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

    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

    1989?

    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

      Erm...

      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
        Boffin

        Shhhhhhhhhhhh!

        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..

          http://people.csail.mit.edu/rahimi/helmet/

          They amplify the frequencies used for GPS and sat communications.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Boffin

      re-cycle

      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
      Happy

      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

      Hah!

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

    5. foo_bar_baz

      Dejavu indeed

      http://www.theregister.co.uk/2005/09/15/solar_flares_en_route/

  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
    Unhappy

    Magnetic discs

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

  7. Connor
    WTF?

    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
      Boffin

      Errrr

      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
          Boffin

          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.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_cycle

          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.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buoyancy

          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

          EMP

          "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
            Headmaster

            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
            Grenade

            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
            Boffin

            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
              Boffin

              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
          Boffin

          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...

        Bullocks.

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

      3. elderlybloke
        Grenade

        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
      Flame

      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
        Boffin

        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
    Coat

    a

    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
    Coat

    and..

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

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Down

      No

      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
        Headmaster

        Turning of things

        Around what axis? By how much?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        48h

        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

        a

        Oh ... damn :(

        Post-apocalyptic mad max style world it is then.

  10. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge
    Joke

    Sir

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

  11. Dunstan Vavasour
    Happy

    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
    WTF?

    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
    Boffin

    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
      Happy

      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
            Go

            me three

            too...

    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:

      http://www.badscience.net/2009/01/the-telegraph-misrepresent-a-scientists-work-on-climate-and-then-refuse-to-correct-it-when-he-writes-to-them/

  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!'

  15. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    Early warning does exist

    The "Solar Storm" would be a large cloud of charged particles moving at a fraction of the speed of light.

    NASA recently replaced its SOHO probe, which did do early warning, with a new solar observer.

    The warning time could be 15 mins.

    In *principle* this is long enough to split the grid into independent sections and stopping it work like a giant antenna. Provided power companies consider it a *real* threat and are prepared to invest some time in planning what to do and (possibly) getting a few spares for this highly specialized equipment in stock.

    As El reg has reported before such storms could wreck key grid components like the *very* large transformers used in power grids and to power the electric furnaces used in *making* them.

    It may be a solar storm in a teacup but a burst of 20MeV Protons will be no laughing matter.

  16. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

    Somewhat premature

    Predicting sunspot cycles is not such an accurate science. At the moment the sun is very quiet. The sun has gone through much longer periods of very low sunspot activity (Maunder minimum). I do not know of any reliable models that can predict such activity over even a short time span.

    Scaremongering?

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The current solar cycle isn't playing by the rules

    for instance, last year there were nowhere near as many sunspots as expected, indicating an overall decrease in solar activity which is suspected to be the reason for the long, cold European winter of 2009/2010. Obviously it's a good idea to be prepared for the worst, but it's not a huge leap to see the sort of arguments against doing anything that we get in climate change debates.

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge
      Headmaster

      Sir

      Apologies for the pedantry, but

      "The "Solar Storm" would be a large cloud of charged particles moving at a fraction of the speed of light."

      Since everything travels at a fraction of the speed of light, can I suggest that this statement is redundant?

      Perhaps 'significant fraction' would have been more appropriate?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Headmaster

        Pedantry squared

        Photons don't travel at a fraction of the speed of light, unless you consider 1 to be a fraction.

        1. Frumious Bandersnatch Silver badge
          Headmaster

          pedantry ^ 4

          Photons can travel at speeds far less than c, depending on the medium they're traveling in. So it's completely possible for something to travel faster than light. Just not faster than c... but I agree with your original gripe... photons aren't "nothing" despite having no rest mass (we assume).

          1. Ed Blackshaw Silver badge

            e ^ pedantry

            Oh $deity, here we go (I hope I have this right):

            Photons do not slow down when travelling through matter (according to theory). What actually happens is that the photons are randomly absorbed and reemitted by the intervening atoms. Because there is a delay (on the femtosecond scale IIRC) between absorbtion and emission, the light appears to slow down, although the photons themselves always travel at c between interactions. Different wavelengths of light (corresponding to photons with different energies) interact with materials to a varying degree, leading to some wavelengths being slowed down more than others. This is how prisms work. If I am not mistaken, this is (or at least used to be) all taught in A-level physics classes.

