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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

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987