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No. 71: Sep-Oct 1990

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MODERN TECHNOLOGY GETS SUNBURNED

During the 400-or-so years we have been counting sunspots and taking other measures of solar activity, the sun has, on the average, been getting more and more rambunctious. The sunspot peaks have been ascending to greater heights every 11-or-so years. Right now, near the peak of the present cycle, the earth is being bombarded by extra-high fluxes of X-rays, ultraviolet light, and other energetic radiation. A century ago, no one would have noticed or cared, but today our technological infrastructure is suffering. K.H. Schatten has listed some of the "sunburn symptoms" in a recent article in Nature.

(Schatten, Kenneth H.; "The Sun's Disturbing Behavior," Nature, 345:578, 1990.)

Comment. It would be interesting to learn whether the "computer errors" we encounter so frequently follow the sunspot cycle.

One phenomenon, at least, seems anticorrelated with solar activity: The number of solar neutrinos measured here on earth falls as sunspots multiply. This is particularly puzzling because neutrinos are presumably generated in the solar core, whereas sunspots are supposed to be manifestations of solar-surface activity. One phenomenon "should not" affect the other. (Waldrop, M. Mitchell; "Solar NeutrinoSunspot Connection Found," Science, 248:444, 1990.)

From Science Frontiers #71, SEP-OCT 1990. 1990-2000 William R. Corliss