Archive for Friday, March 15, 2013

KU researchers appearing on Weather Channel show to discuss mass extinctions from radiation bursts

March 15, 2013


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Three Kansas University researchers are set to appear on a Weather Channel TV show next week to talk about the possible damage to Earth caused by bursts of radiation coming from outer space.

The faculty members will appear on the second-ever episode of the series “Forecasting the End” at 8:30 p.m. Thursday on the Weather Channel, KU announced Friday.

Included will be Bruce Lieberman, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology; Adrian Melott, professor of physics and astronomy; and Brian Thomas who is an adjunct associate professor at KU as well as an associate professor of physics and astronomy at Washburn University.

On the show, which focuses on natural disasters that occur rarely on Earth but have the potential to cause mass extinctions, the three will discuss gamma-ray bursts. Those are bursts of radiation that typically occur along with the death of a star, and the three professors have collaborated on research on how the bursts might damage Earth — and, according to them, already have.

They’ve advanced the theory that a gamma-ray burst already caused a mass extinction of many species on Earth 445 million years ago.


Boston_Corbett 5 years, 2 months ago

I also wonder what will happen when the magnetic poles of the earth switch, which evidently we know from the geologic record happens from time to time.

During this switch, which isn't overnight, but could take some years, I presume the magnetic fields might no longer protect us from "normal" levels of high energy particles coming from the sun. Said in that way, it might not even take a "surge" of high energy particles to create a sun-related mass extinction event.

Does anyone know anything about this issue? I'm certainly no academic in this area.

melott 5 years, 2 months ago

I'm guessing it would not be a big deal. Right now, the Earth's magnetic field channels the charged particles toward the poles. People up there get a bit more radiation, but it's not a huge effect. The Sun events we know about and have some evidence for are a danger to electric power grid, satellites, etc but not so much living things directly.

Boston_Corbett 5 years, 2 months ago

Thanks for the information, Professor. I look forward to Thursday's program, too.

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