Earthquake Lights: The Mystery has Been Solved

 

Earthquake lights

Earthquake lights remind me that everything will always be calm and okay… http://www.jimonlight.com/

‘Earthquake lights,’ or earthquake luminosity, is the name of a phenomenon that occurs just before, during, or right after an earthquake. Earthquake lights are lights that appear from seemingly nowhere, and disappear just as mysteriously. They come in many colors and forms. People have reported seeing them for hundreds of years, but it wasn’t until now that scientists believe they may finally understand why strange lights are seen during an earthquake.

A report from the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory in 1975 about the Kalapana earthquake on the Big Island of Hawaii described the earthquake lights that were seen during and immediately after the quake. The report stated that,

During and immediately after the main shock, ‘earthquake lights’ of white to bluish flashes or glows lasting several seconds were reported by a number of observers… The lights are believed to be results of earthquake-induced distortions of the atmosphere.

An earthquake-induced distortion of the atmosphere is scientific jargon for “we have no idea.”

Related Article: Science Says “Smart People Are Idiots”

earthquake lights orbs

Aliens have the inalienable right to hang out near earthquake sites. http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/

Earthquake lights can last for hours at a time and have been spotted many miles away from the epicenter of earthquakes. They are certainly strange, but researchers believe that a new study is the most likely hypothesis for why and how earthquake lights form.

The study, published in Seismological Research Letters, represents a whole new approach to understanding earthquake lights. The study explains that earthquake lights are a phenomenon that have been known about for hundreds of years, explaining that,

With the beginning of seismology as a science in the 19th century, many scholars devoted time to reporting luminosities associated with earthquake activity. To name a few, the Irish engineer Robert Mallet, the “founder of seismology”, published a five part catalog entitled “On the Facts of Earthquake Phenomena”… in which numerous reports on earthquake luminosities can be found. His catalog, first presented to the British Association of Science, covers the years 1606 B.C. to 1842 A.D.. Ignazio Galli, an Italian priest who graduated in Natural Sciences, published in the early 1900s a catalog of 148 seismic events associated with different types of luminosities. His catalog covers the years 89 B.C. to 1910 A.D.

Looks like both religion and science have been aware of earthquake lights for some time. The study goes on to explain the past theories for earthquake lights. There are two major past theories, and another fringe theory:

Old Theory 1: Earthquake lights are the result of intense electric fields which cause atmospheric disturbances. These fields are created through piezoelectricity, a charge that accumulates in crystals undergoing stress. Because there are a great deal of rocks in the earth that contain quartz crystal, this theory is plausible. Thrown violently about by tectonic plates, the quartz crystals release piezoelectricity and could be creating a luminescent stir in the atmosphere.

Old Theory 2: Earthquake lights are caused by local disturbances in Earth’s magnetic field within the ionosphere. These disturbances are caused by tectonic stress. A glow can be seen as the magnetic field and particles in the ionosphere recombine and reform. This theory is the least likely of the two because the described effects on the ionosphere have not been notably observed.

Related Article: Pooping Dogs Perceive Earth’s Magnetic Field

Old Theory 3: Earthquake lights are created using government technology under the authority of a project called the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program, or HAARP. HAARP’s aim is to better understand the ionosphere and how it can be manipulated and used to provide better communication and surveillance for civilian and military use. Many believe that HAARP is used to create natural disasters by disrupting Earth’s magnetic field. They also think it could be a mind control device. This theory is the most likely to remain a theory for a very long time.

earthquake lights haarp

This is where Big Brother makes weather for the proles.

New Theory: Earthquake lights are caused by the release of negatively-charged oxygen atoms created through high intensity stress. These atoms slip through cracks in the earth and reach the atmosphere even before an earthquake can be felt. Dense groups of these atoms ionize pockets of air, creating a plasma that emits light.

The new theory on earthquake lights is the most likely to be true as it explains why the lights can be seen for up to days before the earthquake begins. Tectonic stress gradually builds up over an extended period of time, and according to the theory, so do the lights.

Despite earthquake lights occurring 85% of the time at earthquake sites that account for only 5% of all earthquakes, researchers are hopeful that the lights might one day be used as an early warning system.

 

 

Sources:

http://hvo.wr.usgs.gov/earthquakes/destruct/1975Nov29

http://srl.geoscienceworld.org/content/85/1/159

http://jjap.jsap.jp/link?JJAP/37/5016/

http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Newsroom/view.php?id=22089

http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/science/2014/01/why-do-lights-sometimes-appear-in-the-sky-during-an-earthquake/

http://www.popsci.com/military-aviation-space/article/2008-06/militarys-mystery-machine

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_Frequency_Active_Auroral_Research_Program

Pooping Dogs Perceive Earth’s Magnetic Field

earth's magnetic field

Earth’s magnetic field is the reason you’re reading this.

