back to article NASA: Civilization will end in 2013 (possibly)

In 2013, the earth will be attacked from space, with one possible outcome being mind-bogglingly severe disruption to our tech-centric way of life. "The sun is waking up from a deep slumber, and in the next few years, we expect to see much higher levels of solar activity," says Richard Fisher, head of NASA's Heliophysics …


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  1. Mark C Casey

    That's what you get...

    When you set the barbarians setting too high.

  2. The old man from scene 24

    Not a problem here

    My tinfoil hat will keep me safe.

  3. Pete 2 Silver badge

    I read this story 11 years ago (and probably 22 years ago, too)

    The last time a solar cycle started. Back in 1999 the fear was that with the new fangled internet thingy, the sun's up-coming 11 year cycle (regular as clockwork, since time immemorial) would cause all sorts of nasties, bring down civilisation, cause even more problems than Y2K, destroy satellites and blow up our power grid and give us all cancer (OK, I made that one up)

    Guess what? We're still here.Maybe the odd satellite died - who really noticed? Maybe the odd power line spitzed and sparked - who really cared?

    Now I appreciate that the start of this solar cycle has been unusual, as it's later than expected and the solar minimum we're just coming out of has been lower (fewer sunspots) than previous ones but to start running round claiming that the sky is falling seems a little panicky. Especially when there's dam' all we can do about it, and we're not even sure what will happen anyway.

    Personally I'm planning to wait another 11 years in the expectation that we'll get another "Woe, woe and thrice woe" from the professional fear mongers. At which point I can dust-off this post and we can start all over again.

  4. envmod


    I remember seeing the Northern Lights in East Anglia when I was about 12ish - possibly related to the solar storm in 1989? i was obviously 12 in 1989.... anyway, i was in the car with my Dad driving through the countryside just near St. ives (not the Cornish St. Ives) and we spotted what was clearly the Aurora out of the car windows...pulled over and marvelled at it for a good while... I remember my Dad had a "carphone" back then, a computer and a Psion Organiser (lol) at home that he mainly used for business - I can't remember any disruption to any of it, or any intererference to TV signals, or anything out of the ordinary at all.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up


      Won't a tinfoil hat be a BAD idea if this is true? Probably a plastic bag, firmly tied under the chin, is a better choice. At least it won't pick up energy and fry the outside of your head to a black char.

      1. Ed Blackshaw Silver badge


        You're spoiling our fun!

      2. The old man from scene 24

        Re: Erm...

        No, I'm pretty sure it's safe. It certainly worked that time I was almost abducted by a UFO.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Thumb Up

        parabolic tin foil hat, and long range.....

        its a lot worse than that Grumpy, it wouldn't just fry the top of his head,its FAR worse, tin foil hat's by their very nature collect and concentrate any radio magnetic energy into a focal point much like the young science lad discovering the wonders of the magnifying glass as he cooks the ants and other bugs around him on a slightly sunny day :)

        Now those same parabolic tin foil hat's would be Very handy as you pop them over your low power car battery/Photo voltaic powered wireless routers Ariel's to make LOTS of Open community longer range WAN/LAN's when your main's powered wireless web goes down.....

        so there's always a bright side to this , finally Lots of OPEN and FREE UK wireless LAN's set-up and functioning , so lower ISP bills to pay as You and the other community LAN islands become the WEB with all your UK Freenas connected wireless servers.

        see i told you the UK Govt/Ofcom should have given some of that old analogue TV freq for free community lead long range wireless WAN use and encouraged the WiMax and 11N OEM's to actually make low power (generic 12v dc or less, as in easy to power off grid if needs be.wanted) wireless mass produced end user long range Wimax wireless routers in these free to use ranges and sell them in the shops as soon as possible LOL

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Black Helicopters

          Sort of..

          They amplify the frequencies used for GPS and sat communications.

    2. Anonymous Coward


      well the council say its good to re-cycle, so good for you...Pete 2

      after all the more ordinary end users recycle their rubbish at source, the Less people these re-cycle companies making money off your rubbish need to actually Pay someone to do that sorting in bulk.

      Ohh, don't forget to put a used £10 note in your recycle bin every week as these companies can use that in a more direct way to help their quarterly profits....

    3. elderlybloke

      Regular as clockwork?

      Pete 2- Approximately, or about , or somewhere near it.

