non constant' compass direction and find other ways to navigate. For example, GPS 'north' which can always point you to 0,0 on the globe.

The second thing is the timing. The pole is currently "racing" towards Siberia[3], so it may have already started flipping. At 30 miles a year it would take 416 years to fully flip. That is well within the 7000 year window and only 4x the 100 year window.

It is one of the more interesting confounding influences on climate change as changes in the magnetic field strength and orientation can change the amount of energy that makes it into the atmosphere from the Sun. That works both ways, either reducing the energy (more charged particles deflected) making it colder or increasing the energy (more charged particles impact the atmosphere) making it warmer.

[1] https://news.berkeley.edu/2014/10/14/earths-magnetic-field-c...

[2] https://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=100358

[3] https://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/climate-weather/stories/ma...

Previous estimates on the time it takes for a flip to happen are in the 1000-30000 year range[1]. That paper gives a 7000 yr average but the variance on the time it takes is likely large. The Berkeley article you linked to is on this paper[2] which makes a claim of that short flipping time. People in the field think it is quite an unlikely short period of time for a flip and we would need more evidence to firmly believe they can happen this fast. Sediments are notoriously complicated on how they record the magnetic field and the rates at which they are deposited at are difficult to determine.

Source: I did my PhD work on the Steens Mountain reversal. It is the Earth's reversal with the most transitional directions recorded in much more reliable volcanic rocks. This was possible because of the huge volume of the Columbia River Basalts that were erupting at that time around 16.7 million years ago. Unfortunately it happened so long ago that direct radioactive dating of its length is impossible with current methods.



> ...the faster it happens the more havoc it is likely to cause. If it happens over thousands of years then humans will adapt to a 'non constant' compass direction and find other ways to navigate.

Actually the more pressing matter regards animals that employ magnetoreception (birds, bacteria even!) where a change like this might be particularly devastating. This of course assumes that there is not already some undiscovered non-genetic mechanism to help with adjusting, say socially or physiologically. Human technology could adapt in at most a matter of decades, while genetic adaptation would takes orders of magnitude longer.

It's like those articles that hedge their outrageous predictions. "Facebook is probably going to be supplanted in 5 years, but then again they own Instagram and WhatsApp, so they might be fine". What is it going to be, Nostradamus?!

It's either going to be supplanted, or it won't be. There is no third option. You're welcome.

You seem confused. No one implied that there was a third option.

False. Facebook could retain all the Boomers, but coexist for awhile with other social media dominating the millennial market.

I wonder why this is downvoted... MySpace and Facebook coexisted in a very similar dynamic for several years before Facebook opened to everyone.

Discussing an unstable mountainous area with a geologist once, he made it sound like collapse was imminent, so I asked him when to expect it. "Oh, any day, now - definitely in the next 50,000 years or so..."

That's the problem with geology like that: the collapse really could happen next week, or not for another 10,000 years.

And you are just telling me now?

On the flip side: "Geologic Time includes Now"

Soon in space-time does mean hundreds of thousands of years. The masses do not appreciate this, respectfully.

Not even in space time. If you consider the age of this planet, hundreds of thousands of years is still a tiny slice of time - especially given that even if you accommodate the possibility that humans have been around possibly only for a few hundred thousand years, in the grand scheme of the 4.53 billion years of existence of earth if reports are considered accurate, it's a blip on the radar, we barely even existed.

And we have only gained the knowledge of this as a species within the last hundred years.

They don't understand the implications. There are many people who take this seriously and dig holes underground, spend thousands of dollars to prepare themselves for the D day ....

I'm stockpiling orgonite right now to protect my family. When the magnetic poles flip that stuff is going to be worth it's weight in gold!

That was a rabbit hole i did not need to spend the last 30 minutes on.

