# Can Earth be spun like a magnet?

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Could an asteroid or a rogue planet have enough magnetism and/or gravity to spin the Earth near the speed in which they are passing by Earth?

Yes, a little, but not enough to matter.

Magnets can spin other magnets. Think of magnets as a bar magnet with a north and a south, and you can think of them as linear not spherical if that helps with the imagery, because in a sense, they are linear with a distinct North and South magnetic pole.

Earth's magnetic field, for example has a distinct longitude and latitude that moves over time, but it's fixed at any given time.

For your question to work, it's easier to imagine a very powerful magnetic object flying past, and to think of the Earth's internal magnet as a compass arrow that wants to line up. Magnets want to line up with magnetic field lines and a force would be created by a passing strong magnetic field that could orient the Earth's magnetic field to align with it.

You might think that this would turn the Earth, but it wouldn't. Earth's magnetic field isn't "the Earth" it happens in the Earth's core, and it may happen mostly in the region where Earth's inner and outer core meet and the outer core is liquid (dense and viscous but still not solid). The force would be applied to the magnetism inside the Earth, perhaps giving the Earth's inner core a slight tug and twirl and perhaps re-orienting the flowing charged liquid iron just outside of the core, but this force wouldn't turn the Earth as a whole, it would generate a force on the core and the core doesn't spin precisely with the Earth's surface anyway so any movement would likely not show up on the surface, for some time.

Given that a percentage of earth's magnetism is carried by the liquid outer core, then the effect on rotation would be even less, more of a re-orientation than a direct angular momentum tug.

It's also difficult to generate a magnetic field strong enough to move something as massive as the Earth's core very much anyway. Something to keep in mind as well is that the magnetic field drops by the cube of the distance, not the square, so you'd need a very powerful magnet, very close, to have any effect at all. Anything large enough to have that strong a natural magnetic field, the gravity would have a much bigger effect than any interaction between the magnetism.

But to answer your question, a tiny bit of angular momentum would be transferred when two magnetic fields fly past each other in space, so there would be some variation in rotation, but it would be tiny.

Magnetic fields as strong as Earth's are rare, you'd probably need a gas or ice giant planet or large rogue planet, and the interaction between passing magnetic fields is very weak compared to the gravitational interaction. Compared to it's mass, Earth is a very very weak magnet, so using magnetism to spin it would be ineffective and slow, but but in theory, if we wanted to set up a current and generate a magnetic field around the Earth, such a project could in theory spin the Earth's inner core like a induced magnetic field spins a magnet in a generator, but that would also depend on how permanent the magnetism is inside the Earth and it might not be fixed, but instead, a product of flowing magnetic metals. Permanent magnets are easier to rotate than charged flowing liquid… but I digress.

It would be an interesting calculation if somebody wanted to do the math behind this, but even without doing the math I can tell you that the effect would be teeny-tiny.

## Earth tipped over on its side 84 million years ago and then righted itself, new study finds

If you'd been able to stare at Earth from space during the late Cretaceous, when Tyrannosaurus rex and Triceratops roamed, it would've looked like the whole planet had tipped over on its side.

According to a new study, Earth tilted by 12 degrees about 84 million years ago.

"A 12-degree tilt of the Earth could affect latitude that same amount," Sarah Slotznick, a geobiologist at Dartmouth College and co-author of the new study, told Insider.

It would approximately move New York City to where Tampa, Florida, is right now, she added.

Imagine the Earth as a chocolate truffle — a viscous center ensconced in a hardened shell. The center consists of a semi-solid mantle that encircles the liquid outer core. The top layer of the truffle, the Earth's crust, is fragmented into tectonic plates that fit together like a puzzle. Continents and oceans sit atop these plates, which surf atop the mantle.

The researchers found that, between 86 and 79 million years ago, the crust and mantle had rotated around Earth's outer core and back again — causing the entire planet to tilt and then right itself like a roly-poly toy.

## Cosmic filaments may be the biggest spinning objects in space

Cosmic filaments are strands of dark matter and galaxies that rotate (illustrated). As the filaments spin, they pull matter into their orbit and toward galaxy clusters at each end.

A. Khalatyan/J. Fohlmeister/AIP

Moons do it, stars do it, even whole galaxies do it. Now, two teams of scientists say cosmic filaments do it, too. These tendrils stretching hundreds of millions of light-years spin, twirling like giant corkscrews.

