Mar 10

Ionosphere, Magnetosphere, Earth

I have had an interest in radio all of my life and things which affect the propagation of radio signals. One of the most significant things that affects the propagation of many radio frequencies is a portion of the Earth’s atmosphere known as the ionosphere which is an area high enough up that shorter wavelength ultraviolet and even shorter wavelength radiation strips electrons from atoms and the atmosphere is tenuous enough that they don’t immediately recombine.

I find it fascinating in ways that go beyond it’s effect on radio propagation. I’ve always had a fascination with the plasma state of matter. I had a particular fondness for arcs and sparks and things you could do with high voltage since my early teens that has not abated, though time to pursue that interest is hard to come by.

Plasma, doesn’t act the same way a normal gas does, the way charged particles interact with magnetic field lines produces an array of behaviors that at times seem organic. Anyone who has observed an auroral display will have some understanding of this. Even though I live at a latitude that is far enough south that strong auroral displays are relatively rare (just north of Seattle), I’ve seen them maybe half a dozen times here and every time I’ve seen them they’ve been different.

One display I saw consisted of a single narrow stream of light that went from the northwest to the southeast. It appeared white in color, it was a narrow concentrated beam that looked like a giant neon, or more properly argon, light across the sky, except that it wriggled about and was full of kinks and bends instead of being straight. It lasted about ten minutes then diffused and faded. I have seen many pictures of auroras, but never saw one like that.

Another one that I saw looked as if you had taken a point light source, shined it off of ocean waves, and projected it onto a giant screen in the sky, the waves moving like ocean waves in real time.

I’ve also seen the more typical displays, the green sheets, patches of red, but seeing it in real time, seeing the motion, gives it a whole different character than looking at a static photograph.

I’ve had the sense that something has been changing for a long time. I get this both from my experience with a hobby of radio and TV DX’ing, and from the aurora. I’ve lived in this area all of my 49 years, but almost all of those auroral displays I’ve seen on the last five years.

This last solar cycle was the most intense on record. That in part accounted for the frequency and intensity of displays recently. The solar cycle is something that historically does change from cycle to cycle. There are periods in history where there have been very few or no visible sunspots, and there have been periods of high solar activity. This last cycle was the most active on record; but at the same time there are other factors.

Cosmic rays also have been on the rise; nobody seems to know why but the average cosmic ray flux has been on the increase in recent years. This two is something that varies and all the factors are not well understood.

One additional factor; the Earth’s magnetic field has been weakening. My understanding is that it has weakened by approximate 50% over the past hundred years. The Earth experiences periodic reversal of the magnetic poles (this is not the same as a physical pole shift, nor has it been associated with mass extinctions or high rates of mutation in the past). We may be headed into a magnetic pole shift; it’s really impossible to say until it happens because sometimes in the past the field has weakened, and then strengthened without reversing.

So we’ve got all these things happening, what does it mean to us? Recently, a study found that there is a correlation between cosmic rays reaching the Earth’s surface and cancer rates; the cancer rates are increased by increased cosmic radiation but there is a 25 year lag between the higher cosmic rays and higher cancer rates. So one thing it means to us is that as more cosmic rays bombard the Earth and more reach the Earth’ surface, 25 years later we’ll see increased cancer.

A greater danger is that to our satellites upon which we are dependent. There is a minor pole in the southern Pacific, that is a magnetic pole that is opposite in polarity to the main south pole, known as the southern Pacific anomaly. At times recently, this has become almost as strong as the main south pole. The Earth’s magnetic field tends to sweep up cosmic rays and particles from the Sun and direct them to enter the atmosphere at altitudes above the Arctic Circle.

On average, the latitude at which cosmic rays enter the atmosphere has decreased by seven degrees over the last 100 years. All of the above factors probably play some role.

