Physics professor Ramon Lopez discussed the science of space weather, on Thursday's program. The co-author of Storms from the Sun, Lopez said that "it's the sun that drives the space environment, at least for us." A planet such as Jupiter is different because it has larger internal forces.
Activity on the sun, such as sunspots might affect the Earth's climate, Lopez said. For instance, there was a period in the 1600's when sunspots disappeared completely, and Europe experienced a "little ice age." But it has only been since the advent of the telegraph and subsequent electromagnetic communications that space weather has become an important factor to our civilization he pointed out. This is because explosions and magnetic storms on the sun can disrupt the functionality of satellites, which beam numerous signals back to Earth.
Lopez also commented on future developments of moon exploration. Some possibilities he suggested included setting up radio telescopes on the dark side, and mining the moon for raw materials as we move towards colonizing the solar system.
Arthur Rantala, a Wisconsin farmer, described witnessing a crop circle being formed on his property during the first half-hour of Thursday's show. He said he was sitting in his workshop around 5:30am on July 4th, and as he looked out onto his wheat field, he suddenly saw the formation of what first appeared to him as a black hole on the land. In all, three large circles formed in a mere 10-12 seconds he said.
What does Rantala believe caused it? "It's totally natural," he said. "There was nobody there. I didn't see green men with goggles or six toes." Nor did he see any activity in the air. Rantala said there had been a line of thunderstorms coming through that morning, and he speculated the circles might be related to a tornado trying to form. Further details and images are here.
Bumper music from Thursday July 24, 2003