Cosmic filaments are the universe’s largest known structures and contain most of the universe’s mass (SN: 1/20/14). These dense, slender strands of dark matter and galaxies connect the cosmic web, channeling matter toward galaxy clusters at each strand’s end (SN: 7/5/12).

At the instant of the Big Bang, matter didn’t rotate then, as stars and galaxies formed, they began to spin. Until now, galaxy clusters were the largest structures known to rotate. “Conventional thinking on the subject said that’s where spin ends. You can’t really generate torques on larger scales,” says Noam Libeskind, cosmologist at the Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics Potsdam in Germany.

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So the discovery that filaments spin — at a scale that makes galaxies look like specks of dust — presents a puzzle. “We don’t have a full theory of how every galaxy comes to rotate, or every filament comes to rotate,” says Mark Neyrinck, cosmologist at University of the Basque Country in Bilbao, Spain.

To test for rotation, Neyrinck and colleagues used a 3-D cosmological simulation to measure the velocities of dark matter clumps as the clumps moved around a filament. He and his colleagues describe their results in a paper posted in 2020 at arXiv.org and now in press with the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. Meanwhile, Libeskind and colleagues searched for rotation in the real universe, they report June 14 in Nature Astronomy. Using the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, the team mapped galaxies’ motions and measured their velocities perpendicular to filaments’ axes.

The two teams detected similar rotational velocities for filaments despite differing approaches, Neyrinck says, an “encouraging [indication] that we’re looking at the same thing.”

Next, researchers want to tackle what makes these giant space structures spin, and how they get started. “What is that process?” Libeskind says. “Can we figure it out?”

### Editor's Note:

This story was updated June 22 to correct the year the arXiv.org paper was originally posted. It was 2020, not 2021.

### Citations

Q. Xia et al. Intergalactic filaments spin. arXiv:2006.02418v2. Posted June 3, 2020.

## Why does a magnetic compass point to the Geographic North Pole?

A magnetic compass does not point to the geographic north pole. A magnetic compass points to the earth's magnetic poles, which are not the same as earth's geographic poles. Furthermore, the magnetic pole near earth's geographic north pole is actually the south magnetic pole. When it comes to magnets, opposites attract. This fact means that the north end of a magnet in a compass is attracted to the south magnetic pole, which lies close to the geographic north pole. Magnetic field lines outside of a permanent magnet always run from the north magnetic pole to the south magnetic pole. Therefore, the magnetic field lines of the earth run from the southern geographic hemisphere towards the northern geographic hemisphere.

The geographic north and south poles indicate the points where the earth's rotation axis intercepts earth's surface. Consider holding a tennis ball between your thumb and forefinger and pushing on the side to make it spin. The points where your thumb and finger make contact are the geographic north and south poles of the tennis ball's spin. A person standing on the equator is moving the fastest due to earth's rotation, while a person standing on a geographic pole does not move at all from earth's rotation. Earth's magnetic poles designate the central location of the region where the magnetic fields lines start and finish. Earth's geographic and magnetic poles are not exactly aligned because they arise from different mechanisms. Earth's magnetic field is caused by circulating currents of liquid iron in the outer core. Furthermore, earth's magnetic poles are constantly changing location relative to earth's geographic poles. Currently, the magnetic south pole lies about ten degrees distant from the geographic north pole, and sits in the Arctic Ocean north of Alaska. The north end on a compass therefore currently points roughly towards Alaska and not exactly towards geographic north.

## HOW IT WORKS

When a circle of wi re surrounds a magnetic field, and the magnetic field then changes, a circular "pressure" called Voltage appears. The faster the magnetic field changes, the larger the voltage becomes. This circular voltage trys to force the movable charges in the wi re to rotate around the circle. In other words, moving magnets cause changing magnetic fields which try to create electric currents in closed circles of wi re. A moving magnet causes a pumping action along the wire. If the circuit is not complete, if there is a break, then the pumping force won't cause any charge flow. Instead, a voltage difference will appear at the ends of the wir es. But if the circuit is "complete" or "closed", then the magnet's pumping action can force the electrons of the coil to begin flowing. A moving magnet can create an electric current in a closed circuit. The effect is called Electromagnetic Induction. This is a basic law of physics, and it is used by all coil/magnet electric generators.

Generators don't have just one circle of w ire. Suppose that many circles surround the moving magnet. Suppose that all the circles are connected in series to form a coil. The small voltages from all the circles will add together to give much larger voltage. A coil with 100 turns will have a hundred times more voltage than a one-turn coil.