            THere is a link for you where this process is explained in more detail:

            http://www.physlink.com/education/askexperts/ae509.cfm

            1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge
              WTF?

              Sir

              Blimey, what have I done?

              1. Ed Blackshaw Silver badge
                Terminator

                Sir Spoon

                You have created a monster!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Boffin

      the galactic alignment red hal

      OC we are ALL going to die red hal, sometime.... we are not immortal after all , only THOR, Jesus, Einstein, and perhaps Elvis Presley depending on your POV are, but then if there's no one there to remember them, then are they still immortal ? , perhaps scholingers cat can tell us....

      any way the main thing to think about is the upcoming galactic alignment, that will have and cause unforeseen , (as we were not here the last time it happened to keep accurate records and the world computer grid isn't computing the potential problems etc) gravitational problems on all the body's in alignment , including squashing and earth and moon etc out of shape more than usual, earth quake slippage and other things combined...... its going to be a fun ride

      http://www.google.co.uk/imgres?imgurl=http://www.2012eyeoftheshaman.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/03/2012__alignment2.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.2012eyeoftheshaman.com/%3Fpaged%3D2&h=305&w=410&sz=34&tbnid=QNb2O0VhhTl3tM:&tbnh=93&tbnw=125&prev=/images%3Fq%3Dgalactic%2Balignment&hl=en&usg=__Kuyl9Su0qZo6i09VPRCEztZC_yM=&sa=X&ei=9_gYTLmPEpr60wTD4d3ACw&ved=0CCoQ9QEwBA

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Pint

      Scaremongering?

      Of course it is! The general public are starting to see through the *$$*! that is the warble gloaming conspiracy, so "they" need to start a new scare story running. How else are they to continue to pinch our civil liberties if we think that there is no cause?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        re: scaremongering

        Yes, but we need to look at *who* is actually doing the scaremongering. What would NASA have to gain by intentionally creating fear? I'm sure they publish tons and tons of reports and articles talking about all sorts of things, it's the publications which *selectively* publish articles intending to elicit emotion enough to read the articles (which brings in more advertising).

        1. MonkeyBot

          What would NASA have to gain...?

          Funding for a giant Faraday cage around the Earth?

  18. RISC OS
    FAIL

    No chance of anyone being bothered by this

    or believing anything will happen thanks to the Y2K claims - remember that? That pesky bug that was going to destroy computers, stop washing machines, dishwashers, mobile phones and cause aeroplanes to fall from the sky? You do? So do most of the people who will be around in 2013...

    Fool me once shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

    Or for our american cousins:

    "There's an old saying in Tennessee I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee--that says, fool me once, shame on--shame on you. Fool me-- you can't get fooled again."

    President George W. Bush, Nashville, Tenn., Sept. 17, 2002

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Yay for solar attacks!

    Bring it on I say!

    Sound's like a laugh, probably beats sitting behind a desk all day anyway.

  20. Steve Powell 1

    New Scientist Begs to Differ

    http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20627640.800-whats-wrong-with-the-sun.html

    Article from last weeks NS explaining how oddly quiet the sun is and how little activity we are likely to see over the next solar cycle.

    So are we gonna be fried by solar storms or not?

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Welcome........

    I for one, welcome our new charged particle overlords.........

    On the bright side of the doom scenario......... most of us will get a few days off work! Only problem is how long you may get off work if the economic effects are as severe as estimated.

  22. PerfectBlue

    Are we really that dependent?

    While this will undoubtedly have some serious effects, I can't help but notice that some of the things that will be disrupted are technologies that we've only recently become accustomed to using, and which much of the world does without.

    We've adapted our lives to the availability of things like Sat Navs and cell phones, but in many cases they aren't essential. They are a luxury product that we've gotten used to, and we could do without them, or work with them at a limited capacity simply by going back to the way we used to do things, like using map books and not texting our friends 2 million times a day.