I believe the following changes will occur as these changes continue:

We will experience more disruptions in long distance AC power transmission lines. A fix for this that would simultaneously upgrade transmission capacity making it possible to use higher mix of renewables would be to convert lines longer than 300km or so to DC transmission. Only long lines are subject to induction of low frequency currents that destroy transformers. Only the longer lines have significant AC power loses. And DC transmission becomes more economical than AC transmission on lines longer than 300km, so it makes sense to convert only these longer lines.

We will see a high failure rate of our satellites when they appear outside of the regions presently protected by the Earth’s magnetosphere. Already we are seeing this with satellites that go over the Southern Pacific anomaly. There are a number of steps we could take to partially mitigate this effect. We can rely more on terrestrial fiber optics and terrestrial wireless for communications. We can take steps to harden our satellites against radiation. This can include the use of special integrated circuits that have higher radiation tolerances, shielding, and equipping the satellite with it’s own magnetosphere in the form of strong superconductive magnets that deflect high energy charged particles. We can use more redundancy. One area that I feel will be particularly troublesome is the loss of global positioning satellites which we have become so dependent upon for navigation during a time when we also will not be able to depend upon a simple compass.

We will see weather anomalies caused by changes in high level cloud cover and by heating of the upper atmosphere. Cosmic rays entering the atmosphere leave an ionized trial in their wake that serve as a nucleus for condensation encouraging cloud formation. Cosmic rays can also significantly heat and expand the atmosphere. These effects will alter our weather in some ways that are hard to predict.

Radio propagation will be further impacted. We will see increased absorption at lower radio frequencies limiting the range of medium wave signals, increasing atmospheric noise at these frequencies, but higher shortwave frequencies will become usable and we will see the maximum usable frequency rise into the VHF bands more frequently. The highest I have ever seen the MUF rise to was around 200 Mhz, but I expect that we will see new record high MUF’s with noticeable defraction perhaps extending all the way into the visible light portion of the spectrum.

I believe we should be preparing for these changes by fortifying our energy supplies with renewables that we can utilize without causing further problems, so that we have the ability to adapt to changes that come our way.

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Mar 07

Another Approach to Aneutronic Fusion

I ran across this article in Progressive Engineer by Eric Lerner entitled, “Stop the Suppression of an Alternative Energy Source!” and discovered that there is yet another potential fusion technology that I have been totally unaware of.

This isn’t my first encounter with writing by Eric Lerner. Years ago, I read a book he authored entitled, “The Big Bang Never Happened”. While not perfect, it was a very well written book that provided an alternative to big bang cosmology which I believe is much more consistent with observation than big bang cosmology.

Being familiar with this, I know Eric Lerner to be both capable of thinking outside the box as well as just thinking. This article gives some insight as to how these technologies are squelched.

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Mar 05

Calculator Edge

I heard about an interesting site for those who might either be math challenged or lazy, it’s called Calculator Edge, and basically it’s like having a programmable calculator with a whole bunch of formula for various applications pre-programmed in so all you have to do is punch in the numbers.

Be careful though, I did find some of the formulas are broken, particularly at extremes.

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Feb 26

Telluric Currents

Telluric currents are electrical currents flowing within the Earth or ocean water. I first stumbled upon the phenomena in the late 70’s when I experimented with something known as a ghost line. This was a method of sending telegraphy without wires by using the Earth itself as a conductive medium and two sets of parallel electrodes like so:

Ghost Line

At the sending station, a battery was keyed into two set of ground rods that were separated as far as practical and were perpendicular to the direction that it was desired to send the signal. At the receiving station, a similar pair of ground stakes was connected to a sensitive relay or other sensitive detecting device. The earth being partially conductive then acted like a voltage divider and a portion of the battery voltage keyed into the first set of ground rods, 1-2, would appear at the second set 3-4.

This was used during WWI to telegraph messages to a location inside of enemy lines. It wasn’t practical to run wires across enemy lines because they could either be cut or followed to your location.

I was experimenting with sending audio this way rather than just keyed DC voltages, but one thing I discovered early on was that I could measure a voltage between the two ground rods I had places in our back yard. This couldn’t have been due to battery action because both ground rods were copper so there were no dissimilar metals.

