Switching : Can we strenthen earth's magnetic field?

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newtonian

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This is a switching subject - not bait and switch, but:<br /><br />Is earth's magnetic field about to switch, or switch off before switching?<br /><br />As a tangent from my surviving red giant phase thread: can we strengthen earth's magnetic field so as to give protection from the solar corona at red giant phase?<br /><br />I know this is hard - like science fiction - but technology has been advancing rapidly and we have billions of years.<br /><br />How is earth's magnetic field propagated and why does it switch?<br /><br />If we, over billions of years, construct multiple levels of existence deep within the earth, can we effect earth's magnetic field?<br /><br />My inspiration for this question comes from a classic Science Fiction movie: Forbidden planet.<br /><br />On planet Altaire 7 (Science Fiction) the advance civilization known as the Krell (sp?) constructed multiple levels all the way to the core of the planet and harnessed the planets energy. The huge planet sized structure was maintained by self-repairing robots.<br /><br />Science fiction can become fact.<br /><br />Can this be done by us in the upcoming billions of years?
 
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yevaud

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Regrettably, even if we were able to do so wouldn't protect us from the sheer heat of the expanded sun. <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p><em>Differential Diagnosis:  </em>"<strong><em>I am both amused and annoyed that you think I should be less stubborn than you are</em></strong>."<br /> </p> </div>
 
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CalliArcale

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The Earth's magnetic field is propagated by rotation in the conductive iron core. The switching (and other irregularities) occur because it's obviously not a totally perfect ball, and because there is convection occuring within it, complicating the situation. The Sun generates its field in much the same way, although on a vastly largely scale. The Sun's field is far more chaotic, however, and flips poles every eleven years. This is partly due to the Sun's differential rotation (the equator rotates considerably faster than the poles, going around in 29 days while material near the poles takes 36 days to go around despite having a shorter distance to go).<br /><br />I don't think we can affect the Earth's magnetic field sufficiently to deflect the growing Sun with any technology which we currently know about. <img src="/images/icons/wink.gif" /> We could affect it, in theory, but not enough. But maybe we'll come up with something better in the next few billion years.<br /><br />The Doctor Who epsiode "End of the World" actually explores this idea. If you get cable, I believe that episode will air on the Sci-Fi Channel on March 24. In that episode, by the year 4 billion, the Earth had long since been abandoned for other worlds. But thanks to nostalgia, it was preserved in a "classic" state (continental drift was halted) as a historic monument. Powerful force fields held the Sun at bay. When the Doctor and Rose arrive, a ceremony is about to be held where the force fields will be switched off, allowing nature to take its course because there's no longer any funding to maintain the classic Earth. <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p> </p><p><font color="#666699"><em>"People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint it's more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly . . . timey wimey . . . stuff."</em>  -- The Tenth Doctor, "Blink"</font></p> </div>
 
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yevaud

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I very much liked that episode, including Zoe Wannamaker's portrayal of the "last, pure Human."<br /><br />"Moisturize ME!" <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p><em>Differential Diagnosis:  </em>"<strong><em>I am both amused and annoyed that you think I should be less stubborn than you are</em></strong>."<br /> </p> </div>
 
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nexium

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At enormous cost we can build a monster super conducting coil which uses no energy to maintain a strong magnetic field, very long term. Unfortunately it takes a lot of energy to keep the super conductor cold. Inventing room temperature super conductors would solve all except the initial cost, but don't hold your breath. Neil
 
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CalliArcale

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Actually, I find that few people anywhere on Earth truly appreciate the scale of these things, except for people who actually take the time to look into them -- scientists, engineers, and absurdly enthusiastic nerds like ourselves. <img src="/images/icons/wink.gif" /><br /><br />It's hard to grasp the scale when one normally deals in masses under a ton. Many people don't even really grasp the mass of a train, which is why they so often attempt to save a couple of minutes by trying to sneak across the tracks before the train gets there.<br /><br />With current tech, I think it's fair to say it's impossible to augment our global magnetic field in any way whatsoever, to say nothing of augmenting it to the point where it can hold back the Sun. <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p> </p><p><font color="#666699"><em>"People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint it's more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly . . . timey wimey . . . stuff."</em>  -- The Tenth Doctor, "Blink"</font></p> </div>
 