    Unlike a lot of you, I've spent my share of time living in places that most of you would consider the developing world, so I'm used to blackouts, and not having a cell phone, and I managed to survive pretty well. It was frustrating at times, but I still survived. No electric heating. Use gas, or put on a sweater. No AC, Open a window, or use a solar powered fan. No cell phone, well, that's not as much of a hardship as you might think.

    We just need to harden critical infrastructure and knuckle down. It's not the end of the world, it's just a return to the 1980s for a while.

    1. Ed Blackshaw Silver badge

      haha

      Gotta love a good Bushism

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Y2K

      If a tree falls in the forest does it make a sound ?

      If a bug is found and fixed does that mean it never existed in the first place ?

      1. RISC OS

        Funny

        I don't rememebre anyone going around fixing washing machines, fridges and everything else that was claimbed would fail...

        If something is never repaired could it have been said to fixed?

    3. Quirkafleeg
      Coat

      1980s?

      I'm off to play Solar Maul.

    4. Daniel B.
      Boffin

      Except...

      ... there are a whole bunch of businesses that are now totally dependent on that high tech, even if you don't use it. If it were to happen that, say, a large bank had its systems go down, it would probably mean the end of that bank in a matter of days if it can't be brought up. A big chunk of "money" only exists in cyberspace; take all those fancy computers out, and all your Credit Cards will suddenly become nothing more than useless plastic cards with no value.

      If banks go down, and money goes poof ... well, I'd bet that would be one hell of a market crash. Yeeeeowch!

    5. Anonymous John

      Re it's just a return to the 1980s for a while.

      We had mechanised transport them. Almost all of which is now stuffed full of electronics. Imagine your car with fried computers. Ditto filling stations, BT exchanges. How long does it take to recover when you can only communicate face to face or by letter? And the only working transport is 30 years old?

      There is a huge potential risk to total reliance on computers.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What solar storms?

    I'm a bit puzzled why the media has started going on about the doom of solar storms, while NS is going in completely the opposite direction: It's unusually quiet up there, with a massive lull in activity...

    http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20627640.800-whats-wrong-with-the-sun.html

    1. Martin Gregorie Silver badge

      An odd misconception

      There seems to be an idea going round that each solar cycle is not only 11 years long, but contains a fixed quantity of sunspots and solar storms. For those who believe this it must follow that, after a very long quiet period the sun will have to go crazy with sunspots and storms flying in all directions if its to used them all up to be ready for the next solar cycle.

      Sorry, kids, the idea is stupid: the sun doesn't work like that.

      A long-lasting quiet period does *not* lead to a cataclysmic outburst of solar rage.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Boffin

    Early warning does exist?

    @JS19.. Was a little confused at that bit when I read the NASA PR piece, now a little more clear after reading your post re moving at a fraction of the speed of light, therefore 15 mins...

    So will NASA be giving these early warnings to everyone or will it only be to US telco and grid operators because I guess the warnings will be location specific, seeing how the earth is whizzing around the sun???

    Reminded of one of the early SciFi stories where the dudes hide under a truck during a solar storm, possibly on Mars?? Which one was that I wonder, seem to think it was Asimov....

  25. Ken Hagan Gold badge
    Paris Hilton

    Shurely shome mishtake?

    "It will disrupt communication devices such as satellites and car navigations, air travel, the banking system, our computers, everything that is electronic. It will cause major problems for the world."

    Er, I don't know if you've been paying attention recently, but...

    satnav, already fucked (but good for funny items at the end of the news)

    air travel, already fucked (ash clouds)

    banking, already fucked (duh!)

    computers, already fucked (isn't this the point of El Reg?)

    ...but somehow we're still here.

    1. Frumious Bandersnatch Silver badge

      list of fucked things

      you forgot the bees. And a lot of the amphibians too, but we don't think they're as cute.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Since we haven't really done it before, nobody is sure how it is going to work.