For those who don't have the time like I didn't

Organite is a substance made of resin metals and quartz that balances and harmonizes Bio-energy (known as orgone). Orgone is analogous to chi or prana and is a type of bio-energy that reverses the effect of entropy[0] It seems to be a mix of crystal healing and EMF grounding (also known as earthing)

It can:

  - Neutralizes emf radiation.
  - Clears negative energy.
  - Aids in meditation.
  - Supports restful sleep.
  - Enhances lucid dreaming.
  - Relieves stress.
  - Purifies the living area.
  - Can detoxify water.
It is, of course, completely bogus.

[0]If your theory is found to be against the second law of theromodynamics, I give you no hope; there is nothing for it but to collapse in deepest humiliation. - Arthur Eddington

The rabbit hole goes deeper than that.

You should research Wilhelm Reich[1], a student of Freud's who came up with the term "orgone", who fled to the US to escape the Nazis only to have his writings confiscated and burnt by the US government, which imprisoned him until he died.

[1] - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilhelm_Reich

"Until he died" being a year, days before his parole, lest anyone think the US government sentences people to life in prison for quackery.

I think this is underappreciated ethical dilemma, rather like Typhoid Mary. I don't think that Wilhelm Reich thought of himself as a quack, or a fraud - he was more of a kind of technological mystic. While he himself was doubtless earnest, this kind of thing really is memetically dangerous - Scientology, for example, is a deliberate and successful attempt to weaponize it. Even now, people do crazy things like "seed" areas with "orgonite" to dispel "negative energy" - that is, they litter the ground with bits of metal encased with resin. A whole religion of woo, just from a few years of exposure to Reich's ideas.

So what is one to do with someone who is earnestly good-intentioned, highly charismatic, and completely stark-raving mad?

>So what is one to do with someone who is earnestly good-intentioned, highly charismatic, and completely stark-raving mad?

Ignore them as you should any other crackpot, charlatan or fraud. Don't waste your energy, time or money on them except to be entertained.

"imprisoned him until he died"

True? He died a year in to a two year sentence for violating an injunction against him from committing fraud by selling his orgone accumulators.

But every time it rains You're here in my head Like the sun coming out Ooh, I just know that something good is going to happen...

"It is paradoxical, yet true, to say, that the more we know, the more ignorant we become in the absolute sense, for it is only through enlightenment that we become conscious of our limitations. Precisely one of the most gratifying results of intellectual evolution is the continuous opening up of new and greater prospects."

~Nikola Tesla

You just reminded me that my mum was big on homeopathy and regularly gave me homeopathic sand as a kid: https://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/fda/fdaDrugXsl.cfm?set...

She also liked Bach flower remedies, and took one in particular for her memory…

She now has severe Alzheimer’s and, conversationally speaking, is no better than a Markov chain with a ~1000 symbol vocabulary.

Sounds like this stuff would be amazing to put in my ham shack!

> It is, of course, completely bogus.

So sure are you, hmmm??

Try putting that rock in toxic water and drink it and we'll see what happens.

I think a rock that makes you immortal would be worth a hell of a lot more than its weight in gold..

Ach, I was joking y'all.

Betteridge's law of headlines: "Any headline that ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no."

If we were pretty certain this was going to actually happen, the article would be: The Pole is flipping soon! Here's what you need to know. etc

When dealing with geologists and cosmologists, 1000 years is the textbook definition of "soon".

Quite right. In fact on geological and cosmological timescales, "in 1000 years" essentially means, "momentarily."

The modern measurements which underpin this observation have interesting parallels to the Vedic timekeeping of the Upanishads. Barely a (Brahma) day has passed since the beginning of the universe, and orders of magnitude more time must pass before Vishnu will blink for the first time :)

Articles on the fear of the Earth's field flipping are, as expected, not very realistic. The best current knowledge is that it takes thousands of years for the field to flip and the current fluctuations are within normal bounds. The wikipedia article on the Earth's magnetic field[1] is pretty good. See relevant quote from it below. Scientists recently updated the standard Gaussian coefficients used to describe the Earth's field a bit earlier than the usual 10 year adjustment. This is because the field has changed a bit quicker than the recent past and people are more interested in having a high accurate model these days, among other reasons. The release of this new model is why these kinds of stories are in the news at the moment.

