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No. 89: Sep-Oct 1993

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Solar activity, your mother's birth year, and your longevity

"According to two scientists who stumbled on a startling statistical association -- though not necessarily a causeeffect relationship -- your life span may depend on the number of sunspots that appeared in the year your mother was born.

"They found that if the sun was at a maximum in its 11-year cycle (during which the number of sunspots rises and falls), children of mothers born at that time would die an average of two to three years sooner than if their mothers had been born during the sunspot minimum."

Before dismissing this fascinating correlation as "nut science," consider that the study was conducted by two established scientists at Michigan State University, B. Rosenberg and D.A. Juckett. Their report was published in the March 1993 issue of the mainstream journal Radiation Research. Furthermore, in two English studies of longevity. the same periodicity was remarked. Although the population sample in the Michigan State work was small (7552), the phenomenon appears sufficiently robust to admit to the columns of Science Frontiers! (In truth we covet bizarreness as much as robustness!)

But what possible causal link might connect one's longevity with one's mother's date of birth? Rosenberg and Juckett point to the fact that when a woman is born all of her eggs are already formed. Later, they will mature and be released one at a time (usually). Therefore, if solar radiation levels (proportional to sunspot numbers) are high near her time of birth, her entire inventory of eggs will be bombarded by high levels of solar radiation. The ensuing damage might show up as shortened lifetimes for her children.

(Rensberger, Boyce; "An Extraterrestrial Link, Sunspots and Life Span," Washington Post, p. A3, May 24, 1993. Cr. J. Judge and D. Swaner)

From Science Frontiers #89, SEP-OCT 1993. 1993-2000 William R. Corliss