      And that's part of why its making the news at the moment.

      The literature I've seen inside my corner of the government system says that NASA is only providing the detection equipment, but NOAA and more specifically the NWS (hence Fisher being quoted in this article) will provide the space weather forecasts and early warning alerts. The bits I've read don't go into the details of how those alerts will be sent. While I could go looking for them and talk to some of the folks involved, I prefer not to so I can't be blamed for spilling the beans or saying something I'm not authorized to say. For instance that this is likely to be as much about fighting for funding of the related programs as it is about the actual dangers involved. The dangers certainly are real, but I worry the politicization of the issue to enhance funding will undercut the moral authority to mobilize people and companies in the event of an actual emergency.

  26. Graham Bartlett

    @RISC OS

    Nice to see you have no experience in software or industry. There is one very good reason why the Y2K bug didn't take down anything serious - and that is BECAUSE WE DID SOMETHING ABOUT IT!

    Would you stand by a seawall during a storm, with waves breaking off the wall, and say "well we're not getting flooded, so this was a right waste of money"? Or after the firefighters have put out the fire in your house, tell them "hey, the fire's out so we didn't actually need you after all"?

    Honestly, some people...

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge
      Heart

      Sir

      I must have missed you on the day you came round to fix my washing machine. I must say you did a marvelous job, didn't miss a beat from the Y2K thingy - Thanks :)

    2. RISC OS
      FAIL

      Nice to see you have no experience reading and understanding comments

      "Nice to see you have no experience in software or industry. There is one very good reason why the Y2K bug didn't take down anything serious - and that is BECAUSE WE DID SOMETHING ABOUT IT!"

      Didn't know that was a requirement for coming to this site... and most people won't either so there be thinking the same as me.

      The only thing that was done was con people in to paying for programmers to make sure software was Y2K ready... I wouldn't feel ripped if it wasn't for the fact that all theses programmers afterwards were writing comments at sites like this saying how mouch money they were making from a problem that didn't exist.

      Did you come and fix my dishwasher, my neighbours? Did anyone? What about my TV? Well then nothing was done was it.

      1. Old Marcus
        Stop

        Hard to believe, I know...

        But there is a difference between a bank's data servers and your dyson.

        Programs that were dependant on dates had to be fixed because they used the shorthand date system (01/01/99 instead of 01/01/1999) so it would screw up date dependant programs by resetting to 00, or 1900.

        A far cry from toasters trying to strangle us, and your washing machine would be completely unaffected, as it has no date function within it.

        You can't take a simplistic view either way.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      FAIL

      Re: @RISC OS

      And I have no elephants in my backyard because my daughter keeps her pet mice in the garden shed and elephants are scared of mice.

  27. Tom Paine Silver badge

    Carrington Events

    The Wikipedia article you're all looking for (unless you're wasting your time working) would be:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_storm_of_1859

    It could happen tomorrow, but it could just as well not reoccur for decades to come. Satellites are hardened against a certain amount of EMI and flipped bits in digital control electronics, but a big CME burps out highly energetic charged particles which induce ginormous ground currents in long-distance electrical circuits. An 1859-type event that occurred today would cause massive disruption with at best at few hours' advance warning.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Boffin

      current amplification actually tom

      actually Tom "a big CME burps out highly energetic charged particles which induce ginormous ground currents in long-distance electrical circuits. An 1859-type event that occurred today would cause massive disruption with at best at few hours' advance warning." .....

      it would/will amplify the already flowing average current in the wire, simply turning off that section of the earth's power grid's before the event and there's No average current flowing, to actually amplify above the Max limits of the circuit, so Not/blowing it and its connected current limiters....

  28. Bill B
    FAIL

    @RISC OS

    I keep on meeting this sort of statement ("the Y2K was a damp squib") but I never expected it from an El-Reg commentator. Most of us in the industry are aware that it didn't happen because we put a fair amount of work making sure it didn't happen. We fixed at least two faults with our embedded controllers.

    For you young 'uns .. Good luck with 2038.

    1. RISC OS
      WTF?

      Why is it...

