Okay, I admit it. I am a little bit of a science geek. Growing up in northern California, every kid thought they would be an astronaut or discover more secrets about volcanic activity on the Ring of Fire. I was right there staring at the stars, looking through microscopes at creek water, and magnetizing sewing needles floating on a cork in a bowl of water. Even though I have been working in the telecommunications industry since the late 1980’s and at Technologies Management, Inc. a regulatory consulting firm for last 11 years, I get those school kid goose bumps thinking about Voyager 1 leaving our solar system. Just listen to the sounds of interstellar space from Voyager.
Living and working in central Florida, not far from the Kennedy Space Center, provides plenty of opportunities to sustain a “little bit” of science geekiness. One of my favorite articles this summer is from Todd Hoeksema, director of Stanford’s Wilcox Solar Observatory, regarding the Sun’s magnetic field “flipping” or the “solar maximum.” I have been wondering what effect the solar maximum may have on us Earthlings. Since the sun’s magnetic field changes polarity approximately every 11 years, we are entering a grand reversal period. The Wilcox Observatory began tracking the sun’s polar magnetism in 1976. We were at the halfway point of the solar maximum in August and will be experiencing the peak of the solar weather cycle during the next couple of months. Usually, the height of the solar maximum means BIG sunspot activity. Not so this time around and experts say it is the weakest cycle in 100 years. If the current trend continues, we will have fewer sunspots – which mean fewer solar flares and coronal ejections along with a lesser chance of an increase in cosmic rays, those high energy particles moving at the speed of light. Those particles could damage satellites, impact communications systems, or even injure astronauts and damage the International Space Station.
Like during the Carrington Event of 1859. That “Super Solar Storm” produced auroras that were seen as far south as Cuba and Hawaii. Telegraph systems in Europe and North America felt the impact. Incidents of telegraph operators receiving electrical shocks and resulting electrical currents strong enough for operators to disconnect their batteries and operate the telegraph off of the flare’s electrical current were reported. You have to wonder what THAT kind of flare activity would do to WiFi?
The Earth is a small dot on the very, very big fabric of space. Most of this excitement will be unnoticed as we go about our lives with our sensitive electronic devices, like cell phones and tablets streaming everything to everyone, and plugging in our microwaves. However, in Washington D.C., The House Energy and Commerce Committee, feeling that our power grid is at risk from such an event, introduced a bill in June 2013. The bill, H.R.2417 – Secure High-voltage Infrastructure for Electricity from Lethal Damage Act (SHIELD) has been referred to the Subcommittee on Energy and Power. It is given a 7% chance of getting past committee and a 2% chance of being enacted. Odds are better for me to be able to see the aurora from my back patio in Florida. But hey – at least other people are thinking about it.
Now, how do I reconcile my slight science geek side and my career in telecom? My daily work world of telecom and telecom regulation, which is often mysterious and never dull, and my science interests remind of one of my favorite books: Parallel Worlds by Dr. Michio Kaku, the co-founder of string field theory. I too, live in parallel worlds, and I can handle that.
October Regulatory Seminar from Technologies Management, Inc.
Only a few seats remain.