Why is this generator AC and not DC? When the magnets flip, they create a pulse of voltage and current. But when they flip a second time, they create an opposite pulse? Yes. So then a spinning magnet is making electric signals that go plus-minus-plus-minus? Yep. It happens because, in order to create voltage and current, a magnet pole must sweep sideways across a wire. If it sweeps along a wire, nothing happens. In our little generator here, the magnet poles don't sweep constantly along the curve of the wire. Instead, first the north magnet pole sweeps across one side of the coil, and at the same time the south magnet pole sweeps backwards across the other side. The two effects add together. But next, the magnet keeps turning around, and now the opposite poles sweep across those parts of the coil. The magnet has flipped, the magnet poles are reversed, so the coil's voltage will be backwards. And if a bulb is connected, then any current will be backwards too. Each time the magnet makes one complete turn, it creates a forward pulse and then a backwards pulse. Spin the magnet fast, and it makes an alternating wave: AC.

If you want a DC generator, you'll have to add a special reversing switch to the magnet shaft. It's a switch called a "commutator." If you look up some DC generator DIY projects, you'll see how to built the commutator switch. But those generators aren't Ultra Simple!

Now for the light bulb. If we connect the ends of the coil together, then whenever the magnet moves, the metal's charges will move and a large electric current will appear in the coil. The coil gets slightly warm. What if we instead connect a light bulb between the ends of the coil? A light bulb is really just a piece of thin wire. The charges of the light bulb's filament will be pushed along. When the charges within the copper wi re pass into the thin light bulb filament, their speed greatly increases. When the charges leave the filament and move back into the larger copper wi re, they slow down again. Inside the narrow filament, the fast-moving charges heat the metal by a sort of electrical "friction". The metal filament gets so hot that it glows. The moving charges also heat the wi res of the generator a bit, but since the generator wi res are so much thicker, and since the bulb's thin filament is slowing the current throughout the entire coil, almost all of the heating takes place in the light bulb filament.

So, just connect a light bulb to a coil of wire, place a short powerful magnet in the coil, then flip the magnet fast. The faster you spin the magnet, the higher the voltage pump-force becomes, and the brighter the light bulb lights up. The more powerful your magnet, the higher the voltage and the brighter the bulb. And the more circles of wire in your coil, the higher the voltage and the brighter the bulb. In theory you should be able to light up a normal 3V flashlight bulb, but only if you can spin your magnets inhumanly fast.

Earthshine's brightness is also affected by the Moon's albedo. Albedo is a measurement of how much sunlight a celestial object can reflect. It is measured on a scale, which ranges from 0 to 1. An object that has albedo of 0 does not reflect sunlight and is perfectly dark. A celestial object with an albedo of 1 reflects all of the Sun's rays that reach it.

The Moon has an average albedo of 0.12, while the Earth's average albedo is 0.3. This means that the Moon reflects about 12% of the sunlight that reaches it. The Earth on the other hand, reflects about 30% of all the sunlight that hit its surface. Because of this, the Earth, when seen from the Moon would look about a 100 times brighter than a full Moon that is seen from the Earth.

## Researchers Observe Magnetic Field Generated by Supernova Remnant 1987A

The detection of a radial magnetic field across the inner ring of SNR 1987A, the remnant of a supernova first witnessed three decades ago, provides insight into the early stages of the evolution of supernova remnants and the cosmic magnetism within them.

This is an artist’s impression of SNR 1987A. Image credit: ALMA / ESO / NAOJ / NRAO / Alexandra Angelich, NRAO / AUI / NSF.

SN 1987A is a stellar explosion that occurred from a star about 20 times the mass of the Sun.

This supernova was first observed on February 23, 1987 in a nearby dwarf galaxy, the Large Magellanic Cloud, some 164,000 light-years away.

It was the first naked-eye supernova to be observed since Johannes Kepler witnessed a supernova over 400 years ago.

In the three decades since SN 1987A occurred, material expelled by the blast, as well as the shockwave from the star’s death throes, have been traveling outward through the gas and dust that surrounded the star before it exploded.

Today, when we look at SNR 1987A, we see rings of material set aglow by the supernova’s expanding debris and shockwave.

Using the Australia Telescope Compact Array at the Paul Wild Observatory, Professor Bryan Gaensler and co-authors observed the magnetic field by studying the radiation coming from the object.