      Also remember the Maunder Minumum of a few centuries ago-

      From 1645 to 1715 sunspots were very rare.-practically nil etc.

    4. Mostor Astrakan


      You don't think the Government will let you buy REAL tin foil, do you?

    5. foo_bar_baz

      Dejavu indeed

  5. Frank Rysanek

    good for the business

    If this FUD turns out to be true, some devices will die. For various reasons, I'd expect overly old and maybe overloaded devices to die. The weakest links will blow. This might result in a burst of investment into power transmission and IT / Telco equipment, as well as some techie gadgetry "consumption spending" from end users. Short power blackouts are not a problem. As far as telco/data communications are concerned, the backbones have been based on fiber optics for ages, and in some countries wireless links are also quite widespread. If the old residential telco copper gets disrupted, maybe it's not all bad news :-)

  6. James Le Cuirot

    Magnetic discs

    Could this potentially affect magnetic discs? Maybe it's time I invested in an SSD...

  7. Connor

    It's Game Over Man! Game Over!

    Yeah, cos NASA did a really great job with this whole Global Warming business that they started. So I'm not going to start wearing my tin foil hat just yet!

    1. Ed Blackshaw Silver badge


      The 'whole Global Warming business' was 'started' by anyone with a working knowledge of physical chemistry. But hey, never let little things like facts get in the way of your rhetoric. If you couldn't be arsed to pay attention to your science lessons at school, don't go pretending that you know more about a subject than people who spent years studying it.

      I know it's popular to jump up and down and say 'global warming is a myth', particularly since the tabloids, and industry-led lobby groups are so keen to encourage you to do so, but I really wish people would stop, think, and educate themselves once in a while.

      And by the way, feel free to wear a tin-foil hat. It won't do a thing to protect you from a solar storm, but if we get a REALLY big one, it might just act as an inductor. Lets just hope that the magnetic field gradient doesn't run between your head and your feet, eh?

      1. Matthew 17

        please educate me then :)

        Post a link, a graph a paper, ANYTHING that shows a correlation between mean global temperatures and CO2, particularly anthropogenic CO2 (not a small, cherry-picked snippet of data over 20 years but something over a significant time frame) and all the tabloids and lobby groups etc would see their arse. But there isn't one is there?!

        The Solar storm could cause a problem, previous ones have never caused that much of an impact, there's nothing that can realistically be done to prevent the risk so there's nothing to do other than hope we get some pretty colours in the sky.

        Given the magnetic poles of the Sun and Earth are said to flip in 2012 / 2013 by some too it could be start of a zombie apocalypse. I'll start stocking up on tinned food.

        1. Anonymous Coward

          Sigh.... Go back to school and learn some GCSE.

          Well actually there is but finding links takes effort most people can't be arsed with. But if you check out the Methane / carbon cycle, available in all good GCSE chemistry text books. (I only recently gave mine up in a clearout) had the very same "graph" you talk about. Not that schools use them anymore.

          Alternatively you could go to university and do some paleantology. As part of my studies in what is a very boring subject, I learned about fossil records which include the meteor that killed the dinasaurs and evidence for it, the loss of all life from a super greenhouse effect etc etc. As well as the 1 element to help prove it, It was (iridium isotope if memory serves) not found on earth, but found around the world to have existed in a fine layer at the same time in history

          Problem is 1 bad mistake by some fool in a climate-gate is jumped on by the press, and that is silencing the millions of quieter (because they don't have the media budget) voices saying that it is happening.

          The carbon cycle (the main physical issue that covers methane from cows and all our fossil fuels) puts carbon into the sea as part of it's course, acting as a syphon. All the carbon we put into the atmosphere gets syphoned, the more we do, the more it happens. Leading to the sea becoming acidic, over decades it will become various forms of carbonic acid. Killing all life on the planet because once water becomes an acid on a global scale, nothing grows, it can't be drunk etc. Just because you don't believe it, and just because the press don't report it. Doesn't mean it won't happen. GCSE science when I were a lad, probably not mentioned in todays school. The links are wiki (I know, but the diagram is correct), but you can use google to find more important sites that help explain it better. Problem is it takes effort and journalists don't go for effort, they go for quick wins. Or exclusives.

          For graphs and stuff, a good A level geography book was written by A Waugh.

