The Great Anxiety

As we watch these town hall meetings, where seemingly “normal” people are so frightened and outraged that they can’t control themselves, we see the apparent racial overtones surfacing, violence against opposing views, and irrational fears exhibited.  What I believe is happening is far deeper than these outrageous behaviors of people that concerned about health care.

We are collectively experiencing an ever increasing amount of stress related to wars, disease, economic doom, government and major corporation meltdowns.  This is further complicated by some very natural events, as well.

As we approach the galactic plane, there are very significant changes occurring in relationship to our beloved earth’s magnetic field.  The Earth has a substantial magnetic field, a fact of some historical importance because of the role of the magnetic compass in exploration of the planet.


* *Structure of the Field* *

The field lines defining the structure of the magnetic field are similar to those of a simple bar magnet, as illustrated above.  It is well known that the axis of the magnetic field is tipped with respect to the rotation axis of the Earth. Thus, true north (defined by the direction to the north rotational pole) does not coincide with magnetic north (defined by the direction to the north magnetic pole) and compass directions must be corrected by fixed amounts at given points on the surface of the Earth to yield true directions.  A fundamental property of magnetic fields is that they exert forces on moving electrical charges. Thus, a magnetic field can trap charged particles such as electrons and protons as they are forced to execute a spiraling motion back and forth along the field lines.

One of the first fruits of early space exploration was the discovery in the late 1950s that the Earth is surrounded by two regions of particularly high concentration of charged particles called the Van Allen radiation belts. (The inner and outer Van Allen belts are illustrated in the top figure.) The primary source of these charged particles is the stream of particles emanating from the Sun that we call the solar wind .

The origin of the Earth’s magnetic field is not completely understood, but is thought to be associated with electrical currents produced by the coupling of convective effects and rotation in the spinning liquid metallic outer core of iron and nickel. This mechanism is termed the dynamo effect.  Rocks that are formed from the molten state contain indicators of the magnetic field at the time of their solidification. The study of such “magnetic fossils” indicates that the Earth’s magnetic field reverses itself every million years or so (the north and south magnetic poles switch). This is but one detail of the magnetic field that is not well understood.

The solar wind mentioned above is a stream of ionized gases that blows outward from the Sun at about 400 km/second and that varies in intensity with the amount of surface activity on the Sun. The Earth’s magnetic field shields it from much of the solar wind. When the solar wind encounters Earth’s magnetic field it is deflected like water around the bow of a ship, as illustrated in the adjacent image

solar bow shock

The imaginary surface at which the solar wind is first deflected is called the bow shock. The corresponding region of space sitting behind the bow shock and surrounding the Earth is termed the magnetosphere ; it represents a region of space dominated by the Earth’s magnetic field in the sense that it largely prevents the solar wind from entering. However, some high energy charged particles from the solar wind leak into the magnetosphere and are the source of the charged particles trapped in the Van Allen belts.

Okay, now the primer is over.  As we move toward the galactic plane, there will be increasing magnetic fluxs entering our solar system from the center of the galaxy, which in turn could, and I say could, cause significant solar winds.  In other words, the sun will be dealing with its bow shocks emanating from the center of the galaxy, and we on earth will see an increasing number of magnetospheric changes and fluxes.

There are more than a number of papers that address magnetic field changes and the effects on our nervous systems.  NASA has completed a number of studies in understanding the effects of these fields on astronauts traveling through space.  Therefore, given these facts, I am saying we will experience more and more changes in behavior as we approach this event of passing through the galactic plane.  You may have even noticed changes in family member’s behavior.  Understanding that there may be explainable reasons can provide you with a better ability to cope with these behaviors, and more importantly “keep your own cool”.

If we assume for a moment that this hypothesis has merit, then it behooves us to learn how to handle anxieties.  A simple way is to take fifteen minutes a day to learn to be quiet and simply meditate.  Learn how to breath.

Since this is apparently a routine event every 26,000 years or so, all we need to do is understand it, learn how to survive it, but most importantly, to accept it. I suspect that kind of attitude can pay benefits in our daily lives, I would think.