The Earth's magnetic field is created mostly by the convecting liquid iron/nickel outer core of the Earth. It is a quite turbulent system and can not be modeled very well for numerous reasons. Here are a few:

The pressure and temperature is so high that depth (2900-5100km below the surface) in the Earth that is impossible to create similar conditions on the Earth's surface for more that milliseconds on milligram samples. The only measurements that can be made of the core are from seismic waves passing through thousands of kilometers of the heterogeneous Earth. We have decent measurements for the Earth's magnetic field only since people have been recording compass readings (1600AD or so) and really good global measurements only since satellite readings starting in the 1960's. IAAPM (I am a paleomagnetist)[2] and am happy to answer questions about this topic.

"At present, the overall geomagnetic field is becoming weaker; the present strong deterioration corresponds to a 10–15% decline over the last 150 years and has accelerated in the past several years; geomagnetic intensity has declined almost continuously from a maximum 35% above the modern value achieved approximately 2,000 years ago. The rate of decrease and the current strength are within the normal range of variation, as shown by the record of past magnetic fields recorded in rocks."


When you say the pressure conditions can be recreated for milliseconds, is this using a diamond anvil or some other technique? Beyond that, I just wanted to thank you for this post, and your reply to someone else higher up in the thread. Reading the views of subject matter experts is what drew me here in the first place.

Diamond anvil tech is just advancing into the realm where the pressure of the surface of the outer core can be held for long enough for chemical reactions to reach equilibrium. That is, to be highly useful to see what might be happening in the core. Heating up to high temperatures at the same time is an added difficulty and can only be done for a shorter time periods. I'm not an expert on diamond anvils, but follow the advancements some. It is how we are going to actually get a good idea of the possibilities of what goes on in the deep Earth. It would be really cool if humans decided to try and tunnel the 3000km to the core so we could sample it directly and be able to do long timescale experiments on bulk samples. I don't think physics fundamentally prohibits such a thing.

By short time I mean that some physical properties of matter at high temperatures and pressures can be determined by observing high velocity collisions or explosions, but these are short lived phenomena. A lot of effort has been spent on experiments like this for understanding how nuclear bombs behave. Some of those experiments help inform, say, the properties of iron under high temp and pressure and have been declassified so us mere Earth scientists can learn about it.

Thanks for the detailed answer. Can you recommend any good publications, books or blogs that relate to this subject?

I don't know your background, so it is hard to know what to recommend. If you have a PhD in a subject area then in theory you should have enough general knowledge to be able to effectively read a recent review article explaining the state of the art in some sub-discipline. I can then use the references in that paper to read about the concepts and ideas I am not familiar with and I think are important to understand.

Using google scholar (not regular google), I found this recent article "Contributed Review: Culet diameter and the achievable pressure of a diamond anvil cell: Implications for the upper pressure limit of a diamond anvil cell" https://doi.org/10.1063/1.5049720

I would read this to update my ideas about what diamond anvil cells can do right now.

Then, if I wanted to actually use one or find out if I should use one, I would talk with one of the authors of a paper referenced in the review paper that I thought was good and dealt with the particular reason I wanted to use one.

That was a bit long winded. Hope it helped.

That was great, not long-winded. That paper is a great starting place, and I can’t thank you enough for your posts. Have a great weekend!

A few trivia items from the BBC QI elves:

"Jupiter’s magnetic field has two south poles."

"Roughly every 11 years, the magnetic field of the sun reverses, north becomes south, and south becomes north. The same thing happens on Earth, but only about once every 300,000 years."

"The magnetic North Pole is moving about 55km per year at the moment. Last year it wandered over the international dateline and ended up in the Eastern hemisphere."




