Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Our little sliver of time

All the news sources--I saw it on Yahoo!, of all places--are churning out stories today about the current state of the surface of the sun.  Three different sources have issued dire predictions about the sleepy sun and what it means for mankind...and not just us hams, who enjoy bouncing signals off an ionized atmosphere.

You know as well as I do that simply saying this cycle is slow to develop is not going to attract much reader interest.  But if you say there is the possibility that the dormancy of Ole Sol portends historic implications, that it could reverse the effects of that evil, man-made global warming, that there could be unknown but potentially catastrophic weather events as a result...heck, even that we are on the verge of another Maunder Minimum, when the sun went to sleep for 300 years and we entered a "mini-Ice Age!"...then you will get some attention.  Attention to your columns, your websites, your blogs, your books, your speeches.

I know it is human nature to see things from a very narrow perspective.  Understanding things like climate change that usually takes eons to be obvious and variations in sunspot minima and maxima that only occur in eleven-year cycles are difficult for us mortals to do.  Geologic time is impossible for us to comprehend in our simple little seven- or eight-decade life spans.  That's why all the junk about rapid climate change (which I consider normal weather variation) has found so many who are willing to swallow it, hook, line and sinker.

I admit I know little about sunspots or solar weather, beyond the fact that more spots equal better propagation on the high-frequency radio bands and pretty displays of the Northern Lights.  But seems to me that it is far too early to say the sun is going to be dozing for the next three centuries simply because cycle 24 is a tad bit slow to get moving.  After all, many of these same "experts" were touting what an active cycle this was going to be...and doing it only a year or so ago.

Reminds me of the high-tech "weather rock" my wife has in her flower garden.  "If this rock is wet, it is raining.  If it is dry, it is sunny.  If it is white, it is snowing."

I'm still hoping for an active solar cycle.  I have somehow managed to be inactive in my amateur radio activities during each of the past two cycle maxima, and I had high hopes for that "arm-chair" ragchew with the Far East on 10 meters in the middle of the day.  But if it doesn't measure up, so be it.  I talked to guys all over the world at the lowest point, after all.

But most of all, I'd like to see everyone calm down a bit and not be so myopic.  We see only a tiny slice of time in our own existence.  Even so-called scientific observations are looking at a pitifully narrow slab of time. 

Put it into perspective before you panic and sell all your ham gear.  Or before you stop gazing northward for a glimpse of the aurora borealis.

By the way, I checked.  There is nothing we can do about the state of the sun's surface, so why worry?

Don Keith N4KC

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