      ...that everyone thinks in order to post comments or read news here that you have to work in the software/hardware industry? I don't, I come here because the articles are funny, I like the writing style and the way they use the word "Boffin". There are lots of stories here not covered by the likes of the BBC.

      Fixed everything? No one fixed my computer or teh software running on it - I admit a patch could have done this without me knowing, but my washing machine, car, radio, fridge and everything else that was suppossed to break were never repaired, no one "put a fair amount of work making sure it didn't happen" with these things. Not mine nor anyone elses.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      RE: @Risc OS

      THERE IS A FUCKING REPLY BUTTON...

      1. RISC OS
        Jobs Horns

        @Numpty the coward

        There is a fucking "Caps Lock" button...

        1. Lionel Baden
          Thumb Up

          heh heh

          im supporting the underdog on this one tbh !!

          He has a very valid point in all the stories leading up to Y2K we were all told everything will stop working.

          Now no doubt that banks would of had issues of posting stements out with the wrong year listed etc etc but its not likley you would of gone to the banmk and they turn round saying oh im sorry you have no money.

          yes it still needed fixing and its good it did get repaired i would rather know in an aircraft that the gps system will keep acurate rather then offset the true position due to having the incorrect date.

          And why the hell are we worrying about 2038 !!! there wont be any civilisation after 2011, or is that an exageration ??

    3. Anonymous Coward
      FAIL

      For you young 'uns .. Good luck with 2038.

      and OC Bill, You didn't fix that known upcoming 2038 problem at the same time you fixed the' its good enough' lazy arse short term contracted programmers thinking thing Y2K bug's as You want to be payed Yet again for popping back in and adding your already existing patch's ....

      job creation for the boy's and girl's... that's so modern UK and now US conservative 'Give Us Your Money' thinking.

  29. Keris

    I've read it before

    Around 1993, in fact, the SF novel 'Flare' by Roger Zelazny and Thomas T. Thomas. Set in 2081, it has the premise that after a prolonged 'minimum' (of several decades) the next cycle starts again with a particularly big flare which knocks out a large part of the (by then ubiquitous) tech base, causing a large number of deaths because companies hadn't bothered to take precautions.

    (As for New Scientist, I've seen them have so many errors over the years that I don't trust anything they say. They are either sensationalist (like reporting "faster than light" signals which turned out to be a variation on phase velocity) or hew to the current politically correct stories. Not that I trust NASA to do much better.)

    As for me, I still have thermionic valve (radio tube) equipment which isn't affected by EMP (at least not until I'm past caring because I've been electrocuted by induced voltage). No, it won't receive DAB radio or satellite TV, but it will let me communicate with real people who might actually be of some use in an emergency...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Happy

      Solar Storms are a good thing

      Unlike biological evolution, that moves at a snail's pace, cultural evolution proceeds at mach-speed - relatively speaking.

      Cultural-evo requires a good stress on a regular basis so that poorly made crap gets removed from the technology pool and the better-made things survive to become the dominant form in the future. Relying on logical/rational argument to limit the proliferation of crap technology, especially highly profitable crap technology, is fruitless and a fool's errand.

      Let the Sun God sort them out - every 11 years or so, and we'll be better off and more robust in the long run for it. Actually, a few low-output cycles or worse, a long minimum, might be catastrophic in the long run as we might become too dependent on crap during that time.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Coat

    If the Interweb fails - get a CB.

    Solar cycle peeks every 11 years. As a radio amateur I've always looked forward to solar maximum. The last three have been a bit of a let down but still give a a dramatic effect on the ionosphere and allow crazy distances using a few watts of power.

    So if the interwebs goes down this time round just get yourself a CB*. If 2013 lives up to what is promised you should be able to span the atlantic on 4 watts into a rubber duck.

