Sunday, May 16, 2010

Brain Squeeze? Naarf!

We have a missive from that well known monomaniacal wanna-be rodent the Brain, now in semi-retirement in the Acme Retirement Home for Cartoon Characters based on real people. I surmise that we may hear again from him in future.

So, Brain asks, “Pinky, are you pondering what I’m pondering?” And Pinky dutifully responds, “Why, I think so, Brain.” Unfortunately, no one has pondered this stuff before. I am, thus, a genetically-altered mouse without a Sancho Pinky, or, maybe, even a brain.

My pondering, since the Christmas Tsunami of 2004, has focused, however often mice can focus, on the possibility that global warming might be a factor in the increasingly dangerous seismic world in which we all, mice and men, live. In response to my pondering, my nephew, a science guy teacher, sent me a text that read, “U better get to work on that ark.” Not exactly, “I think so, Brain.” My unenthusiastic response, “Don’t have enuf animals.”

However, more encouraging to my theory is the web article “Earth's magnetic field gathers momentum” (, which doesn’t give my postulation any credence, but does admit that seismologists, stuck on the very outer skin of the Earth’s crust (which itself is proportionately about the thickness of an eggshell to the volume of Earth), really don’t know much about the particulars of what generates our planet’s magnetic field; they are pretty sure that the action of the molten metal regurgitating inside Earth’s guts is the Gaussian-motor. To the extent that what’s inner is constantly spilling into the outer, as lava flows from mini to volcanic maxi, there is undeniable evidence that the Gaussian motor isn’t very far beneath our feet.

What French physicists, led by Nicholas Gillet, have discovered is that “subtle variations in the length of day [are linked] with conditions in the Earth's core”, that is, variations to magma-in-motion in the outer core (from whom all volcanic blastings flow) impacts angular momentum, the measure of the Earth’s rotation. Clearly, however, because magma is fluid, these variations aren’t the same in all areas of the outer core … at least, that’s what my mousy intellect is guessing. Therefore, variations in the angular momentum of the outer core with respect to the crust, which causes plate tectonics, results in variations in the torque applied to the crust by the outer core, which causes, according to this French kiss, variations in the length of a day, and, yyyyeeeesss, nasty plate tectonics, you know, earthquakes. Are you pondering what I’m pondering? And, all the chil’n say, “Naarf.”

Now, the geniuses who pass themselves off as experts in the Earth’s core don’t have much ego-boosting stuff available to avail themselves. This is where I, Brain, have the advantage, since it’s been widely reported that animals react to impending giant temblors as much as 10 hours before the onset. True. I, myself, have experienced such early-warning rumblings, like the urge to run away from Acme Labs … but, I digress. A giant temblor would almost certainly have some relationship to a giant variation in the angular momentum of the magma, at least, giant enough relative to the plate boundaries to make two adjacent plates want to play wrecking ball.

Bringing us to the original question of whether the increase in surface temperatures due to global warming, or even just plain old hot spells with seemingly endless cloudless days, contributes to unusually hot plates. First, let’s give a tip of the hat to the Pentagon as to one of the most secretly authoritative reports on global warming - the Pentagon-commissioned Global Business Network analysis, authored by Peter Schwartz and Doug Randall and published in the fall of 2003, of the potential for global conflict resulting from radical temperature change, due to start in … OMG! Due to start this year. Second, since Animaniacs was canceled, I no longer have access to the complex computing devices I invented at Acme Labs and, thus, cannot calculate the amount of heat that reaches the surface of the plates of the Earth with my normal unerring aplomb, but, now, of course, there’s the Internet. So, a few clicks of my human and …

Solar radiation cooks the surface of the Earth at a mean temperature of 350 W/m2, which means that, according to the angle at which the Sun’s rays strike the surface (varying according to the time of year) and other factors, eggs may fry or they may simply sit there, disinterested in the proceedings. Although there are magma disturbances that pass for earthquakes, the really bad boys are the ones that are, in a geological sense, right on the outside of the crust. So, is the increase in caloric absorption, most of it on the outside of the crust, due to global temperature increase, especially concentrated at nearly perpendicular sun exposure (and, thus, making the night-time cool-down that much more exaggerated), reason to worry, seismologically speaking? Zort.