The Sun has multiple magnetic poles that are in constant flux.

I wanted to share one of my favorite sites: https://www.pssurvival.com/ Pole shifts are popular among "preppers" which in my opinion tend to be quite eccentric. However this website is full of great information that we often take for granted.

I have no idea what that site is, but this is the introduction:

This is a shift of the earth's crust with respect to the earth's core generated north and south magnetic poles. Earth's magnetic poles are created by the flow of ions in the earth's core and is somewhat closely aligned to be parallel to the axis of rotation. We expect about 90 degree shift of the crust as planet-X passes earth's orbit on its way through our solar system. The new North Pole will be off the coast of Brazil and the new South Pole is off the coast of India. It is associated with lots of other earth changes before, during and after the pole shift. See the following description for more details.

Yeah whoever made this site is bat-shit crazy. But there is tons of great information here. Anything from making soap the old fashioned way to brushed and brushless DC motors. Its really cool and wouldn't be the worst thing to have printed off and saved in a fallout shelter.

I've always thought it might be cool to package up a bunch of literature on a stack of SD cards and package them with a low power e-ink reader and a solar panel to charge it, then market as a "reboot civilization" kit.

The hardest part is actually finding a generic e-ink reader with an sd card slot that doesn't cost $500. It shouldn't need to run full android, just show a PDF or TXT, that's all it needs to do.

An offline wikipedia dump, emergency medical manual and PDR, survival manuals, etc etc like this site might go well.

Anyone that has messed with a Raspberry Pi will tell you that you don't want to hang the hopes of humanity being rebooted on a consumer-grade SD card. And since I'm nit-picking, any scenario necessitating the rebooting of civilization might very well involve something that fries SD cards and takes the silicon in your solar panel with it (nukes, big solar flare thingy).

Boy Scout Field Guide and an Army survival manual, sorted.

Nukes and solar flares can be protected against: just seal your electronics in a good faraday cage. Putting them in an underground bunker in a lead-lined room should do it.

Your paper books won't last as long: today's paper is acidic and falls apart within a century.

I write these words in steel, for anything not set in metal cannot be trusted. I have begun to wonder if I am the only sane man remaining. Can the others not see?

Sneaky Mistborn reference!

Why would you seal your electronics in a Faraday cage to protect them against solar flares? Solar flares won't affect them.

> Your paper books won't last as long: today's paper is acidic and falls apart within a century.

I love old books, and this saddens me.

How old? If you like books that are more than a century or so old, then don't worry, those books were made with high-quality paper that really does last. It's the books in the 20th century that won't. (Some might, higher-quality ones say "printed on acid-free paper", so theoretically those will age as well as books made in the 1800s.)

Just have some monks transcribe the books every century or so.


You can buy acid free archival paper that will last 500 years with careful storage. It costs ~3-5x as much, but is available.

You can, but you're probably not going to find whatever books the OP was referring to printed on that paper. You'll have to scan them and print them on that paper yourself (assuming that laser toner will also last as long; probably so, given it's basically melted plastic, but I'm not sure).

Most of the discussion was around things like Wikipedia and other internet knowledge which you would have to print anyway. For books you would buy, or course what the publisher will agree to sell you is a limit - and you are probably not big enough to get an acid-free version printed.

Though if civilization collapsed bad enough to need this I think most of the useful information I'd want saved was published in the 1800s and so out of copyright. We wouldn't be able to use the knowledge of how to make a transistor until long after even acid free paper was useless.

>We wouldn't be able to use the knowledge of how to make a transistor until long after even acid free paper was useless.

What are you talking about? Transistors don't require some huge industrial base to build; the first one was made with some gold and a germanium crystal. A lot of technologies don't build on top of older technologies, they bypass them altogether. Your rebooted civilization does not need to go through a phase with fossil-fuel-burning cars to get to electric vehicles, for instance. A rebooted civilization, with stored knowledge of modern technology and enough smart people able to make use of that knowledge would be able to get back to current tech levels pretty quickly, and probably avoid most of the mistakes of the past as well.