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rfoshaug

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I totally agree, and I also find that most people don't really appreciate how insanely, absurdly, incredibly long time a billion years is.<br /><br />Most people seem to think that there will still be humans when the sun goes giant.<br /><br />In 2-4 billion years, life on Earth will have evolved into something totally unrecognisable. All species will have changed totally and no animal species that exist today will exist then. Mankind will be forgotten and <i>nothing</i> from our present world (like countries, languages, wars, music, art or religions) will be remembered. In a few billion years, we will be truly gone forever.<br /><br /><img src="/images/icons/wink.gif" /> <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p><font color="#ff9900">----------------------------------</font></p><p><font color="#ff9900">My minds have many opinions</font></p> </div>
 
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iron_sun_254

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You don't need to strengthen the magnetic to protect the Earth from the Sun's red giant phase...you just need to move it. Get a few asteroids, shift their orbits so they transfer some of their orbital energy to the Earth and repeat.
 
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nexium

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Hi Steve: I think you are extrpolating too far into the future. We have an ISS which has been very costly and supports perhaps ten humans, if they really cut corners. It produces essentually zero food and is strongly dependent on Earth. If a human has been born in space, it is a well kept secret. There are lots of plans for Jovian habitats that likely have thousands of engineering errors. We have not moved Earth yet either, but the asteroid sling shot manuver, is likely good science. If we move Earth a meter per year average that is one thousand kilometers per million years = 10,000,000 kilometers in ten billion years. With good luck we might have that long and that might be enough, with the help of other technology advances to allow genetically altered humans to survive the red giant stage on Earth. We should, however, attempt to build habitats thoughout our solar system, and do other things to make us less dependent on Earth. We should not be deceived by what appears (with little evidence) to be a better solution. Neil
 
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newtonian

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stevehw33 - I am certainly aware of how small we are - as Isaiah 40 shows we are virtually an "unreality."<br /><br />However, you should not ignore how far technology has advanced in 100 years, and how much longer 4 billion years is. <br /><br />Now, I believe that all sorts of problems hindering advancement will be done away with - inlcluding violence, sickness and death - but that is all way off thread theme.<br /><br />Sticking with simple mathatical progression, considering the accelarating rate technoloby has been advancing as a rate per 100 years and then extrapolating to 4 billion years at an acceleating pace and you see why my question may not end up pure science fiction.<br /><br />Though, btw, I kind of agree we are too small in ability even given those technological advances - but to give up without exploring the possibilities is not, in my opinion, good for scientific progress.<br /><br />Will we, for example, in one billion years from now have the ability to penetrate the crust of the earth and effect the mantle and the core?<br /><br />BTW, have you seen recent Sci. Fi. movies about this?<br /><br />I am not saying we could ever achieve what the Krell did on planet Altair 7. I am not saying we can't - either!
 
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newtonian

Guest
Calli - Doctor who???? Ah - Who!!!!<br /><br />Look forward to it.<br /><br />I didn't realize we had figured out why the earth's magnetic field may switch soon - I'll have to study the more recent data - have any links on this?<br /><br />The sun, of course, has many magnetic fields which heat the corona besides the primary field you are referring to - it is indeed complex.<br /><br />Meanwhile, how much does earth's magnetic field protect us at this time?<br /><br />Obviously, we need to address that before determining the effect of said field strenthening or weakening - even without any human intervention.<br /><br />BTW - Have you seen the Sci Fi classic Forbidden Planet? Do you think we could accomplish what the Krell did (without destroying ourselves like the Krell did!)?<br /><br />Please consider that some of this could be accoumplished by robotics - another interesting scientific tangent - compare robotic space missions.<br /><br />Please note my post to Steve - I agree we are very tiny in abilities now. Yet we are ruining the earth!
 
