An engrossing history of the science of one of the four fundamental physical forces in the universe, electromagnetism, right up to the latest indications that the poles are soon to reverse and destroy the world's power grids and electronic communications.
A cataclysmic planetary phenomenon is gathering force deep within the Earth. The magnetic North Pole will eventually trade places with the South Pole. Satellite evidence suggests to some scientists that the move has already begun, but most still think it won't happen for many decades. All agree that it has happened many times before and will happen again. But this time it will be different. It will be a very bad day for modern civilisation.
Award-winning science journalist Alanna Mitchell tells in The Spinning Magnet the fascinating history of one of the four fundamental physical forces in the universe: electromagnetism. From investigations into magnetism in 13th-century feudal France and the realisation 600 years later in the Victorian era that electricity and magnetism are essentially the same, to the discovery that Earth is itself a magnet, spinning in space with two poles and that those poles aperiodically reverse, this is an utterly engrossing narrative history of ideas and science that listeners of Stephen Greenblatt and Sam Kean will love.
The recent finding that Earth's magnetic force field is decaying 10 times faster than previously thought, portending an imminent pole reversal, ultimately gives this story a spine-tingling urgency. When the poles switch, a process that takes many years, Earth will be unprotected from solar radiation storms that would, among other things, wipe out all electromagnetic technology. No satellites, no Internet, no smartphones - maybe no power grid at all. Such potentially cataclysmic solar storms are not unusual. The last one occurred in 2012, and we avoided returning to the Dark Ages only because the part of the sun that erupted happened to be facing away from Earth.