Monday, 11 April 2016

Under An Angry Sun


On August 31, 2012 a long filament of solar material that had been hovering in the sun's atmosphere, the corona, erupted out into space at 4:36 p.m. EDT. The coronal mass ejection, or CME, traveled at over 900 miles per second. The CME did not travel directly toward Earth, but did connect with Earth's magnetic environment, or magnetosphere, causing aurora to appear on the night of Monday, September 3
My father spent most of his life taking photos. He could never understand why I never took any - perhaps because I had his collection to look back on. My feeling was that if you were on vacation, and enjoying that vacation, then there was no need to ruin it by taking photographs. I guess most people don’t think that way.

Later in his life he transferred all his photographs into digitized versions. He felt it was safer and easier to handle; thousands of pictures (and several lives) now fitted on to a small memory stick.

I guess we all did the same one way or another: electronic newspapers became the order of the day, books were digitized, music was downloaded, as were all the latest movies and television series.

It was a much brighter and faster world – information was at hand twenty-four hours a day. Libraries were closed, book stores were shut down.
We were all in love with digital bytes and the advantages that came with those concepts.

I remember I watched my grandfather burns books in his back yard. He laughed as my sister danced around it. The Nazis might have enjoyed the spectacle but at the back of my mind was a thought that this was all wrong. I couldn’t tell you exactly why - but I loved the touch and feel of paper and ink, maybe that was an old-fashioned concept but turning a page was very satisfying.

Within a period of twenty years, all the non-electronic forms of communication were consigned to museums, allowing future generations to point and stare at the awkwardness of the methods their ancestors once used. Some might even chuckle at the exhibits; the way we did with our forefathers.

There was a man called Harry Steinway; a man who devoted his life to watching the Sun. He recorded every idiosyncrasy of that glorious star, every behaviour, expected or not. He was asked to talk on panel shows when the star was being discussed, I guess you could say that he was man who knew everything about the Sun.

Then one year, Professor Steinway noticed a grave change in the star. It was beginning to throw out more flares into space and with that, more x-ray and ultra-violet radiation. It caused power stations to fail on Earth, and certain communications to break down.

Steinway’s description of the phenomenon was that the Sun was growing ‘angrier’. This emotive use of that word caused folks to think of the professor as a little eccentric (or maybe a lot).

Every time he was interviewed, he would always bring the topic around to the state of the Sun and its flares.
“We need to be ready,” he would exclaim. “We need to be ready.”

All his talk fell on deaf ears. He warned them of the increasing solar storms and the dangers - but they felt a little radio breakdown here, or a small power station outage there, was a small price to pay for all this digital science.

Then it finally came – the day of silence. The day when the solar flares reached so far out into space that they destroyed everything in their path. The Earth was far enough away that it only felt the fallout of the radiation, but it was enough.

All the digital, electronic and electrical machines and memories were destroyed. No photographs, or electronic books, or movies, or a hundred thousand million other things.

So now we are back in the time of the dark ages.
Today, a man may kill another man just to gain possession of a printed book.

bobby stevenson 2016

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