By analyzing the properties of this radiation, they were able to trace the magnetic field.

What they found was that the remnant’s magnetic field was not chaotic but already showed a degree of order.

“The magnetism we’ve detected is around 50,000 times weaker than a fridge magnet,” said Professor Gaensler, director of the Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics at the University of Toronto.

Astronomers have known that as supernova remnants get older, their magnetic fields are stretched and aligned into ordered patterns.

So, the new observation showed that a supernova remnant can bring order to a magnetic field in the relatively short period of thirty years.

The magnetic field lines of the Earth run north and south, causing a compass to point to the Earth’s poles.

By comparison, SNR 1987A’s magnetic field lines are like the spokes of a bicycle wheel aligned from the centre out.

“At such a young age, everything in the stellar remnant is moving incredibly fast and changing rapidly, but the magnetic field looks nicely combed out all the way to the edge of the shell,” said Dr. Giovanna Zanardo, from the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research at the University of Western Australia.

“As SNR 1987A continues to expand and evolve, we will be watching the shape of the magnetic field to see how it changes as the shock wave and debris cloud run into new material,” Professor Gaensler said.

Giovanna Zanardo et al. 2018. Detection of Linear Polarization in the Radio Remnant of Supernova 1987A. ApJL, in press arXiv: 1806.04741

## Anniversary of a Cosmic Blast

Eight years ago today — on Dec. 27, 2004 — the Earth was rocked by a cosmic blast so epic its scale is nearly impossible to exaggerate.

The flood of gamma and X-rays that washed over the Earth was detected by several satellites designed to observe the high-energy skies. RHESSI, which observes the Sun, saw this blast. INTEGRAL, used to look for gamma rays from monster black holes, saw this blast. The newly-launched Swift satellite, which was designed and built to detect bursts of gamma-ray from across the Universe, not only saw this blast but was so flooded with energy its detectors completely saturated — think of it as trying to fill a drinking glass with a fire hose. Even more amazingly, Swift wasn't even pointed anywhere near the direction of the burst: In other words, this flood of energy passed right through the body of the spacecraft itself and was still so strong it totally overwhelmed the cameras.

It gets worse. This enormous wave of fierce energy was so powerful it actually partially ionized the Earth's upper atmosphere, and it made the Earth's magnetic field ring like a bell. Several satellites were actually blinded by the event. Whatever this event was, it came from deep space and still was able to physically affect the Earth itself!

So what was this thing? What could do this kind of damage?

Astronomers discovered quickly just what this was, though when they figured it out they could scarcely believe it. On that day, eight years ago, the wrath of the magnetar SGR 1806-20 was visited upon the Earth.

Artwork depicting the magnetic field surrounding a neutron star. Credit: Casey Reed / Penn State University

Magnetars are neutron stars, the incredibly dense remnants of a supernovae explosions. They can have masses up to twice that of the Sun, but are so compact they may be less than 20 kilometers (12 miles) across. A single cubic centimeter of neutron star material would have a mass of 10 14 grams: 100 million tons. That's very roughly the combined mass of every single car on the United States, squeezed down into the size of a sugar cube. The surface gravity of a neutron star is therefore unimaginably strong, tens or even hundreds of billion times that of the Earth.

There's more. What makes a neutron star a magnetar is its magnetic field: it may be a quadrillion (a 1 followed by 15 zeros: 1,000,000,000,000,000) times stronger than that of the Earth! That makes the magnetic field of a magnetar as big a player as the gravity. In a magnetar, the magnetic field and the crust of the star are coupled together so strongly that a change in one affects the other drastically. What happened that fateful day on SGR 1806-20 was most likely a star quake, a crack in the crust. This shook the magnetic field of the star violently, and caused an eruption of energy.

Artwork of a huge blast of energy from a magnetar. Credit: NASA

The sheer amount energy generated is difficult to comprehend. Although the crust probably shifted by only a centimeter, the incredible density and gravity made that a violent event far beyond anything we mere humans have experienced. The quake itself would have registered as 23 on the Richter scale — mind you, the largest earthquake ever recorded was about 9 on that scale, and it's a logarithmic scale. The blast of energy surged away from the magnetar, out into the galaxy. In just 200 milliseconds — a fifth of a second, literally the blink of an eye — the eruption gave off as much energy as the Sun does in a quarter of a million years.