    *citizen's band radio for anyone under 30.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      CB radio for the moden age

      there's a problem though AC, people today on the limited free CB freq's complain when you Huck up your acoustic 300 baud modem for your other computer acoustic 300 baud modem owning friends to connect to as its interfering with their audio tap recorder power mic music broadcasts.... 10/4

      that's why we NEED the UK Govt and OFCOM to give us some real Free for community Wireless backbone , and actually use some of that now free analogue TV for long range digital WAN/MAN/LAN wireless multi Wimax/11N communications put in and go auto messed and many channel "bonding" end to end low power wireless routers ,and no silly only 3 NON overlapping freq's divided into 13 channels eather.

  31. BitBotherer

    List of fucked things

    I wish to add:

    The Gulf of Mexico

    Sparrows

  32. Eddy Ito Silver badge

    Doesn't matter

    It will be 2013 and anything that happens will be the fault of the US Presidential election. It doesn't matter who is the chair, the losers will say "now look what you did! This is all your fault, our guy would have saved us" and the winners will say "thank goodness, at least we have a chance. In four years this will be fixed". Oh yeah, if there is a change of ownership add in a little "look at this mess they dumped on us!" One last thing, the blame will be for everything from anthropogenic solar storms to a collapsing So-so Security as the baby boomers start to retire en masse.

    What's that? You say there's no such thing as anthropogenic solar storms... isn't that cute, it's almost as if you think that matters.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      sparrows

      OC BitBotherer , Sparrows are fucked anyway if there's Sparrow hawk near by

      http://birdsinbackyards.net/images/audio/scythrops-novaehollandiae.mp3

      still its good to stop those pesky birds nesting in Your Loft space and have their Young squawking all the time, play that loud now and again and they soon piss off LOL

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I for one.....

    welcome our new solar based overlords and would like to invite them for tea and biscuits

  34. Muckminded

    Save me, Touchdown Jesus in the sky

    Today I will be with you in Luddite paradise.

  35. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Happy

    OMG It's pedantogeddon!

    Thanks to all lovers of the late Jimmy Edwards. At the risk of being pedantic my original post described a solar storm as a cloud of charged *particles* mostly Protons.

    That's Proton with an "r", not Photon with an "h".

    By "Fraction of the speed of light" I should have included the word "significant". Given I was talking about sub atomic particles I thought it was pretty obvious they'd be moving *fairly* fast, outside of a particle trap. A quick BOTE (93 million miles to Sun, roughly 15 mins warning) gives a cloud speed of about 0.55c.

    While there is likely to be a radiation, visible and UV release as well (which I think is what the NASA probe can see, hence the early warning) it's the particles which may be the most damaging. Fast moving with high momentum they will take quite a lot of stopping, producing *lots* of ionization in the upper atmosphere.

    BTW thanks for that nice quantum description of Cherenkov radiation.

    My apologies for my lack of clarity.

    1. Michael Chester
      Boffin

      Your BOTE is wrong

      The warning is the time gap between the light speed signals reaching us and the slower particles reaching us, so the total time is 8+15minutes to travel 8 light minutes, so about 1/3 c

      /pedant

  36. Captain Thyratron

    Ain't all so fragile.

    Whatever happens, there will be plenty of hams around with old shortwave tube rigs, car batteries, and diesel generators.

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Thumb Up

      @Captain thratron

      "Whatever happens, there will be plenty of hams around with old shortwave tube rigs, car batteries, and diesel generators."

      I am reminded of some of the sort of precautions that EMP hardening would need. Perhaps now would be time to start a modest investment in Faraday caging some of your kit as well, along with a meaty line in lightning surpressors.

    2. TeeCee Gold badge
      Happy

      "plenty of hams around"

      Good. So we won't starve in the post-apocalyptic wasteland then?

      Tell me there'll be mustard and picallili too......please......?

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    Horrible, HORRIBLE

    We all know modern telecom networks are made primarily of fiber glass. Now, imagine those heinous magnetic fields inducing SEVERE currents into that glass.

    What you say ? Glass is an insulator and doesn't care much about magnetic fields ? Dammn, I have to find a new way to fund my solar research satellite...

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

      Sir

      Correct me if I'm wrong (which considering my earlier pedantic machinations I'm sure I am - someone's law is bound to apply here) BUT don't the little glass wires connect to things with metal wires in?