The voltages and currents involved where small but still I found it fascinating that current would come out of the Earth. Also, the current would vary from day to night and also in seemingly random manner.

Today it is thought these currents are induced into the Earth as the result of short-term changes in the magnetosphere, conductive ocean water moving across magnetic lines of force, and leakage currents from the Earth’s internal dynamo.

Atmosphere to Earth currents are not considered because it is thought that they have a low value of only 1000-2000 A. I believe this to be incorrect and I believe there is evidence to support this. In spite of mainstream science insisting that Auroras are 50+ miles up, there are many many accounts on the part of Alaskans of the Auroras coming down to Earth, including crackling sounds and the smell of ozone. I have read accounts of a writhing electrical snake taking lives. I have read an account by a chemist of such coming through his laboratory and doing a great deal of damage as well as leaving him with sunburn like burns. I believe these things do happen and that this also contributes to telluric currents.

At any rate; the phenomena is still not entirely understood today although major contributing factors are understood, there are still rapid changes that are not well understood.

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Feb 12

Journey By Starlight

I ran across an interesting blog, Journey By Starlight, that deals with science in a way that is interesting. It is decidedly mainstream in the views expressed, a product of big-bangers’ and relativistic gravity, and I don’t mean to disrespect Einstein, but like Newton before him, his theories are incomplete; and honestly I expect that’s the way it will always be.

Personally though I’ve discarded the “Big Bang” years ago because despite all of the dogma, it just doesn’t agree, even with all the ad hoc fudge factors that were added to try to make it agree, with observation. I could provide a long list of discrepancies with observation but suffice it to say that I don’t believe the Big Bang theory.

Relativity also runs into a few problems, particularly in the realm of gravity. Gravity is better explained, in my view, through shadow theories, for the simple reason that they predict some phenomena which do in fact manifest themselves in nature.

For example, take the three body system of the Sun, Earth and the Earth’s moon. If bending of geodesic space-time coordinates were the explanation, then nothing special should happen when the Moon passes between the Earth and Sun. But in fact, during a solar eclipse, at totality, there is a slight dip in the gravity felt by the earth from the Sun and Moon. This is predicted by shadow gravity theories, but not by relativity.

Still, I think it’s useful to know the old theories and what lead up to what is current; and the old theories still make accurate predictions in most ordinary cases. We can use Newtonian physics for the majority of every day engineering tasks because, unless we approach the speed of light, it’s sufficiently accurate for engineering purposes.

Similarly, relativity fails at the quantum level, and as it happens also at the large scale universe level. However, it’s still useful for many near light speed but relatively local phenomena such as what happens in particle accelerators, nuclear reactors, atom bombs, laser communications systems, etc.

So I’ll just say take a look at this site; if you’re a mainstream big-banger you’ll love it, and even if you’re not it’s hard not to find the writing style fun, entertaining, and easy to comprehend.

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Jan 24

Bussard Fusion Reactor Progress

As you may know by now, Dr. Bussard passed away after losing a battle with cancer, but his reactor lives on. Continued development is now being done by a five member team calling itself EMC2 fusion, with a navy contract (the navy funded the original research).

The next in the series after the WB-6 (originally to be called the WB7) has been built, and in preliminary testing, it has produced energy in accordance with Dr. Bussards calculations. So far, everything is going according to plan. It has not been operated at the full design power levels yet however.

If this unit lives up to expectations, the next reactor built will be a commercial power level reactor. The advantage of Dr. Bussards polywell inertial electrostatic confinement design is that only electrons have to be magnetically confined, and because they have 1/2000th the mass of a proton, this is much easier to accomplish. It does not require superconductive coils or exotic materials as with a Tokamak and the machine is physically much smaller and about 1/1000th the cost.

Further, it can operate with aneutronic fuels such as Be-11/Hydrogen and in so doing eliminate the need for heavy shielding and the neutron activation that comes with neutron producing fuels such as deuterium-tritium used in most other approaches to fusion.

