A current crop of solar flares could disrupt GPS systems, which more and more cars are using. They are also standard equipment on jet planes, which makes the flares a potentially much more serious problem. But GPS is not the only thing these solar flares could stress?the radiation they give off could harm astronauts' brains.
Fiery discharges from the sun may not bother the GPS in your car are on your cell phone. In LiveScience.com, Jeanna Bryner quotes Paul Kintner Jr. as saying, "If you're driving to the beach using your car's navigation system, you'll be OK. If you're on a commercial airplane in zero visibility weather, maybe not."
David Shiga writes in New Scientist that radiation that astronauts encounter on extended trips to the moon or Mars?whether from the sun or just from being out in space, unprotected by the earth's magnetic shield?could lead to problems with learning, memory and stress. If male astronauts' sperm is affected, they could pass these problems on.
Before we send them on an extended exploration of Mars, or the moon, NASA is studying what can be done to protect them. It?s a shame the government isn't doing more to protect us here at home.
Art credit: gimp-savvy.com
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