A fireball of matter erupted out of the star at nearly a third the speed of light, and the energy from the explosion moved — of course — at the speed of light itself. This hellish wave of energy expanded, eventually sweeping over the Earth and causing all the events described above.

Oh, and did I mention this magnetar is 50,000 light years away? No? That's 500 quadrillion kilometers (300 quadrillion miles) away, about halfway across the freaking Milky Way galaxy itself!

And yet, even at that mind-crushing distance, it fried satellites and physically affected the Earth. It was so bright some satellites actually saw it reflected off the surface of the Moon! I'll note that a supernova, the explosion of an entire star, has a hard time producing any physical effect on the Earth if it's farther away than, say, 100 light years. Even a gamma-ray burst — an event so horrific it makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up just thinking about it — can only do any damage if it's closer than 8000 light years or so. GRBs may not even be possible in our galaxy (they were common when the Universe was young, but not so much any more), which means that, for my money, magnetars may be the most dangerous beasties in the galaxy (though still unlikely to really put the hurt on us see below).

Here's what Swift detected at the moment of the burst:

The 2004 outburst of the magnetar SGR 1806-20 as recorded by the Swift satellite. Note the graph on the left goes well, well beyond the edges. Credit: David Palmer

This is the light curve that [Swift's Burst Alert Telescope] saw, showing how many gamma rays it counted in each sixteenth of a second during six minutes of observation. I didn't draw the main spike because it was 10,000 times as bright as the tail emission, and you would need a monitor a thousand feet tall to look at it.

The blast was so strong Swift saturated, counting 2.5 million photons per second slamming into it, well off the top of that graph (and the actual blast was far brighter yet, as other satellites were able to determine).

See the pulsations in the plot? After the initial burst, which lasted only a fraction of a second, pulses of energy were seen from the magnetar for minutes afterward. The pulses occurred every 7.56 seconds, and that's understood to be the rotation period of the neutron star. The crack in the crust got infernally hot, and we saw a pulse of light from it every time it spun into view. This same pulsing was seen by other satellites as well.

So here's a recap, in case your brain still remains uncrushed: this was an explosion by an object with the mass of the Sun, squeezed into a ball a few kilometers across, with gravity billions of times stronger than Earth's, a magnetic field quadrillions of times stronger, all of of which is spinning every 7.5 seconds.

Still, even given all that, the damage from the explosion was actually rather minimal here on Earth. But that's because SGR 1806-20 is so very far away had it been one-tenth that distance, the effects would have been 100 times stronger. Weâd have lost satellites at least, and it would have caused billions of dollars in damage in NASA hardware alone. Of the dozen or so known magnetars, none is that close (though a couple are about 7000 light years away). Magnetars aren't easy to hide, but it's possible there are some within 5000 light years. It's unlikely, though, and I'm not personally all that concerned.

The tantrum from SGR 1806-20 is one of the best studied events of its kind, and is certainly the most powerful ever detected in the modern era. Astronomers will be studying the magnetar, and others like it, very carefully to see what can be learned from them. If you want to read more, then I suggest the NASA page about the event, as well as the Sky and Telescope magazine page on it, too.

## Can Earth be spun like a magnet? - Astronomy

I have a question that has been bothering me. I was on the bus earlier, and I was throwing an apple. The bus was moving, but the apple always fell back into my hand. Why didn't the bus move around the apple so that the apple landed further back?

That got me thinking, Earth is spinning around hundreds of meters per second, so when we jump, even if it is for a half a second, shouldn't we land many meters away? (Though we may crash into a building or something.)

I read a question that was about what would happen if Earth stopped spinning, and the answer said that anything that wasn't fixed to the ground would continue spinning, so we would crash against buildings and such. So if that would happen, why do we jump or fall and land pretty much in the same place?

Sorry it took me so long to respond to your question - hopefully it's not too late for an answer!

I guess I'll start out by talking about the bus part of the question. If you and an apple get on a bus, and the bus starts moving down the street, you and the apple will both have the same velocity as the bus. (That makes sense, right, because you're both moving along.) In order to stop something that's moving, you need to use a force to slow it down, just like you need to use a force to get things moving in the first place. (For example, see this previously asked question.) There's a physics law (Newton's first law of motion) which tells us that "objects in motion tend to stay in motion". So, when you throw the apple in the air while on the bus, it's already moving forward at the same speed as the bus, and there's essentially no force to slow down it's motion in this direction (assuming it doesn't bounce off the ceiling). Therefore, while it's in the air, the apple moves forward with you, the bus, and the other passengers, and it comes down in your hand.