That WB6’s successor is so far living up to design specifications provides optimism that inexpensive clean and abundant fusion energy may soon be available to the world. The small physical size of the machine will make it suitable for some transportation applications such as ships, trains, and possibly even large aircraft.

The economics of the machine will make cheap unlimited fusion power available even to the poorest nations on Earth. This single technological development may completely revolutionize life on this planet.

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Jan 09

Gravity for the Masses

I ran across, “Gravity For The Masses“, doing a semi-random Google search looking for the latest and greatest in scientific breakthroughs.

I like this site; it’s kind of half-baked, but half-baked in a good way. A lot of thought in progress, which for me at least has the pleasant side effect of stimulating my own thoughts. I find myself agreeing with some things, disagreeing with others, but mostly I find myself thinking.

He seems to be on to some ideas, using completely different terminology, and actually some very different views, but some ideas that parallel some thoughts I’ve had.

For example, I think his take on how energy is connected, these connections are truly fundamental, well, I’ve had some thoughts along those lines but not exactly the same.

For example, the photon, usually it connects to electrons changing orbits; maybe billions of light-years apart. But, from the photons standpoint, it’s traveling at the speed of light, it sees infinite time compression, infinite length compression, so from it’s perspective, these two electrons are touching, and the time to get from one to the other is zero. From our perspective, maybe billions of light-years distance and billions of years time. So here is an area where I have had a similar concept though I’m sure I arrived at it entirely differently and we certainly differ in the details.

We are limited in our thinking by our perspectives, but a handful of people have been afforded the opportunity to step out of their ordinary perspective and I think that’s where breakthroughs come from. It’s probably also where psychotic behavior comes from and often there does seem to be more than a casual connection between the two.

As George Bernard Shaw said, “Reasonable men adjust themselves to their environment. Unreasonable men attempt to change their environment to suit themselves. Therefore, all progress is the work of unreasonable men.”

An unfortunate truth is that unreasonableness in and of itself does not guarantee progress, else this last seven years would have been presidential bliss.

I do feel this person’s site, “http://www.starpulls.com/“, is a positive contribution, it provides some new perspectives. So go have a look, lots of reading material there, and regardless of the scientific accuracy, and I think those who think they can judge that accurately are terribly egotistical, it’s thought provoking.

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Dec 26

Asteroid and Mars

I first heard from someone that an asteroid had a 1-in-5 chance of hitting Mars on Jan 5, 2008, that it was the size of the asteroid that impacted Earth 65 million years ago.

Just went to look for details; far less exciting than that, the asteroid is the size that exploded over Tunguska in 1908. It would have been bad if you happened to be directly under the impact; but as it happens it was a remote region that mostly flattened a lot of trees. Not the major planet changing event of 65 million years ago.

The asteroid is also scheduled to possibly hit on January 30th, not January 5th, and the odds of an impact are 1-in-75 not 1-in-5. I am so disappointed but I imagine there might be some relieved Martian bacteria.

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Nov 30

Fringe -> Mainstream

I’ve heard guests on Coast to Coast AM (formerly Art Bell Show) suggest that solar activity could increase the likelihood of earthquakes, that is where you have a fault that is stressed to the point where it’s ready to fracture and slip, a solar event could be a trigger. I’ve also heard guests suggest that HAARP or similar operations could induce earthquakes.

I used to dismiss these people as loony-bins but now I don’t know. I dismissed these things because of the magnitudes involved, HAARP operates with gigawatts of power, and even solar events perhaps terrawatts, but given the volume of Earth, that amount of energy seemed so minuscule compared to the masses involved that it seemed impossible for them to have any significant effect.

But today I ran across this article entitled, “Telluric currents add stress to siesmoactive zones and regulate earthquake activity“. I would have not thought the effects of telluric currents could be so great, and telluric currents are very much affected by things happening in the ionosphere. The ionosphere in turn is very much impacted by solar events, but can also be affected locally at least by HAARP and it’s ilk.

So all of the sudden what I thought was seemingly absurd now has a physical connection and plausible cause.

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