          Water won't rise when the ice melts because of archimedes principle, another well known physical principle known for centuries. Dara obrien said that on mock the week. I learned that in A level geography, people know it exists, know the reasons. They will rise from thermal expansion (global warming) however. Another physics GCSE lesson. Yet to read a newspaper, none of it makes the headlines. Because it has words of more than one syllabal and won't sell papers.

          1. Matthew 17

            So no graph then

            for CO2 to cause the insulation affect you describe you'd need a much, much higher percentage of it in the atmosphere, not the 0.04% there at the moment, you'd need an atmosphere closer to that of Venus for it to work, What the fossil record, ice core samples and whatnot showed was that the changes to the level of CO2 in the atmosphere rises is largely caused by changes to the global temperature, if the planet heats up then the oceans start to degas and the CO2 goes up, planet cools down the oceans start to absorb it again, there's a lag of about 800 years between temp and CO2, this is because there's a mahoosive amount of water to warm up / cool down. During the last ice-age the level was 17 times as high as it is now and it was cold, there was no thermageddon. So there is no evidence that CO2 drives climate change on planet Earth all there is, is a theory but no evidence to support it, if there was the IPCC would publish it in their assessments.

        2. Ed Blackshaw Silver badge

          Read up on chemistry

          Because I'm not going to spoon feed you all the facts I learned over a number of years at school and five years at university learning the subject. Here is a summary:

          Carbon dioxide absorbs infrared radiation that otherwise woudl reflect back into space. This causes heating. Ergo, increasing the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere increases the amount of solar radiation that is absorbed. In the absence of any other factors, this leads to heating of the atmosphere. Politicise it all you like, if you argue with those facts, you are arguing against reality.

          And sorry to burst your bubble, but there is a wealth of accurate data that shows (surprise-surprise) that global temperatures have risen over the last couple of centuries. A lot of this is proxy data (e.g. from ice-cores, tree-rings, etc.) and doesn't cover global measurements, so you have to allow for a certain degree of variation.

          What it doesn't show (unless you use dubious techniques to cherry-pick your data) is that the world is getting cooler.

          It is, however, in the interests of those who make a profit from emitting large amounts of carbon dioxide to dispute the scientific consensus (or conspiracy amongst a very large number of people who have never met if you have your tin-foil hat on straight). Oil and coal companies, to name two examples, are well known for forming lobby groups, and disguising them as 'think-tanks' to 'argue the controversy' about global warming. The same peope can be hired to argue against evolution, and were hired for a number of years to argue on the behalf of tobacco companies that cigarettes do no harm (you can, in fact, find the information relating to this openly on the internet). I, for one, would be a little disinclined to believe what I am told by such people without a VERY large pinch of salt.

          Ironically in all of this, the basic priciple of science is to doubt what you are told and to find out for yourself. Because most people do not have the resources to do all possible scientific research themselves, we have a thing called 'peer review', where results of such research are published for all to see, with experimental methods, conclusions, etc. so that they can be repeated by others. This gives a reasonable level of confidence that these results are correct.

          Given the results of the scientific process (such as the computer I am currently typing this on), I have a fair amount of confidence in the fact that this system works. Although it does have a few flaws, when it comes down to it, to attack science is to attack rational thought. Sadly, the quality of education is now so poor in this country that people don't seem know what rational thought is, let alone be able to employ it.

          1. Anonymous John

            Re Read up on chemistry

            "In the absence of any other factors"

            That's the point. There are other factors.

            "but there is a wealth of accurate data that shows (surprise-surprise) that global temperatures have risen over the last couple of centuries."

            Does anyone dispute that? it was the end of the Little Ice Age (in Europe anyway). The Sahara has only been a desert for the past 4000 years. The climate is quite capable of changing without our help. Our biggest problem is that we no longer have the option of relocating a sizeable chunk of the population. There are just too many of us.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward


          "there's nothing that can realistically be done to prevent the risk so there's nothing to do other than hope we get some pretty colours in the sky."

          actually Matthew 17, EMP (electro magnetic pulse) as is being described here, CAN only cause fried electric kit IF your kit is actually powered up at the time of the activity , the same applies for the power grid.

          if they had simply shut the grid down before any such electro magnetic radiation hits that area of the earth ,then the extra EM power induced by the sun cant really overload the power lines, if the Canadians and the telegraph companies before them etc had given prior warming and then just shut the power OFF until the sun EM peak had passed then there would have been No real longer term problem or to many broken bits.

