Simulation of Earth’s magnetic field in interaction with (solar) Interplanetary_magnetic_field.
Image public domain from Wikipedia by Nikolai Tsyganenko, USRA/NASA/GSFC.

Everybody knows about the rise of mobile communications, like streaming media on smart phones. Quartz for example summarizes this for the case of americans (US?) rather visibly in this chart.

But of course next to these rather bare communication services there are increasingly other wireless services, which are often put under umbrella terms like “internet of things” etc. which are ranging from self-driving cars (side remark: self driving cars are only partially autonomous, they usually receive regular GPS and map data, traffic info etc. and eventually also send infos) to banking and digital currencies.

The wireless capabilities seem to be endless for some people.

In the article: The next generation of currency (beware quite disturbing javascript gizmos) by Michael V. Copeland it is written:

The Bitcoin protocol runs on top of the Internet, and, just like video chatting with someone halfway across the globe, it makes moving data—in this case Bitcoin—essentially free.

And these new technologies are often called “disrupting” as they are often making older (mainly human ressource intense) business models obsolete. So according to Greg Beach Uber CEO Travis Kalanick apparently said in the context of self-driving cars:

“Look, this is the way the world is going. If Uber doesn’t go there, it’s not going to exist either way. The world isn’t always great.”

And Copeland asks:

What role do banks play in this era? These are becoming less easy questions to answer with each additional service that gets launched.

A question which is partially answered by Francisco González of the spanish bank Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria who writes in the context of the banks IT platform:

So far, most of the companies developing these capabilities—such as Paypal, Square, iZettle, SumUp, TransferWise—are niche players targeting a single segment of the financial industry’s value chain.


The conventional financial services industry is becoming what I call the BIT (Banking, Information, and Technology) industry, a staging post on the road to its growing into Knowledge Banking: an industry able to provide us with far greater value, furnishing more and better solutions for our needs, and effectively supporting economic development at the global level. In this process, banks are merely accompanying the economy at large and the global society as they rapidly evolve toward knowledge-based forms of themselves.

But, well, this apparently easy expansion isn’t easy. In particular apart from societal or health problems there are technical problems. Alone the energy use of wireless cloud services is rather big:

The energy use of cloud services accessed via wireless networks is expected to grow up to 460% between 2012 and 2015, the equivalent of 4.9 million new cars on the roads

And there are already now limitations in bandwidth. (You should be aware of the fact that some of the LTE frequencies (like the 2.6 GHz) are higher than that of your consumer microwave oven around 2.45 GHz)).

And then there are sometimes technical problems which may sound to some people “too technical” and (therefore) “too constructed.” Like problems due to space weather, which problem catalog unfortunately ranges from disruption of GPS and other spacecraft signals to black outs and satellite crashes.

And there is something which might sound even more “constructed.” In order to explain this some explanations.

The earth (very roughly speaking) is like a bar magnet. And the magnetic north pole is currently located sort of in the vicinity of the north pole. The true story is a bit more complicated and in particular the magnetic field of the earth is only approximately like a bar magnet and there are variations in the magnetic field which are distributed in complicated patterns over the globe. But let’s stick for a while to this bar magnet image. The magnetic field of the earth repells the solar wind to a certain extend. In the above image you can see this. If the magnetic field is weak, the solar wind hits the earth stronger and space weather has a bigger impact on life on earth.

Now something funny happens. The magnetic north pole of the earth switches once in a while to become a south pole and the south pole a north pole, i.e. the magnetic field switches its direction, as if you would turn the bar magnet. This is called a geomagnetic reversal.

The last geomagnetic reversal was apparently rather short, such a short reversal is called an excursion, because the earth magnetic polarity usually stays for very long times, like thousands of years. This last reversal happened something like 41.000 years ago:

The actual polarity changes lasted only 250 years. In terms of geological time scales, that is very fast.” During this period, the field was even weaker, with only 5% of today’s field strength. As a consequence, the Earth nearly completely lost its protection shield against hard cosmic rays, leading to a significantly increased radiation exposure.

The effects on the biosphere of such a reversal are still rather disputed, ranging from mass extinction to way milder effects. Finally 41.000 ys ago there were already humans on this planet. But it’s clear this is not only “bad space weather.”

When will be the next reversal?

Nobody knows, but currently the magnetic field weakens considerably rapidly and there are anomalies (like parts of the southern atlantic display patches with a reverse field). In the article: Magnetfeldbeobachtung im südlichen Afrika: regionale Daten zum Verständnis globaler Änderungen (in german) Monika Korte describes this anomalies and writes:

Dabei nimmt die mittlere globale Stärke des Erdmagnetfelds seit Beginn der systematischen Beobachtung vor etwa 175 Jahren beständig ab. Die deutliche Abnahme um 9 % über diesen Zeitraum könnte auf eine über die nächsten Jahrhunderte bevorstehende Feldumkehr hindeuten, oder aber auch lediglich Teil einer gewöhnlichen Schwankung auf diesen Zeitskalen sein.

translation without guarantee:

In that context the average strength of the earth magnetic field since the beginning of systematic observation about 175 years ago is steadily decreasing. The distinct decrease of 9 % over this time interval could point to a reversal over the course of the next centuries, but it could also be just part of a usual fluctuation within those time scales.

Yes. The world may not always be great.

supplement 24.12.16: Here a link to an ESA notice about the jet stream in the earths inner core. The notice is based on an article behind a paywall, from the abstract of this article:

We find that the jet has increased in magnitude by a factor of three over the period 2000–2016 to about 40 km yr−1, and is now much stronger than typical large-scale flows inferred for the core. We suggest that the current accelerating phase may be part of a longer-term fluctuation of the jet causing both eastward and westward movement of magnetic features over historical periods, and may contribute to recent changes in torsional-wave activity and the rotation direction of the inner core.

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