As for useful information from the 1800s, that would mean you're losing all the modern medical knowledge, which is pretty important, and much of which does not require advanced technology to utilize. Back then, they barely even understood germs and the importance of washing hands (surgeons didn't even bother!). That alone saves tons of lives, and requires no real technology at all.

I can make a simple transistor, but what good will it do me? Modern electronics needs billions of them - something I cannot do, and the details to scale my simple transistor require a large society to make use of.

I do agree that there are a lot of things we have learned that do apply, but a lot of modern medicine requires laboratories that we wouldn't be able to build. Hand washing only goes so far, can you make a polio vaccine in your kitchen? Can you make an ibuprofen pill - pure enough to safely use?

http://thewikireader.com/ update: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/help-distribute-wikireade...

I don't have one - my phone contains an offline wikipedia dump (including images), offline maps of the world including geological maps, medical manual, and my book collection, including things like http://the-knowledge.org/en-gb/.

I've got a vague plan to download the primitive technology youtube videos too.

So once "the end" comes, you'll be set for a good 4 hours before your phone runs out of battery?

You could recharge your phone using sticks (https://www.rei.com/product/115523/biolite-wood-burning-camp...) or a solar panel.

I wonder what the longevity of something like that is. And for solar panels what do you do if it's a supervolcano that blocks out the sun? The real solution is a radioisotope thermoelectric generator which will give you a few hundred watts for decades. But I don't think they sell those online...

My phone lasts a good 20 hours!

Also, I do have a solar cell, but yeah, modern phones aren't really designed for post apocalyptic conditions surprisingly.

Fortunately, all that is also useful in tunnels, underground bars, the countryside and when travelling abroad.

For what it's worth, I have an old cheap LG phone that I once accidentally sent through the laundry and it was fine.

By offline Wikipedia dump, you mean Kiwix?


Well Kiwix is the reader software rather than the dump. I use a huge dump that includes images, but there are lots of choices inluding other reference works and in other languages (useful for learning). I've used a number of different offline readers over the years, TomeRaider, Aard, but kiwix is the one I use at the moment.

Wait, is there anybody else other than the guys behind Kiwix who regularly make compact archives of Wikipedia? The only place I know of where you can download a premade archive (rather than archive it yourself) is off their servers.

I don't know about regular, but there are lots of dumps out there, and you can make them yourself if you have your own preferred format. Lots more information here:


It's a thing in the prepping community. The "package up a bunch of literature" (in electronic form) predates e-readers even, and there are many multi-gigabyte bundles of books and technical manuals floating around, just copied from person to person. When readers appeared, they were quickly incorporated.

Finding a e-ink reader like that is very easy: just go to eBay, and grab any of the used Nook Simple Touch on sale. Can be had for less than $20 if you look around, and it has an SD card slot.

Look at the Kobo brand of e-readers; mine was pretty cheap and automatically accesses any epubs on the microsd card inserted.

(Probably other formats too, but epubs are all I use)

When I was interested in “survival” type topics back in the 80’s, there were a few magazines devoted to the topic, and I remember an ad for a large collection/library of useful basic information (how to make soap, butcher an animal, etc.) all placed on microfilm cards and came with a simple mechanical magnifier/reader. No power or fancy tech required.

> "reboot civilization" kit

Or, as was known in Fallout, the Garden of Eden Creation Kit (G.E.C.K.)

The original Kindle has an SD card slot, swappable battery, and is available on eBay for cheap.

Right, like that, but where do I get new ones with similar specs to VAR? There don't seem to be any.

Almost room for a new hardware platform here.

The site recommends building domes out of Sulphur. That doesn't seem like very good advice. As a non-expert in survival, I'd be wary of trusting anything written by a person with a creative interpretation of what's real and what isn't. You never know what else they're having unconventional opinions of.