          OC now the UK home's are virtually all gas fuelled central heating and it cant actually work without a mains power to ignite and pump the water, or run the shower pump, electric cooker etc and no manual override then your screwed.

          you cant even do the 1970's thing were all your council homes at least had functional open fire places so you could get boiling a kettle on the open coal fire to get hot water to make up baby's feed or bake a spud LOL, so small bonfires and barbecues will be a rage for a while

          1. Someone Else Silver badge

            Uhhh, Ahem

            "actually Matthew 17, EMP (electro magnetic pulse) as is being described here, CAN only cause fried electric kit IF your kit is actually powered up at the time of the activity , the same applies for the power grid."

            Uhh, not quite.

            EMP is a very short risetime pulse of energy. Short risetimes in waveforms mean that there are a lot of harmonics in the wave. These harmonics tend to like to find antennae that are tuned to them, and due to the "right hand rule", will induce a current on a properly tuned antenna (like, for example, a trace on a circuit board that happens to be oriented in the right direction). This current is induced on such a trace whether or not the circuit containing the trace is energized or not. If the current induced is of sufficient magnitude, it can damage an IC that is attached to the trace. Milliamps can do it, depending on the component. Now the damage may not be the spectacular blow-the-lid-of-the-chip, let-the-magic-smoke-out stuff that appears on TV, but a damaged chip still wont work. If the circuit is "off" when the damage occurs, you really won't notice it until you turn the thing on again. But if it is fried it still won't work.

            If by "turning it off' you mean to physically isolate the traces from their associated ICs and such, then yes, a "turned off" device will exhibit no damage.

            So the question is: Will this impending solar storm result in a pulse of short enough rise time to contain damaging harmonics? (Distance tends to damp higher frequencies, and the sun is a bit of a hike away. So does water, as would be found in, say, clouds....) Will it also be of sufficient amplitude when it finds its target IC trace to induce a current of sufficient amplitude to do any real damage. I dunno...I guess we'll have to wait and see.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Jobs Horns

              short enough rise time to contain damaging harmonics?

              i take your points in good faith someone else, micro electronic traces are as you say more susceptible, there may be a good business plan brewing there to make a run on suitable Faraday cage sleeve covers production for the iPAID and related new mac kit.

          2. peter_dtm

            EMP - chip killer

            Sorry; EMP fries any electronic equipment not in a faraday cage, it matters not if it's on, off or any other state.

            Quick faraday cage : wrap in kitchen foil, place in tin ( or metal box) bury in garden - a couple of feet was recomended for protection from nuclear bomb generated EMP.

            No faraday cage, no electronic kit left - though core memory may survive !

          3. Nigel 11

            Not EMP (as usually understood)

            EMP normally refers to the effect of a megatonne sized nuclear explosion in the upper atmosphere above you (at least 50 miles up). Since there's little air there to make a fireball, a lot of the energy comes out an a near-instantaneous electromagnetic pulse that can induce damaging voltages in quite short (inch-scale) bits of wire. Exit most civilian electronics along with the power grid. The one thing that is sure to survive are the nuclear submarine fleets (half a mile of salt-water is really good screening), so expect things to get even worse thereafter.

            A solar storm creates a very slowly changing magnetic field, but on a global scale. Small-scale wiring won't notice any significant effect. Anything involving hundreds of miles of wire will pick up a large induced DC (actually cycles-per-hour AC) current. Transformers designed for 50Hz or 60Hz can't handle DC. They overheat and catch fire, if someone or something doesn't disconnect them first. So the best case is a managed grid black-out for the hours-long duration of the storm, and <tin hat on> the worst case is that all the transformers explode and our civilisation collapses as surely as if we'd been nuked, except we get to starve, rather than being incinerated.

            Why am I feeling so cheerful today?

            1. Nigel 11

              One other thing

              The danger to satellites isn't the magnetic field, it's the high-energy charged particles whizzing through them. Lots of charged particles whizzing past Earth is of course an electric current, which is what creates the global magnetic field fluctuations that induce currents in terrestrial electricity grids ... I digress.

