Our little sliver of time

All the news sources–I saw it on Yahoo!, of all places–are churning out stories today about the current state of the surface of the sun. Three different “experts” have issued dire predictions about the sleepy sun and what it means for mankind…and not just us hams, who enjoy bouncing signals off an ionized atmosphere.

You know as well as I do that simply saying this cycle is slow to develop is not going to attract much reader interest. But if you say there is the possibility that the dormancy of Ole Sol portends historic implications, that it could reverse the effects of that evil, man-made global warming (or make it even more dire), that there could be unknown but potentially catastrophic weather events as a result…heck, even that we are on the verge of another Maunder Minimum, when the sun went to sleep for 300 years and we entered a “mini-Ice Age!”…then you will get some attention. Attention to your columns, your websites, your blogs, your books, your speeches.

I know it is human nature to see things from a very narrow perspective. Understanding things like climate change that usually take eons to be obvious and drawing conclusions about variations in sunspot minima and maxima that only occur in eleven-year cycles are difficult for us mortals to do. Geologic time and cosmologic time and distance are impossible for us to comprehend in our simple little seven- or eight-decade life spans. That’s why all the junk about rapid climate change (which I consider normal weather variation and based on decidedly short-term data) has found so many who are willing to swallow it, hook, line and sinker.

I admit I know little about sunspots or solar weather, beyond the fact that more spots equal better propagation on the high-frequency radio bands and pretty displays of the Northern Lights. And I appreciate data and scientific observation. But seems to me that it is far too early to say the sun is going to be dozing for the next three centuries simply because cycle 24 is a tad bit slow to get moving. After all, many of these same “experts” were touting what an active cycle this was going to be…and they were doing it only a year or so ago.

Reminds me of the high-tech “weather rock” my wife has in her flower garden. “If this rock is wet, it is raining. If it is dry, it is sunny. If it is white, it is snowing.”

I’m still hoping for an active solar cycle. I have somehow managed to be inactive in my amateur radio activities during each of the past two cycle maxima, and I had high hopes for that “arm-chair” ragchew with the Far East on 10 meters in the middle of the day. But if it doesn’t measure up, so be it. I talked to plenty of guys all over the world at the yawning chasm between the peaks, after all.

But most of all, I’d like to see everyone calm down a bit and not be so myopic. We see only a tiny slice of time in our own existence. Even so-called scientific observations are looking at a pitifully narrow slab of time and only a tiny bit of reliable data.

Put it into perspective before you panic and sell all your ham gear. Or before you stop gazing northward for a glimpse of the aurora borealis.

By the way, I checked. There is nothing we can do about the state of the sun’s surface anyway, so why worry?

Don N4KC
www.n4kc.com
www.donkeith.com

Don Keith, N4KC, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from Alabama, USA. Contact him at [email protected].

One Response to “Our little sliver of time”

  • Fred W0FMS:

    Hear, Hear.

    The earth probably is still recovering from the last ice age and that is another reason we are “warming!”. Nice logic and reason.

    Climate change is so political that even solar predicitions are biased by it and the scientists are wondering why their models don’t fit reality.

    A little secret here from an engineer. A model that cannot accurately predict the weather 6 hours from now will be very unstable 100 years out. An unstable model will “run away” either positive or negative. (i.e. “Hockey Stick!”) In the 70’s it was a “negative” runaway meaning “ice age”. Now it’s running away positive or “Venus”.

    In reality our models of these extremely high-order differential equations are not good enough but we will risk our economy, livelyhood and standard of living on it to cure what is most likely in reality a non-problem.

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