It's the same deal with the Earth. We're all on the moving Earth, and we're travelling at the same speed as Earth. So when we jump up, we keep travelling around at the same speed we were moving at before because there's no force to stop us. Now, if a huge force was applied to the solid Earth (like a big impact) and caused it to stop spinning in a single instant, we'd be in trouble because the Earth would have stopped moving, but since no force was applied to us, we'd still be travelling at the same speed we were going before the impact (really fast). I guess if all the people were glued to the Earth, then the force of the impact would translate to us as well and we would slow down, but in reality we're free to fly forward.

I think a car accident is a good analogy for this. If you're travelling really fast down the road and the car stops very suddenly (like you hit something), then your body will fly forward because you had a forward velocity and will tend to stay in motion in that direction. If you're stuck to the car with a seatbelt, you'll stay in the car because the seatbelt exerts a force that holds you in place. But if you're not wearing a seatbelt you may well fly out of the car. Similarly, if Earth stopped really fast and we weren't held down, we would fly pretty fast. But as long as Earth is moving, we move around with it so that when we jump up, we're actually moving up and around at the same time such that we come down in the same place.

## Earth's Last Magnetic-Pole Flip Took Much Longer Than We Thought

Volcanic records revealed the complexity of the magnetic-field reversal.

The last reversal of Earth's magnetic poles happened long before humans could record it, but research on the flow of ancient lava has helped scientists estimate the duration of this strange phenomenon.

A team of researchers used volcanic records to study Earth's last magnetic-field reversal, which occurred about 780,000 years ago. They found that this flip may have taken much longer than researchers previously thought, the scientists reported in a new study.

Earth's magnetic field has flipped dozens of times in the past 2.5 million years, with north becoming south and vice versa. Scientists know the last reversal took place during the Stone Age, but they have little information about the duration of this phenomenon and when the next "flip" might occur.

In the new study, the researchers relied on flow sequences of lava that erupted close to or during the last reversal, to measure its duration. Using this method, they estimated that the reversal lasted 22,000 years — much longer than the previous estimates of 1,000 to 10,000 years.

"We found that the last reversal was more complex, and initiated within the Earth's outer core earlier, than previously thought," lead study author Bradley Singer, a professor of geoscience at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, told Space.com.

While conducting studies on a volcano in Chile in 1993, Singer stumbled upon one of the lava-flow sequences that recorded part of the reversal process. While trying to date the lava, Singer noticed odd, transitional magnetic-field directions in the lava-flow sequences.

"Such records are indeed extremely rare, and I am one of very few people who date them," Singer said.

Since then, he's made it his career-long goal to better explain the timing of magnetic-field reversals.

The reversals take place when iron molecules in Earth's spinning outer core start going in the opposite direction as other iron molecules around them. As their numbers grow, these molecules offset the magnetic field in Earth's core. (If this were to happen today, it would render compasses useless as the needle would swing from pointing towards the north pole to pointing to the south.)

During this process, Earth's magnetic field, which protects the planet from hot sun particles and solar radiation, becomes weaker.

"This kind of duration would mean the shielding of the Earth from solar radiation would be very complex and, on average, less effective over a longer time period," John Tarduno, a professor of geophysics at the University of Rochester who was not involved in the study, told Space.com. "The actual effects of that are still debatable, and they're not as tragic or as extreme as someone might suggest, but there still can be important effects."

Some of these effects, Singer suggested, could include genetic mutations or additional stress on certain animal or plant species, or possible extinctions, due to increased exposure to harmful ultraviolet light from the sun. An increase in particles from the sun entering Earth's atmosphere could also cause disruption to satellites and other communication systems, like radio and GPS, he added.

Recent reports of the magnetic field jolting from the Canadian Arctic toward Siberia have sparked debate over whether the next magnetic-field reversal is imminent and what kind of impact that would have on life on Earth.

However, Singer dismissed these claims. "There is little evidence that this current decrease in field strength, or the rapid shift in position of the north pole, reflect behavior that portends a polarity reversal is imminent during the next 2,000 years," he said.

Using the data gathered from lava flows, geologists can learn a lot more about magnetic-field reversals. "Even though volcanic records are not complete records, they're still the best kind of records we have of recording a given time and place," Tarduno said. "Higher accuracy in the age dating, and being able to get more detailed records [of the reversals]. will give the community a lot to think about," he added.