"Forget global warming, worry about the MAGNETOSPHERE" proclaims a 2014 Daily Mail headline, heralding the oncoming doom of our planet's magnetic field, reversing polarity. Now, scientists are saying it's OK to forget about the magnetosphere. For now.
A new MIT study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science claims that the planet's magnetic field is in no danger of flipping its polarity for about 2,000 years.
The Earth's magnetic field is generated by the planet's core and helps keep potentially dangerous charged particles from space entering the atmosphere. The field is also the reason why compasses point north toward the North Magnetic Pole, about 500 miles away from the geographic North Pole.
Signs that the planet's magnetic field is weakening have worried some scientists in recent years. Historical records show us the field reverses polarity every few hundred thousand years or so, when north becomes south and south becomes north). When that happens, there's a brief period where there is no protective magnetic field surrounding the planet.
It's difficult to know for certain what would happen in such an instance, but everything from increased amounts of dangerous radiation to the collapse of electrical grid could be in the cards. If nothing else, any technology that relies on compasses to point north would be useless.
The MIT study looked at the history of the magnetic field's intensity and found that, even though it has weakened in recent centuries, it's still twice as strong as the historical average.
"Now we know we are way above the unstable zone. Even if the [field intensity] is dropping, we still have a long buffer that we can comfortably rely on," Huapei Wang, an one of the post-docs who worked on the study, said in an MIT statement.
This is the generally good news for compass fans, and also people who enjoy living in civilization. But don't get too depressed, end-of-the-world fans. There's still the the Yellowstone super-volcano, a random asteroid collision, or even just the Illuminati to scare your kids with.