Yeah, we don't want any unconventional ideas to slip through; cause that might lead to changes, and evolution and all sorts of scary shit.

Yeah, in a life-or-death situation after Planet X realigns the poles, I definitely don't want the experimental survival guide when proven methods exists. I leave the bold changes to bolder people.

>and wouldn't be the worst thing to have printed off and saved in a fallout shelter.

>6922 Files, 14.8 GB

If things get real bad you could always burn it to keep warm.

In print form it's probably a better use of space than a bunch of stuffed animals but I think you're probably better off getting a bunch of cheap android phones and sticking it on the SD card and using most of that space for something else.

"shift of the earth's crust"

So the movie 2012 was based on existing daft ideas or did they get those ideas from the movie?

"shift of the earth's crust with respect to the [...] magnetic poles"

This is not incorrect, even if it is a little garden-pathy.

It'd still be far more accurate were "crust" and "magnetic poles" flipped in the statement.

I stopped reading at "as planet-X passes earth's orbit".

I skipped ahead to figure out when they claimed it was going to happen. The document is dated 2013. The summary of the results basically says "calculate it yourself, it's not our fault if it's wrong, but 2014 and 2017 look like the best dates."

I wonder why doomsayers keep predicting the end of the world to be in the imminent future? It makes it way too easy to be proven wrong.

I once had an idea for an erratically-scheduled holiday called "arbitrary apocalypse day". The day after each AAD if the world hasn't ended, you'd roll a D-10 3 times to get a number of days between 0 and 999, and that's the new predicted apocalypse date. You'd select a cause at random (i.e. nanobots, aliens, meteor, supervolcano, nuclear war, pandemic, etc...) and tell everyone that doom is nigh.

In the end, I didn't promote it heavily and forgot to celebrate on the appointed day (or choose the next date). Maybe I should start it back up again.

Because no one would care if it was too far in the future?

That's certainly eccentric to say the least... a mix of some well thought out and valid information completely spoiled by pseudo-science nonsense like references to Planet X and Nibiru[1]...


Lieder described Planet X as roughly four times the size of the Earth, and said that its closest approach would occur on May 27, 2003, resulting in the Earth's rotation ceasing for exactly 5.9 terrestrial days. This would be followed by the Earth's pole destabilising in a pole shift (a physical pole shift, with the Earth's pole physically moving, rather than a geomagnetic reversal) caused by magnetic attraction between the Earth's core and the magnetism of the passing planet.

My favorite part about that particular theory was that in the run-up to May 27th, if Nibiru existed we would all know, due to it by far being the brightest thing in the night sky.

Not that that deterred anyone determined to believe, of course.

I'm impressed by the sheer number of topics posted. Although digging deeper I'm quickly disappointed. A lot of the information is old and has gaps.

Wouldn't it be easier, and arguably smarter, to maintain a offline wikipedia archive? I can appreciate that reliance on a third party may go against the prepper mindset.


I did this on some of my prepaid phones I keep around. The Moto E phones are cheap and capable of plenty of things. I forget how I got the files into the app though. Kiwix is the app in case anyone's interested. Looks like Kiwix just fetches it for you. I recommend getting an SD card with plenty of storage.

I think a collection of the right youtube videos could be far more useful if you actually tried to do anything. Wikipedia can be quite theoretical.

I'm guessing it's actually in progress, we just won't know it for 100 years

As it says in the article, we don't have anything to fear at the surface. Reversals have never been associated with increased extinction. When the field does reverse, it becomes increasingly disordered with higher-order moments dominating. If I recall, the dipole moment of Earth's magnetic field is normally over 90% of the strength. The higher-order moments dissipate faster, so it doesn't reach as far into space.

Given there are lots of species that use the Earth's magnetic field for navigation this is highly surprising. Perhaps there have been mass extinctions but they're not readily found, or our timings are wrong so they don't appear synchronised?

