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Articles - The Net vs. Nature

Over the last few days, I've noticed many disturbances on the Internet. Mail has been going missing, a lot of sites have been down. It seems to be a global thing. It can make life pretty difficult if you are building and maintaining sites, or are reliant on the Internet to communicate with family and friends.

So much of our world is now dependent on the Internet to keep things flowing. I still think it's a great tool as the Internet has broken down international barriers. I have met many wonderful people through this medium.

While the difficulties I have been experiencing over the last couple of days are probably coincidental, I remember a point last year when this wasn't the case. It wasn't caused by hackers, or Australia's "extension cord" being cut by a Japanese trawler (again). 

It was the sun....seriously...solar flares.

A solar flare is an explosion on the Sun that happens when energy stored within it is suddenly released. Flares produce a burst of radiation across the entire electromagnetic spectrum, from radio waves to x-rays and gamma-rays - it's a radiation smorgasboard!

The frequency of these flares is tied in with the Sun's eleven year cycle. When the flares peak, radiation forty billion times greater than an atomic bomb, weighing from 1-10 billion tonnes and travelling at approximately 1-2 million mph is flung into the solar system. When the solar cycle is at a minimum, active regions are small and rare. Few solar flares are detected. These multiply as the Sun approaches the most active part of its cycle. The Sun reached its maximum, from what I understand, late last year.

Flares and geomagnetic storms (extreme solar wind caused by charged particles) can have serious ramifications on our communications, navigational tools and power supply. On March 23, 1989, Hydro-Quebec had a 9 hour blackout affecting 9 million people. The cause was a geomagnetic induced current (GIC) due to a large geomagnetic storm. Solar flares can effect cell phone communications, GPS navigation, other satellites and more importantly, my dear friend, business partner and confidant - The Internet.

A little ray of sunshine is sometimes not a good thing, and no, don't rub sunscreen lotion on your modem (I already tried it - had to buy a new modem).

Just to put your mind at ease, here's the current weather forecast from The Space Environment Center:

------------------------------------
"Forecast of Solar and Geomagnetic Activity
21 February - 19 March 2001

Solar activity is expected to be at low levels during most of the
period.

No proton events are expected during the period.

The greater than 2 MeV electron flux at geosynchronous orbit is
expected to be at normal levels during most of the period.

Geomagnetic field activity is expected to be at quiet to unsettled
levels, barring an Earth-directed CME."
------------------------------------

...I feel so much better knowing that, gotta love them protons.....:0)

Michael Bloch
Taming the Beast
http://www.tamingthebeast.net 
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