  38. Nebulo
    Boffin

    Problem

    Only a few months ago we were reading that the Sun's magnetic field is steadily declining towards a level below which, we believe, it can't produce any spots. Why should it suddenly produce gigantic bursts of civilisation-ending EMP from such a low-energy state? Another Maunder minimum (and all that that implies) would seem to be a lot more likely.

    In anycase, any fule no that civilisation will *already* have ended by 2013, on Dec 21st 2012 at 11:11 am. Unless, of course, all the conspiracy theories are just conspiracy theories ;)

  39. Dazed and Confused

    Y2K

    You just wait it the 19th of January 2038

    Y2K is going to look like a picnic

  40. Quirkafleeg
    Alien

    It's all lies

    We're actually going to be playing host to a series of Disaster Area concerts.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      DON'T PANIC

      just remember Quirkafleeg, "DON'T PANIC" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yROdY8hUUvU

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0kK1YgR7J0g&feature=related

  41. GavinC
    WTF?

    2 years until the internet breaks?

    2 years until the internet breaks?

    I best stock up on porn then!

  42. the bat
    Terminator

    Well The Gods (Early Techno Advance Humans Who Visited) had it right

    We will be destroyed by fire this time around Darn! They were right!

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    i shall apply the media hype filter

    and believe it when it happens. Contrast:

    Katrina --- no problem, we have it all under control, the dykes (dikes?) will hold etc, FAIL!

    Y2K --- we're all going to die, civilization will come to an end, the mongols will invade, return of the dark ages, etc. Nada, nothing, zipall. And no I did nothing to ``fix'' the problem. My computers all survived, except for one whose disk got corrupted because an arsehole turned the power off ``just in case'' without properly shutting down.

    Sumatran tsunami --- heard absolutely nothing about this until after the fact. Media had nothing to say. Thousands died.

    Gulf Oil spill --- drill baby drill, go right ahead, BP are experts they have it under control, licenses to fuck up the environment were being handed out by the US government. Media hype before the fact was that we're running out of oil, civilization will end unless we find more oil.

    Basically, if the media hypes it before the fact, it's not going to happen or will fail in the opposite direction. If the media ignores it, run for the hills! I'm not concerned about sunspots, aliens stole my brain long since, which is a constant source of worry I read nothing about in the paper..

  44. heyrick Silver badge

    I'm walkin' on sunshine, yeah yeah...

    Just tell me when, I'll unplug. It'll pass...

    FWIW, I saw an aurora here (Brittany) about five years ago. Was coming back from seeing a friend and the sky seemed to me to be bright shimmering red. I was told I'd obviously had too much to drink. Fast forward to the next day when it was in the newspaper. Nerr!

  45. Tim Starling

    Sloppy reporting

    As far as I can determine, there is no prediction by NASA or anyone else that the solar maximum in 2013 will be worse than the one in 1991. The conference in question is mostly about contingency planning, not forecasting. The whole story seems to be a worst case scenario confused for fact.

  46. elderlybloke
    Thumb Down

    What we are talking about

    Is a Coronal mass ejection, which was not known about until the 1970s.

    The boffins advise that the satellites that give us GPS,TV programs , communication,monitoring of oceans , weather etc will suffer severely in a direct hit ot right polarity.

    No laughing matter then.

    1. heyrick Silver badge

      GPS malfunctions

      Please turn left here.

      No, I meant right.

      Wait, I really meant left. I'm sure, left.

      Oh cock.

  47. Andy Turner

    So long as Duke Nukem Forever has been released

    I don't mind.

  48. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If she floats she's a witch

    Having followed the entertaining debate about global warming sparked by this article it seems that the only thing we can do is wait and see what happens on that front. If civilisation is wiped out because the planet is no longer habitable then we'll know there is a problem and can start planning what to do about it. The alternative would be to risk improving the global environment for everyone and everything for no gain whatsoever.

