Kanipe: The Cosmic Connection

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Jeff Kanipe, The Cosmic Connection : How Astronomical Events Impact Life on Earth. Amherst, N.Y. : Prometheus Books, 2009. 296 pages; 4 pages of plates : illustrated; includes bibliographical references and index.

This book was a challenge for this logic-minded person to get through but I did learn a few new facts. Note that the book was written for the lay person.

Let me say at the outset that I have always loved the space program. I chose this book because of that love. The first 2 chapters were the hardest for me to get through because of all of the science-ese and mathematical calculations. Each chapter discusses a different type of astronomical event and how it relates to life on Earth.

For instance, the Earth's changing axis and orbit could have triggered our past ice ages. I was not aware that the axis of the earth could change but it does. The cooling period commonly known as "The Little Ice Age" that ended around 1850 was due to the reduction in the number of sunspots that were emitted from our sun. As the temperature of the sun's output changed, our climate changed. When the sunspots decrease, glaciers advance. When they increase, glaciers recede. Sound familiar? I find these 2 astrological events fascinating because of their effect on our climate. I wonder whether global warming is really a problem that we need to solve given that the sun may solve it for us.

Another example concerns a solar flare in 1989 that shut down the U.S./Canada power grid and caused a 9 hour blackout. The flare

...initiated a blast of energy particles that struck Earth on March 13 at 8:20 pm eastern standard time, setting off high voltage alarms, overheating transformers and tripping capacitors throughout the northeastern part of the United States and Canada. At the Hydro-Quebec Power Company in Montreal, the intence electrical convulsion overwhelmed and shut ndown seven static compensators in one minute and overloaded transformers prompting the tripping or deactivation of reactive power compensators. By 2:45 am, the system collapsed in a power blackout, leaving more than 6 million people without electricity.

Where were you when the lights went out?

Exploding stars and their subsequent gamma ray bursts may have been responsible for the 4 mass extinctions that occurred on earth. Who knew there were 4? Observations from Antarctic ice cores reveal evidence of this, i.e., excess of nitrate abundances. I am flabbergasted that signs of something so far away from the Earth as a star can be found here.

I enjoyed The Cosmic Connection and I think you will too. Kanipe gives a fascinating look at our universe. While anyone interested in astronomy will love the book, I would also recommend it to those worried about the effects of global warming.

-- Notes by VS

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