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North and South poles are going to Flip!?

Doomsday predictions that the Earth's poles are going to flip, or that they have already flipped, or that the angle of tilt of the Earth's axis is going to change radically quite soon, are believed by some people to be a matter of likely possibility.

It's important to know about this sort of thing, so you can make plans accordingly. If you knew the world was about to end, you'd probably book an expensive holiday soon, rather than saving up the money for a long retirement.

With any kind of apocalypse, you'll find there are devout believers who are certain they know all about it, and you've find devout sceptics who are equally sure that nothing is going to happen, regardless of evidence. In general it's best to look at various evidence and different points of view, and then make your own mind up. However, you should know that some of the stuff you read is information and some of it is disinformation. Knowing the actual facts, based on things that make consistent sense with each-other, is crucial to making an Informed decision, rather than believing one person or another. These are matters which are too important to be based on belief and the persuasiveness of folk.

If you're wondering if there is a big conspiracy and a cover-up, yes, there probably is. However, the actual conspiracies that are really going on, are different conspiracies from those that are assumed or believed. I'm a paranoid, and I believe that governments routinely make up rumours and spread disinformation (including some conspiracy theories about the government), in order to help to hide the real conspiracies!

I also believe there are going to be dramatic cataclysmic events, but not the same as the ones that are necessarily being talked about.

In the year 2008, it was quite popular for people to believe the world was going to end on 21st December 2012. The ancient Mayan calendar marks that event as especially significant. Now you may be interested to hear that the Mayans are not extinct. You see them walking around in Panama, Belize, and a few other Central American places. It will be interesting to ask some of them what they think is going to happen on 21st December 2012. From what I've seen so far of Mayan culture, the Maya have always believed in astrological changes of great significance, but never an actual end of all things. You can even see this in their architecture, where old pyramids are added-to and patched up.

You might see websites saying that the drastic events that are going to happen Soon, as in within the next decade or two, are going to include a change in the Earth's axis, and a switching of North and South poles.

There is confusion because: There is an important distinction between the Magnetic Poles and the matters of Rotation. Also, ideas of Momentum are often ignored by believers. Timescales are often misunderstood.

Well I'm going to try to clear up some of this.

For one thing, the Earth's magnetic poles are going to flip over, as they have done before many times. This next swapping-over of the magnetic compass direction of North and South will occur. However, the evidence is quite strong that the change will take place at a rate appropriate to the time-constant of such changes in the past. The magnetic strength has been reducing gradually for the past few thousand years, and over a longer period it does switch over. On average, there is a changeover about every 200,000 years, but it's not a regular event. Sometimes the magnetic poles can switch over twice in 10,000 years. Sometimes they'll stay the same for 10 million years. It is a reasonable guess that there will be another flip-over in the next few thousand years, but it's by no means certain when it will happen. However, it's a reasonably safe bet it's not going to happen in 4 years!

When the magnetic poles switch over, it will be tricky to navigate with a compass. Homing pigeons will get lost more often, and maps will be more puzzling because of people wondering which way up they should be. It's also true that because of the decreased magnetosphere, there will be more radiation arriving on the Earth. That doesn't mean we're all going to be zapped. Plenty of radiation arrives anyway. The magnetosphere does not stop it; it just reduces it.

Mass-extinction events are typical in the geological history of the Earth (every so-many hundreds of millions of years). However they are associated with big cataclysms, not the changing of the magnetic poles. Animals have survived magnetic pole changes before, and they'll survive them again. Humans will also survive, if they don't do anything really stupid.

In contrast to magnetic polar shifts, the changing direction of the Axis is a much bigger effect. Looking back at what the Earth's axis has done, it is notably regular. Currently the axis is at about 23.4 degrees. This causes the seasons. The axis points towards Polaris currently, but it changes, in a regular period of about 26,000 years. In addition, the axis varies in the number of degrees. In the past 700,000 years it has oscillated at a steady cycle, between about 22 degrees and about 24.5 degrees. This is quite regular, and the coming and going of Ice Ages is linked to the axis of tilt.

As the Earth's axis of tilt changes in a natural cycle between about 22 degrees and about 24.5 degrees, it's unreasonable to suppose that there is going to be a much more dramatic change.

So, if anyone still thinks the Earth's axis has somehow shifted 26 degrees mysteriously some time during last Thursday without anyone noticing, well, NO, it has not happened. It isn't Uranus, you know! The Earth's axis is still about where it was, and is likely to remain about where it is, on an ongoing basis. It is not possible for any governments to hide this sort of thing. It's pretty obvious from the things going on in the sky and in the climate. If you still think something like this has happened here's what to do: 1. Get a large telescope. 2. join your local astronomy society (they welcome new members, especially anyone who has a large telescope, regardless of their beliefs). 3. Have reasonable discussions about scientific evidence with members of the society. ... The thing is, astronomers believe what they see in the sky, not what they are told by the authorities. Astronomers notice things change in the sky, often before the official news gets out. If a supernova goes bang somewhere out there, it's usually spotted by an amateur astronomer with a telescope on a garden somewhere, long before the official professional places get to know about it.

It's also interesting to notice that geostationary orbit satellite TV satellites are still in the same places being pointed-at by satellite dishes bolted onto the walls of houses.

An understanding of Momentum is important to see how things can or can't happen to the Earth. Onboard a supertanker it's no good trying to convince anyone that the ship is going to come screeching to a halt. The fact is that by the momentum and other facts of Newton's laws of motion, everyone knows it's going to take miles and miles to stop, even with the engines full-astern. With a turning-circle of several miles, whatever happens, it's not going to happen suddenly. The Earth is like that, only its supertankerishness is on an even grander scale. So, any momentum changes are going to take a very long time.

Even if an asteroid were to collide with the Earth, like the one that wiped out the dinosaurs, it would not shift the Earth's axis more than a tiny bit. This would be not have been much consolation to the poor old dinosaurs, who, even though they had 180 million years to evolve and have a space program, they didn't, and they ended up Extinct!

Also see Not a Picture of the Queen Mother. She was a human, you know, and not really a reptile at all.