I wonder if there wouldn't be more seismic activity?

The magnetic field also gets very weak (90% drop in intensity and the magnetic pole way down near the equator) quite often. These are call magnetic excursions. They happen at an average frequency of maybe 50 thousand years or so with a high variance. The last big one is called the Las Champ excursion and happened about 41 thousand year ago. Species that needed a strong magnetic field that points north or south to exist would have gone extinct long ago. These species must have ways to survive when the Earth's magnetic field is unstable and weak because that happens on timescales much shorter than species evolution.


That's interesting. Magnetic reversals actually take some time to complete (a few thousand years). If it changes slowly enough, if animals navigate through a learned magnetic field rather than genetic instinct, they'd do fine.

> there are lots of species that use the Earth's magnetic field for navigation

And (possibly) one directly for hunting: http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/notrocketscience/2011/01/1...

No way to download all? Going through one by one, it might be too late already

>>Is Earth's Magnetic Field Flipping Soon?

Yes. then proceeds to define "soon"

Interesting (and possibly related) article about the four yugas in hindu mythology. https://www.speakingtree.in/blog/science-behind-hindu-s-four...

It says {Forbidden}. Any alternative location?

Here's a mirror: https://web.archive.org/web/20160530234212/https://www.speak...

Original link worked for me, fwiw.

So where it is now? In Siberia?

According to this article[0] I happened to read the other day, Canada.

[0] https://www.newsweek.com/earth-magnetic-field-baffle-scienti...

Betteridge's law of headlines: "Any headline that ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no."

So what I'm hearing is the press should reframe their questions to get the results they intend.

"Will world hunger continue into next year?"

That is not a result they want though. World hunger it good for a few stories every year, less people would buy papers without world hunger. (war is better than world hunger for selling papers but they need something else once in a while or people start to recognize patterns and quit buying papers)

Damn their short sightedness!

Does Betteridge's law always apply?

Hat tip to the other two posters for providing serious responses.

If you intended that as a light-hearted witty response (as I believe you did), then you got a chuckle out of me.

But in this case, the answer is "yes".

For values of 'soon' that would be unfamiliar as such to most people.

So should I buy or sell compass-related stocks?

Is it true that when the magnetic field flips suddenly, plane autopilot systems can become confused and crash out of the skies, killing millions en mass?

That would be surprising as the altitude control should be independent from the compass. I'd also wager that more than just the compass is used to determine course. Most likely a sanity check in the control software will kick in and return control to the pilot, just as if the compass(es) broke for some reason during flight.

Primary heading indication is the directional gyro[0] anyway.

And magnetic flips don't happen "suddenly" in the timescale of a plane flight.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heading_indicator

How fast are the flips. I've known about this effect for maybe a couple of decades, but never heard any theories on how fast the flip is.

If the flip is really slow, then that seems to lead to less human catastrophe, but more difficult perhaps for other species?

edit: s/far/fast

The problem with the flips is that they go hand-in-hand with a dramatic weakening of the magnetic field until the new orientation is established. During that time solar storms are not deflected as well and vulnerable electronics will be fried.

If my new tv gets fried during the apocalypse I'm going to be pissed.

IANAPilot, but I got curious once upon a time and studied those. Short answer: yes, they will get confused, but they won't crash out of the skies. Those systems are designed to account for certain perturbations in magnetic fields. However, there are thresholds in place to return control to the pilot if the entire system craps out at that level.

I'd wager that magnetic compasses have faults from time to time and generally don't cause planes to drop out of the sky.


Betteridge's law of headlines applies (though it takes fourteen paragraphs to get there....)


Is this field flipping man made? Let’s spend billions of tax dollars in an attempt to stop the field from flipping. Scientists are always correct.

> Is this field flipping man made?


> Let’s spend billions of tax dollars in an attempt to stop the field from flipping.


> Scientists are always correct.

No actual scientists are arguing that it is man made...

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