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Big ideas are lenses for envisioning the future. Every article and video on bigthink.com and on our learning platforms is based on an emerging “big idea” that is significant, widely relevant, and actionable. We’re sifting the noise for the questions and insights that have the power to change all of our lives, for decades to come. For example, reverse-engineering is a big idea in that the concept is increasingly useful across multiple disciplines, from education to nanotechnology.

Themes are the seven broad umbrellas under which we organize the hundreds of big ideas that populate Big Think. They include New World Order, Earth and Beyond, 21st Century Living, Going Mental, Extreme Biology, Power and Influence, and Inventing the Future.

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Solar Storm Watch: A Pleasant Aurora or Power Grid Buster?

March 7, 2012, 9:39 PM
Solar

2012 is shaping up to be the year of the solar storm. In late January, the largest solar storm in years erupted, sending a cloud of particles streaming from the Sun toward Earth at 4.5 million mph. 

Now forecasters at NOAA's Space Weather Center have issued a warning that another storm -- potentially the biggest in five years -- is heading our way. When the charged particles released from Sun crash into us between 1AM EST and 5AM EST early Thursday morning, the event could disrupt power grids, satellites, air travel and GPS systems.

On the bright side, the high latitude regions of North America could be treated Thursday evening to the aurora borealis, or Northern Lights. That is, if the full moon doesn't spoil the show. 

The sun right now is reaching the peak of an 11-year cycle. When the last peak happened in 2002 scientists learned that while solar storms don't affect people, they wreak havoc on technology, such as GPS. What other new technological systems might be affected remains to be seen.

Here's the image from NASA:

Image courtesy of NASA.

Follow Daniel Honan on Twitter: @DanielHonan

 

Solar Storm Watch: A Pleasa...

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