              So satellites get killed by ionizing radiation, as would astronauts if they couldn't make a rapid return from orbit or shelter behind a foot ot two of something solid. Exit GPS, Inmarsat, 21st-century weather forecasting. Fortunately most modern telecomms is terrestrial fiber-optics. Here on Earth, the atmosphere stops the radiation, and we get to watch spectacular Auroral displays caused by the upper atmosphere getting ionized. And the power grid is down (temporarily, one would hope) so there's no man-made lighting to interfere with the display.

              Echoes of Asimov's "Nightfall"?

        4. Rob Crawford

          Here we go again

          Even if global warming (due to CO2 caused by the use of fossil fuel) is a myth should we still not consider ourselves complete retards for behaving as if we are trying to burn all the worlds fuel reserves as quickly as we can?

          No I'm no eco freak but if I was stuck in a desert I would drink my entire water supply as quickly aspossible because I'm not fuc**ng stupid.

          So regardless of CO2 and global warming we need to do something reasonably sensible (for once)

          Who says the earths magnetic field is due to flip in the next couple of years, considering we are over 600K years late (taking 200K years as the average gap) you seem to know something that the scientific community can manage.

          If so do you have any accurate dates (+-5 years will do) for the following:

          The next large object / earth collision (it's also very overdue)

          When that large chunk of the Canary Islands will slip into the sea and devastate the Eastern seaboard of the US

          When the Yellowstone caldera make it's full majesty known.

          When the N50 night bus will actually arrive ?

          No I thought not

        5. Anonymous Coward

          Yadda yadda yadda

          "Post a link, a graph a paper, ANYTHING that shows a correlation between mean global temperatures and CO2, particularly anthropogenic CO2 (not a small, cherry-picked snippet of data over 20 years but something over a significant time frame) and all the tabloids and lobby groups etc would see their arse. But there isn't one is there?!"

          Funnily enough it was just such a graph - covering about 100,000 years - that I showed as part of the 1st year of my Geology degree back in the early 90s.

          Back then, of course, it was simple science and no one really batted an eyelid. Now that we've had various loonies like yourself ranting about how it can't be possible we're supposed to pretend that its a controversy and some sort of great plot by evil scientists who want us all to live in caves or something. But back then it was a simple fact and the talking point was whether it would matter in our life times. The truth is there is no controversy and there is no controversy, unless you count the the existence of Santa as a controversy.

          Back in 1859, when Global Warming due to human action was first talked about, NASA was in its infancy (what with not existing and all) but the science was pretty well the same. Then we had about 150 years of being told - mostly by industrialists and then oil companies - not to worry about it. Rather like the tobacco-industry research that proved that cigarettes are safe, that's achieved exactly fuck all, so now I think it's time to draw a line under the "it's not happening" lobby and get on with actually sorting the problem out.

          I suppose you want to wait another 150 years "just to be sure".

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Errr... Ed, give it up already - the cover is blown

        It isn't a myth - it's a HOAX to keep the mythers employed faking data, making charts designed to trick the unwary and have tons of cash sent their way. After all, THEY are the all wise, all knowing degreed folk that will save us from ourselves...


        Well then, that should fan the flames a bit...

      3. elderlybloke

        Dear Ed Blackshaw

        I believe very little of what I am told.

        About 50 years ago my boss said " You can't believe half the lies your told" .I believed that, but very careful about everything else.

        Been a good practice for half a century.

    2. Anton Ivanov

      SSD is worse

      SSDs, flash and memory are going to suffer effects that are probably much worse than a disk.

      Dunno, current which is sufficiently strong to short a telegraph wire may be strong enough to heat up the latest generation of foil used for insulation. That may be fun...

      1. Nigel 11

        Your disk/SSD is safe-ish

        The biggest problem is large induded near-DC currents in long-distance AC transmission lines. Small-scale DC-isolated systems, such as the innards of your PC, are safe from anything that doesn't come in down the mains cable. (I'm assuming all datacomms is Ethernet or similar - HF transformer-coupled - or optical fibre).

        What might come down your mains cable? The usual: surges, sags and spikes, if or when all hell breaks loose on the national grid. Buy a UPS if you are really worried. Otherwise rely on the way a switch-mode PSU works. It rectifies the mains to get HVDC, runs an oscillator off the HVDC, and feeds the result through a high-frequency transformer. Mains transients may well fry your PSU, but should not create dangerous voltages on the low-voltage regulated side even if the PSU smokes out. I've seen plenty of PSUs taken down by a local power grid event (my local London Electricity sub-station once exploded) but I've never seen a disk die as a consequence.