In the first study of its kind researchers were able to prove that dogs are able to perceive Earth’s magnetic field. Although it is still unknown exactly how dogs exhibit magnetosensitivity (magnetic sensitivity), the evidence speaks for itself. Observation of defecation and urination preferences of seventy different dogs led to conclusive answers. Recent studies have even led scientists to believe that humans may have the ability to perceive Earth’s magnetic field in a similar way.

 

Earth’s Magnetic Field and Dog Crap

According to the researchers of the study,

Several mammalian species spontaneously align their body axis with respect to the Earth’s magnetic field (MF) lines in diverse behavioral contexts.

dog poop magnetic field

Dog poop will lead the way to understanding the magnetic field. motherboard.vice.com

It was this body alignment that researchers from all around the world speculated they might see in dogs. 70 dogs from 37 different breeds were chosen to take part in the study. No animal cruelty took place; the only thing the dogs had to do was number one and two. For two years scientists observed dogs defecate 1,893 times and urinate 5,582 times. Each time a dog did its business the research team took note of the geomagnetic conditions at the time, taking into account the intensity of Earth’s magnetic field at the time, as well as the direction of the dog relative to magnetic north.

Related Article: Dogs Can Predict Earthquakes by Hearing Them

The results irrefutably show that as long as the Earth’s magnetic field is calm and stable, dogs prefer to align themselves perfectly along the north-south polar axis. When the field is unstable, alignment no longer occurs. Researchers are unsure why dogs behave this way as it has nothing to do with navigation. In truth, bird and mammalian perception of Earth’s magnetic field is still a total mystery.

 

What is the Magnetic Field?

The magnetic field is like a Romulan force field. http://csep10.phys.utk.edu/

The magnetic field is like a Romulan force field. http://csep10.phys.utk.edu/

Although the magnetic field is a wildly debated topic in various fields of science, scientists do agree on one fact: it is the only reason we’re alive. The sun ejects ionized gases filled with charged particles, called a “solar wind,” in all directions at a velocity of about 250 miles per second. This solar wind would leave Earth as barren as Mars were it not for our magnetic field.

The magnetic field is a constantly changing and shifting field of magnetic influence surrounding the planet. The field extends for hundreds of miles in one form or another. Although the evidence is still debated, most scientists accept dynamo theory, which is a theory describing the dynamo effect, as the source of the field’s origin. The dynamo effect is an explanation for the creation of planetary magnetic fields which claims that it is produced by the movement of electrical currents in the spinning liquid metallic outer core of the Earth, which is made of iron and nickel.

Related Article: Martian Spiders: Seasonal Life on Mars

Earth magnetic field

The magnetic field shield!

Although we usually refer to space as a vacuum, or utterly empty, this is not exactly true. A colossal amount of plasma and ionized gas which we call a solar wind is constantly being ejected from the sun.  The solar wind is slowed down from a super-sonic speed to a sub-sonic speed when it hits the bow shock, the outermost area of influence of the magnetic field. This area is also called the magnetopause. The entire area of space between the magnetopause and the Earth is called the magnetosphere, or Earth’s magnetic field.  All planets except for our neighbors Mars and Venus have a magnetic field.

Fun Fact: The magnetic field deflects the ionized particles like a windshield deflects rain. A very small amount of these gases break through the bow shock and get stuck in the field. These charged particles from the sun are what cause the aurora borealis (northern and southern lights).

Related Article: MIT Discovers New State of Matter and Magnetism

 

Perceiving the Magnetic Field

There are three ways in which Earth’s magnetic field can be perceived:

  • Mechanical Reception – This is the principle behind a compass needle. A magnetic field exerts a torque on a ferromagnetic material or on a material with diamagnetic anisotropy. Only ferromagnets will be able to produce a response to a field as weak as 0.5 Gauss that is detectable against thermal motion. In animals, the use of small magnetic particles (e.g., magnetite) as magnetoreceptors has been suggested. The use of magnetite has been shown in magnetotactic bacteria that are rotated by a magnetic field because of the torque exerted on their magnetite particles.

  • vision magnetic field

    A peek a the magnetic field. http://csep10.phys.utk.edu/

    Electric Induction – Movement in a magnetic field will result in an induced electric field. Elasmobranch  fish have a special sensory organ to perceive electric fields with high accuracy and can use this organ also to detect magnetic fields. However, such an organ can not be found in all animals capable of magnetoreception.

  • Chemical Reception – Chemical reactions that involve transitions between different spin states can be influenced by magnetic fields, so that one of the possible products is favored due to the influence of the magnetic field. Usually, magnetic fields much stronger than the geomagnetic field are necessary to see a significant change in products. For a particular type of chemical reaction,  radical-pair reactions, it has recently been shown experimentally that 0.5 Gauss magnetic fields produce a small, but measurable change in product ratios.

