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

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

'Upstreamism': Your zip code affects your health as much as genetics

Upstreamism advocate Rishi Manchanda calls us to understand health not as a "personal responsibility" but a "common good."

Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • Upstreamism tasks health care professionals to combat unhealthy social and cultural influences that exist outside — or upstream — of medical facilities.
  • Patients from low-income neighborhoods are most at risk of negative health impacts.
  • Thankfully, health care professionals are not alone. Upstreamism is increasingly part of our cultural consciousness.
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Afghanistan is the most depressed country on earth

No, depression is not just a type of 'affluenza' – poor people in conflict zones are more likely candidates

Image: Our World in Data / CC BY
Strange Maps
  • Often seen as typical of rich societies, depression is actually more prevalent in poor, conflict-ridden countries
  • More than one in five Afghans is clinically depressed – a sad world record
  • But are North Koreans really the world's 'fourth least depressed' people?
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Banned books: 10 of the most-challenged books in America

America isn't immune to attempts to remove books from libraries and schools, here are ten frequent targets and why you ought to go check them out.

Nazis burn books on a huge bonfire of 'anti-German' literature in the Opernplatz, Berlin. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
Culture & Religion
  • Even in America, books are frequently challenged and removed from schools and public libraries.
  • Every year, the American Library Association puts on Banned Books Week to draw attention to this fact.
  • Some of the books they include on their list of most frequently challenged are some of the greatest, most beloved, and entertaining books there are.
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  • Oumuamua, a quarter-mile long asteroid tumbling through space, is Hawaiian for "scout", or "the first of many".
  • It was given this name because it came from another solar system.
  • Some claimed 'Oumuamua was an alien technology, but there's no actual evidence for that.