[Flash Forward] EARTH: The Polar Flip

EARTH: The Polar Flip

12/03/2019 by Rose Eveleth

Web player: http://podplayer.net/?id=65320615
Episode: https://www.podtrac.com/pts/redirect.mp3/traffic.megaphone.fm/PPY2449793878.mp3?updated=1552404991

Today we travel to a future where the Earth’s magnetic poles reverse.

→ → → Further reading available here ← ← ←

Guests: Eftyhia Zesta — Chief of the Geospace Physics Laboratory in the Heliophysics Division at NASA Michael Purucker — Planetary Magnetosphere Lab chief at NASA Alanna Mitchell — author of The Spinning Magnet Rory Cottrell — archaeomagnetism researcher at The University of Rochester Thorsten Ritz — biophysics researcher at UC Irvine Actors: The Snowglobe Narrator: Brent Rose Lenny Haywood: Evan Johnson Farah Mousterian: Zahra Noorbakhsh, host of Good Muslim, Bad Muslim John Jacob Siwa: Joseph Jones Juana Aguilar: Tamara Krinsky, host of Tomorrow’s World Today Roberta Peary: Avery Trufelman, host of Articles of Interest Ramona Byrd: Andrea Silenzi, host of The Longest Shortest Time Flash Forward is produced by me, Rose Eveleth. The intro music is by Asura and the outtro music is by Hussalonia. The episode art is by Matt Lubchansky.

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Listen Date: 2019-05-01


  • Reassuringly, everybody involved said that polar flips or magnetic field weakening is not a cataclysm to be worried about.
  • But the fact that Earth out of all planets in the solar system is the only one with a radiation soaking magnetic field and a distance from the Sun conducive to liquid water and life and a moderate axial tilt and a moderate period of rotation; makes me think that we truly do live in a world of cosmic horror; where our tiny bubble of warmth and life could be punctured at any moment.
  • The section on how either rocks or pottery can record the magnetic field at the time of the last time they went through the curing temperature of magnetite was fascinating and brought me back to second year Materials Science; and I want to go read more about it now. (Oh, it’s the Curie temperature.)
  • The South Atlantic Anomaly was a completely new learning for me.
  • Also so intriguing: that we really have no idea on how birds and other animals which can use the Earth’s magnetic field actually do it; or rather that no organ has ever been discovered. And the proposal (again!) that it’s done in symbiosis with bacteria that have figured it out. Even more cool: that birds detect not North vs South, but equatorial vs polar of the magnetic field.
  • Oh, Ultimatum was about Magneto using Mjolnir to cause a polar reversal? Very beautiful.
  • The bonus episode wasn’t all that interesting this time.


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