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Monday, March 12, 2007

On politics and science

Here's a prediction: when the magnetic poles flip, whenever that occurs, there will be some who will blame it on current events or our recently bad behavior. This will be yet another example of the tendency for politicians and activists to cast everything they don't agree with in a post hoc ergo proctor hoc manner. Unfortunately, such political games seem to be received as fact by a large percentage of the population.

Physics Web has the following headline:

Molten sodium mimics Earth's magnetic-field flipping

with the following abstract:
It has long been known that the Earth's magnetic field flips direction every quarter of a million years or so resulting in the north and south poles changing places. Now physicists in France have witnessed this phenomenon of magnetic-field reversal for the first time in the laboratory, by monitoring a 160-litre vat of swirling molten sodium. Their observations could eventually lead to a better understanding of "dynamo action", which is responsible for celestial bodies like the Earth being able to generate their own magnetic field
In other words, us humans are extremely unlikely to cause the magnetic poles to flip.

I find it interesting how specialists talk to themselves and become so comfortable with their knowledge and understanding they forget the outside world - economists are also guilty of this.

I would wager that fully 95+% of the people on the street have no idea that the magnetic poles can flip, and what it would mean to everyday life it they did. Because of this lack of knowledge, if and when the poles do their dance, people who wish to take political advantage of the situation to enhance their power over who-knows-what have a higher probability of being successful.

The words "[i]t has long been known" highlight the fact that scientists talking to themselves have long known about the science of pole reversal, but this ignores (and perhaps rightly so) the politics of science and the fact that it has not been long known amongst the general population.

An interesting article from Nova concerning magnetic pole reversals.

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