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CalliArcale

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<blockquote><font class="small">In reply to:</font><hr /><p>I didn't realize we had figured out why the earth's magnetic field may switch soon - I'll have to study the more recent data - have any links on this?<br /><br />The sun, of course, has many magnetic fields which heat the corona besides the primary field you are referring to - it is indeed complex.<p><hr /></p></p></blockquote><br /><br />Those fields contribute to and in a very real sense are part of the whole field. It's what makes it so dynamic.<br /><br />A similar thing is happening deep in the Earth's core. The core is liquid, and it is conductive. It is also in constant motion, just like the Sun is, although obviously the scale is vastly different. Coriolis forces also act on the material inside the Earth's core, because it is rotating, and not rotating at the same rate as the rest of the Earth. This makes it dynamic, and makes switches inevitable but also difficult to predict without better information about exactly what's going on inside the core. (We can predict the Sun somewhat better, since we can actually see it. It's still challenging, though.)<br /><br />I don't have a link at the moment about this; I saw a program on the Science Channel which showed an actual experiment performed to demonstrate how this model works. They took a transparent sphere (made of plastic, I believe) and filled it with a ferromagnetic liquid. (Those kinds of liquids are really fun to watch. They'll behave exactly like iron shavings, even standing up on end in a magnetic field, then collapsing down to behave like an ordinary liquid when the magnetic field is removed.) They then spun the sphere. It was fascinating to watch how even without the addition of heat convection, it formed eddies. The overall magnetic field of the sphere changed too. It was fascinating. It does a good job of predicting what the Earth's magnetic field does.<br /><br /><blockquote><font class="small">In reply to:</font><hr /><p>Meanwhile, how much does e</p></blockquote> <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p> </p><p><font color="#666699"><em>"People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint it's more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly . . . timey wimey . . . stuff."</em>  -- The Tenth Doctor, "Blink"</font></p> </div>
 
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asymmetrical

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It's all irrelavent, isn't it ? I mean. Earth's rotation on it's axis is slowing. We all know-no spin=no gravity=little or no magnetic field. So ? Well, in theory, I guess, there are ways to circumvent the issue, if it happened, but such a remedy would be quite a drastic change for our species. In the scope of things,wouldn't this event occur way before even thinking of "strengthening what we no longer have?" And also. Wouldn't it be a mute point to try to protect against what I've come to believe will not only become close to us, but envelope us as well ? When vaporized, magnetic field strength, living near the core, all else(on planet that is)-seems to me irrelavant, no ?
 
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derekmcd

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"We all know-no spin=no gravity=little or no magnetic field."<br /><br />Not true. If the earth were to gradually stop spinning over, say, the next year, there will still be gravity and we would hardly notice it had happened. I am speaking in the context that the total mass of the earth will not change and you would weigh the same. With that said, there are a multitude of other issues humankind would have to deal with if the earth's rotation were to slow down that rapidly. <br /><br /> <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <div> </div><br /><div><span style="color:#0000ff" class="Apple-style-span">"If something's hard to do, then it's not worth doing." - Homer Simpson</span></div> </div>
 
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CalliArcale

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<blockquote><font class="small">In reply to:</font><hr /><p>We all know-no spin=no gravity=little or no magnetic field. <p><hr /></p></p></blockquote><br /><br />Nope. Gravity is independent of spin. (However, gravity does have an effect if an object is spinning, called "frame dragging". Spacetime is pulled around with the spinning object. It's not generally significant on the everyday scale, though. It might be significant for GPS satellites, but that's about it.) Consider this: Venus, nearly as massive as the Earth, has nearly as big a gravitational field. But it spins very very slowly. Mercury does too, but has a magnetic field despite its slow spin. (Its field is believed to be due to residual ferromagnetism, but that may change when MESSENGER arrives in a decade and starts conducting comprensive magnetic surveys of Mercury.) And Europa certainly has a significant magnetic field, but is tidally locked -- it rotates exactly once per orbit around Jupiter. Clearly, there's more to it than just whether the body as a whole is rotating, although it does seem to make a difference in the field's strength. <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p> </p><p><font color="#666699"><em>"People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint it's more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly . . . timey wimey . . . stuff."</em>  -- The Tenth Doctor, "Blink"</font></p> </div>
 
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newtonian

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Calli - Good posts - informative - thank you.<br /><br />Now, consider red giant phase and accomplishing similar to what the Krell did.<br /><br />Say we transfer red giant heat by heat conductors - say Aluminum since it is abundant in earth's crust (c. 8%) and is a good conductor of heat (and electricity, btw). <br /><br />Then we could increase the heat and hence the fluidity deep within the earth.<br /><br />How might we then effect earth's magnetic field?<br /><br />Would increased heat increase motion and therefore increase the stength of earth's magnetic field?<br /><br />In contrast, why doesn't Venus have a magnetic field?<br /><br />Is earth cooling and is this effecting the strength of our magnetic field?<br /><br />How well would the current strength of earth's magnetic field protect earth from our sun's future red giant phase?
 
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