Perception of the magnetic field allows an animal to perceive their direction, altitude, and location in an environment. Magnetoreception allows an organism to create a regional map of the area they live in, as well as incredibly precise navigation. It’s like having an internal compass, gps, and google maps all at the same time.  I like to think of perceiving the Earth’s magnetic field as having a video game-like mini map on your existential interface.

 

Animal Perception of the Magnetic Field

There is only one organism with a magnetic field perception scientists are sure they fully understand. The organism is a bacteria called a magnetotactic bacteria, and it has a very remarkable sense of the magnetosphere.

Inside magnetotactic bacteria cells there are organelles which contain magnetic crystals. The fixed magnets in the bacteria force it into polar alignment. This occurs with cells even if they are dead.

Although many can do it, scientists still have no unanimously accepted explanation for how the magnetic field is perceived by animals. The ability has been observed in a wide variety of species. According to a study published in the journal of comparative physiology,

A magnetic compass is widespread among animals, magnetic navigation is indicated e.g. in birds, marine turtles and spiny lobsters and the use of magnetic ‘sign posts’ has been described for birds and marine turtles.

Although in most cases we don’t know how, or why some animals have the ability to perceive the magnetic field, we are certain it is widespread. A great example of an animal with a magnetosensitivity we mostly understand is the chicken, an animal we all know and love. Hens have tiny magnets in their beaks which help them navigate. It is standard practice to cut the end of the beak off to avoid pecking. Doing this, however, also greatly disrupts a hen’s ability to navigate. Maybe that’s why chickens always seem so confused.

Related Article: Immortal Animals and the Human Link

Another classic example I’m sure you’ve heard of is the homing pigeon. This is a perfect example of an animal that proves time and time again it can perceive the magnetic field, and in fact depends on it for its precise navigation and homing ability. In fact, bird migration as a whole greatly depends on perception of the magnetosphere. The cause of the ability still eludes scientists though.

pigeon magnetic field

Too much declination to read the magnetic field right now! misadventuresofwidowhood.blogspot.com

 

Human Perception of the Magnetic Field

Some studies have claimed that magnets in the bones of human sinuses allow for magnetosensitivity to take place in humans. Magnets in the cells of our eyes have been found as well.

There is currently a project which attempts to emulate the experience of magnetic navigation as a sensory experience. Feel Space uses a belt which emits ongoing vibrations which train the wearer to recognize when they are aligned north to south, or in other directions. Could magnetosensitivity be a sixth sense humanity unlocks for itself? For those brave enough to try it, you could always implant magnets into the tips of your fingers in order to ‘feel’ changes in electromagnetic fields around you.

 

 

Sources:

http://www.frontiersinzoology.com/content/10/1/80/abstract

http://www.frontiersinzoology.com/content/pdf/1742-9994-10-80.pdf

http://www.phy6.org/earthmag/dynamos2.htm

http://www.nasa.gov/vision/earth/lookingatearth/29dec_magneticfield.html

http://arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/papers/1002/1002.1860.pdf

Planetary Magnetospheres

http://csep10.phys.utk.edu/astr161/lect/earth/magnetic.html

http://www.ks.uiuc.edu/Research/magsense/

http://www.strangehorizons.com/2001/20010702/living_lodestones.shtml

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=magnetoreception

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15886990

http://jeb.biologists.org/content/210/13/2300.full

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9317262

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6823284

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-13809144

http://gizmodo.com/5895555/i-have-a-magnet-implant-in-my-finger

Galaxy Geysers

galaxy geysers

phys.org

Astronomers have discovered intensely powerful geysers of energy pouring out of our galaxy’s center.  These geysers are so powerful and expansive that the astronomers believe they may even play a major part in maintaining the galaxy’s overall magnetic field.

Astronomers from all over the world have now verified the discovery of the geysers and have concluded that the geysers of power are generated from the collective energy of 100 million years of exploding stars at the center of the galaxy.  The energy outflows travel at supersonic speeds of 1000 kilometers per second and are mind-blowingly impressive in magnitude and power.

The research team’s leader, CSIRO’s Dr Ettore Carretti states that:

These outflows contain an extraordinary amount of energy — about a million times the energy of an exploding star.

The outflows take up 2/3 of the night sky seen from Earth and measure 50,000 light-years (five hundred thousand million million kilometres) from top to bottom, which is half the diameter of the entire Milky Way galaxy. Luckily for us, we are 30,000 light years away from these bastions of energy, far enough away that they don’t pose even a remote threat.  They just look incredibly cool.

Sit back and enjoy the cosmic fireworks.

 

Sources:

http://www.csiro.au/Portals/Media/Our-Galaxys-geysers-are-towers-of-power.aspx