    As for the solar storms; like everyone else I now confuse critical thinking with not believing anything anyone says, ever. There clearly will not be a problem and all contingency planning is a waste of time. If I'm right.

  49. Dahak
    Joke

    It is obvious what is going on.

    The Cybermen are altering the weather conditions on the sun in preparation for their next attack on earth.

  50. OrientalHero
    Paris Hilton

    list of fucked things

    Actually the bees that someone wanted added might welcome any increase in solar activity that decreases mobile phone usage.

    There was a post somewhere about a study that linked Mobile Phone signals to Colony Collapse Disorder.

    So the bees are probably trying to make like butterflies and get something stirred up in the atmosphere so we don't manage to make contingencies for any surge in solar activity!

    Oh and Paris because I'm sure she's clever enough to mention it was all because of sunspots, and because there was an 11 year low of her in the threads previous and I had to make up for it....

  51. Red Bren
    Joke

    Simple solution

    Just disconnect one end of the CERN proton punisher and point it at the sun.

  52. Flybert
    Boffin

    there's always got to be a 'panic'

    towards the end of the last solar maximum there was an estimated X45 flare / CME that luckily, was not pointed at Earth .. that had the potential to temporarily destroy the Earth's magnetic field on the side of the Earth it hit and let in a huge dose of dangerous radiation , heating up the atmosphere .. causing 300nph winds .. potentially killing 100s of millions of people and a proportional amount of land animals (obviously)

    So there is a very small risk, and one we have no control over

    The science, however, shows that the extremely low activity in this minimum will translate to a low activity at the maximum .. so the risk is lower than at least the last 2 solar maximums

    as far as global warming .. the factor not considered is the increase of relative humidity that has gone right up with the CO2 levels .. which is now resulting in higher snow falls and more rain over all ..

    the tie in is that because the solar activity has been so extraordinarily low, the Earth, actually the whole solar system is receiving more gamma radiation from the rest of the galaxy , which, interestingly enough, causes more clouds to form

    an Ice Age is about precipitation , not "cold" per se' ..

    we are near the end of the warm period of the glacial cycles .. been there for about 8000 years with several fluctuations hotter than it is now .. including the medieval warming period

    when we will head back down in temperature to the next big Ice Age is debatable .. maybe it started 3 years ago .. maybe it won't happen for 2000 years .. but it WILL happen

    and the advancing ice and cold will kill off a a lot more of humanity, mostly from massive crop failure, than even the worst predictions of global warming effects

    the idea that the Earth will keep just getting warmer and warmer, which overall has been a GOOD thing for humanity .. is complete hypothesis .. there is NO historical basis for that happenning .. CO2 levels were many times higher several million years ago .. resulted in the biggest explosion of life in the planet's history .. dinosaurs .. giant plant life ..

    you could actually make a case that the ecosystem is CO2 starved .. and there are studies showing that biomass has been increasing significantly because of the CO2 rise .. about 7% between 1990 and 2000 according to UN studies, increase in world wide biomass!

    you can make the case that the word wide food supply might be way short if there had not been this increase of CO2 .. when was the last time we had millions starve to death because of lack of food, despite the increase of population ? (other than political and distribution problems)

    a couple of severe winters, even one really bad one .. and there would easily be millions starve

    ok .. we should prepare for dangerous solar flares .. and to a great degree, critical satellites have been hardened and some planning has been made regarding electrical grids .. that's all we can do, and should

  53. Adam T

    2013 instead of 2012? Or not

    What we'll learn from this in two years time is that NASA have their predictions out by a year...:P

  54. Doug Glass
    Go

    All You Non Believers ...

    ... might want to read this.

    http://www.solarstorms.org/SWChapter1.html

  55. Sean Bailey
    Thumb Up

    On the bright side

    Superman will get stronger.

  56. Mips
    Jobs Horns

    What are you goin' to do..

    ..well me I am going to stand under the King of Kings statue at the Solid Rock Church Ohio. It is obviously a good lighting conductor so will drain away the aural field before it gets me. I will not be wearing a tin foil hat, these pesky pointed bits keep sticking through and spoil the effect.

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