        The bigger question is how safe is society, if a significant fraction of the national power grid is damaged beyone rapid repair? Here lie the nightmare scenarios. No-one is quite sure what a repeat of that Victorian "perfect solar storm" might do do 20th-century power grids. (21st-century power grids using HVDC transmission, are probably more resilient).

  8. Semaj


    I'm no scientist but doesn't this only break things that are currently turned on? If so then I guess most stuff will just have to be turned off. I'm sure humanity will survive.

    (Coat because I'm going to need some kind of protection against the triffids)

  9. Sillyfellow


    laughter abounded at the tinfoil hatted ones. perhaps this attire will soon be the norm. hehe.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Down


      If it's real, all it takes is to have an antenna. Everything conductive can be an antenna, no batteries required. Besides, turning of everything is not a task lightly undertaken. It's not like the power grid has a 30-second boot time, ya know?

      1. Quirkafleeg

        Turning of things

        Around what axis? By how much?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        For the safe shutdown, and same for the start up, I was told when I went to Drax about 10 years ago.Admitidly that was how long it took to turn off the turbines, so it might not be that but it is not a slow thing.

      3. Semaj
        Thumb Up


        Oh ... damn :(

        Post-apocalyptic mad max style world it is then.

  10. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge


    My house has been built like a Faraday cage, will that protect my iPAnts?

  11. Dunstan Vavasour

    Doom Mongers

    I'm sure that it will probably be all right, and that quite a lot of modern technology will mostly work for much of the time.

  12. AndrewG

    Scare Tactics

    What do all those previous examples have in common? The effected long metal lines which are vulnerable to this thing.

    Sattelites loosing comms...yes

    Radio and TVdisruptions...Likely

    iPads turning into chalk slates..maybe

    Power outages..could be (depends on lots of variables)

    Computers jumping up and down and emitting smoke..unlikely

    All the digital watches in the world suddenly having their faces read "DOOM" .. nah

    But an article saying "TV's going to be crappy and GPS users will be driving into lakes" isn't very interesting (or anything we didn't already know). I'd love to see a scientific prediction these days that wasn't over the top.

  13. Ed Blackshaw Silver badge

    That's funny

    Just last week I was reading an article in New Scientist telling me that solar activity is at an unprecedented LOW level, the current cycle of sloar activity being over a year later than expected, and much weaker, with far fewer sun spots than expected. It has been suggested that the previous few decades have actually seen a maximum in solar activity and that the activity level is dying off again, probably for a number of decades.

    Obviously, this is a direct contradiction of what is being reported here, so both can't be right. I wonder which it is.

    1. Ed Blackshaw Silver badge

      And it looks like

      I'm not the only NS reader here...

      1. DJV Silver badge

        Me too!

        There - I've always wanted to post a "me too"

        1. Ed Blackshaw Silver badge

          Me too

          (with the me too)

          1. Anonymous Coward

            me three


    2. GreenOgre

      Hmmmmm, who's right?

      Well, let's see,

      Which publication is widely read and respected by scientists and which one has a history of misquoting scientific papers and refusing to correct the mistakes when requested by the original author?

      Answers on a postcard ...

      Here's a hint:

  14. red hal

    We're all going to die!

    Someone has been watching too many Bay 'splosions movies. For sure all the warnings about what severe coronal mass ejections could do to our oh-so-delicate society are accurate, but 2013? On what evidence is this prediction based? If it is solely the 11-year sunspot cycle

    then I'm far from convinced. A back-of-a-fag-packet analysis of sunspot activity over the last 100 or so years shows that we're in a slow decline in activity with the sun actually shrinking. This is part of a longer cycle, but hardly indicative of imminent space doom.

    It sounds like yet another respected scientist, and Fisher certainly qualifies, has been 'could'ed.

    'Mr. Fisher, is it possible that in 2013 a huge solar flare could severely disrupt life as we know it?'

    'Well, yes, I suppose it COULD happen, but the statistical likelihood of th ..'

    'Thank you Mr. Fisher, we'll be in touch!'


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