Furthermore, could global warming have an effect on the ongoing shift in the magnetic poles of the Earth? Although there are magnetic-pole-shift deniers, just like there are global-warming deniers, the heat in the pole-pot hasn’t yet even begun to get the frogs discomfited. The current wisdom (remember, this is essentially the same area of expertise as any other field related to the way the Earth’s magnetic field works, that is, there are no real experts) is that a pole shift is thousands of years away and that it takes hundreds of generations for a shift to be completed. I, Brain, putting my mousy moxie to work, have determined that this is pure mouse poop.

For all those who aren’t aware (and, don’t be embarrassed, this ain’t one of those tip-of-your-tongue topics), the Earth’s magnetic poles have flipped many times over the course of the life of the planet, i.e, North becomes South and vice versa, so a pre-pre-pre-pre-pre-historic explorer with trusty compass would become completely disoriented upon the re-orientation of the magnetic orientation. When the poles do flip, any lava flows that occur before and after the shift exhibit magnetic effects that correspond to the Earth’s magnetic field before and after the shift, simply because lava is so hot, that the superheat erases whatever magnetic orientation iron in the lava may have had prior to being superheated and acquires magnetic orientation consistent with Earth’s magnetic field when the lava cools down sufficiently to allow its iron content to once again become magnetized. According to some satellite observations, blotchy magnetic anomalies are appearing around the globe and they’re not small, e.g., the South Atlantic anomalous zone which acts like a junior North Pole.

What happens when a flip takes place, besides trusty compasses turning treacherous? The surface is temporarily subjected to the vagaries of solar wind, for one thing, since a pole-reversal isn’t exactly like flipping a coin or a burger; it takes awhile, in some cases, 3000 years, a mere blip in geological terms, but not so in mousy longevity. And, what does exposure to solar wind do? Nothing good, my mousy sense tells me. In fact, it’s said to be almost a certainty that Mars no longer has water or atmosphere because, in some distant bad air day on the Red Planet, its magnetic field, called the magnetosphere, lowered its guard and all the good stuff that makes life possible was, then as now, “ripped” off the Martian landscape.

Computer simulations of the strength of the Earth’s magnetosphere show that pole-flipping is preceded by substantial weakening (10% in the last 150 years), the symptoms of which are … anomalous zones. When the magnetosphere is behaving, the solar wind (and all the nasty cosmic and UV rays that blow in with it) gets deflected around the atmosphere because of the dipole effect, that is, the electromagnetic nasties get attracted to the North/South polar axis and are effectively catapulted harmlessly past us otherwise unshielded citizens of the planet. When poles go rogue (shall I refer to them as Sarah-poles?), the random, sometimes wandering Sarah-poles pull the solar wind into those areas, much the same way that a magnifying glass focuses light and with the same searing effects. And, all this on top of the beginning of the 11-year solar flare cycle starting … this year.

The effect that solar wind, amped up due to solar flares, focused on random anomalous zones, might have on seismic activity (because the focal point(s) might have a significant effect on plate boundaries via, at least, expansion of the plate because of the extra extreme heat on plates containing anomalous zones) must be viewed in light of the high degree of probability that such anomalous zones bear some fairly strong relationship to the underlying torque of the outer core’s molten gaussian motor.

All of which would ultimately contribute to the full thawing of the 10 trillion TONS of methane gas currently frozen at the bottom of the Earth’s oceans, the ultimate in greenhouse gases (as in about 10 times the greenhouse effect of CO2); an increase of 25o in global temperature could be expected based upon the previous methane blitz experienced by the Mother planet. Now, THAT, no supposing about it, would have an effect on seismic activity.


What are we going to do tonight, Brain? Same thing we do every night, Pinky. Try to take over the world … what’s left of it.