May 28, 2013

The "Fix" That's Destroying Education in America

Enter Stage Right
February 19, 2001

We hear it all the time. Americans want something done about education. Their children can't read or work math problems without a calculator. They can't spell, find their own country on a map, name the president of the United States or quote the founding fathers.

For the past decade or more, we have been focusing on a massive national campaign to "fix" the schools. In some schools we can find ultra high-tech, carpeted, air-conditioned classrooms with computers and television sets. We have education "programs" full of new ideas, new methods, and new directions.

In the 1990's the education mantra became "national standards" and accountability through "national testing" with Goals 2000. Politicians and "educrats" declared that every child would come to school "ready to learn", "no child would be left behind." They pledged our kids would be "second to none" in the world. Right now, the Bush administration, prior to issuing its budget, is trying to get Congress to sign off on a program based on these political slogans.

In the past, we spent money, money, and more money! The new "fix" intends to spend more. The result: American students have fallen further behind, placing 19th out of 21 nations in math, 16th in science, and dead last in physics.

With all the programs, attention, and money lavished on education, how can that be? The problem? It's the federal programs and the education bureaucracy that run them. Simply stated, over the past twenty years America's education system has been completely restructured to deliberately move away from teaching basic academics to a system that focuses on training students for menial jobs.

The restructured education system has been designed to deliberately dumb-down the children. Most Americans find that statement astonishing. Believe it! Parents don't want to let go of their child-like faith that the American education system is the best in the world, designed to give their children the academic strength to make them the smartest in the world.

None of the problems will go away, nor will children learn, until both parents and politicians stop trusting the education establishment and start ridding the system of its failed and subversive ideas and programs.

Politicians continue to offer old solutions of more money and more federal oversight, almost stamping their feet, demanding that kids learn something. Programs are being proposed that call for teacher testing to hold them accountable for producing educated children. More programs call for annual tests to find out if children have learned anything.

The nation is in panic, but none of these hysterical responses will improve education because none of them address the very root of the problem. Parents and politicians must stop believing the Education Establishment's propaganda that says teaching a child in the twenty-first century is different and must be more high tech than in days past. It simply isn't so.

The root of the problem

Today's education system is driven by money from the federal government and private foundations, both working hand-in-hand with the Education Establishment headquartered in the federal Department of Education and staffed by the National Education Association (NEA).

These forces have combined with psychologists, huge textbook publishers, teacher colleges, the healthcare profession, government bureaucrats, big corporations, pharmaceutical companies and social workers to invade local school boards, classrooms and private homes in the name of "fixing" education.

The record shows that each of these entities has benefited from this alliance through enriched coffers and increased political power. In fact, the new education restructuring is working wonders for everyone involved except for the children and their parents. As a result of this combined invasion force, today's classroom is a very different place from only a few years ago.

A brief history of education subversion

The entire history of education restructuring and transformation would fill a book. It dates back to the early efforts by psychologists like John Dewey whose work began to change how teachers were taught in the nation's teacher colleges. The changes were drastic. Education moved away from an age-old system that taught teachers how to motivate students to accept the whole scope of academic information available.

Instead the new system explored methods to manipulate students through psychological behavior modification processes. Once this power was established, the education process became less of a method to instill knowledge and more of a method to instill specific political and social agendas into the minds of children.

The entire history of the education restructuring effort is carefully and thoroughly documented in a book called The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America. The book was written by Charlotte Thomson Iserbyt, a former official at the Department of Education in the Reagan Administration. While there in 1981-1982, Charlotte found the "mother lode" hidden away at the Department.

She found all of the education establishment's plans for restructuring America's classrooms. Not only did she find the plans for what they intended to do, she discovered how they were going to do it and most importantly why.

Since uncovering this monstrous plan, Charlotte Iserbyt has dedicated her life to getting that information into the hands of parents, politicians and the news media. Iserbyt's book details how several wealthy families and their foundations began to implement a goal for a seamless non-competitive global system for commerce and trade.

Norman Dodd On Tax Exempt Foundations

Schools were transformed from institutions that produced well educated individuals into training centers to produce compliant workers for a collectivist society. The wealthy families and foundations included The Carnegie Corporation and the Rockefellers. Their foundations today continue to lead the way in the development and funding of programs that are at the center of America's education system.

The process to restructure America's education system began in the opening years of the twentieth century and slowly picked up speed over the decades. The new system used psychology-based curriculum to slowly change the attitudes, values and beliefs of the students from those of earlier generations that identified strongly with liberty, patriotism, the work ethic, and comparable American values.

The new school agenda was very different from most peoples' understanding of the purpose of American education. National Education Association leader William Carr, secretary of the Educational Policies Commission, clearly stated that new agenda in 1947. Writing the NEA Journal, he said, "The teaching profession prepares the leaders of the future…The statesmen, the industrialists, the lawyers, the newspapermen…all the leaders of tomorrow are in schools today.

"The psychological foundations for wider loyalties must be laid…(to) teach those attitudes which will result ultimately in the creation of a world citizenship and world government…we can and should teach those skills and attitudes which will help to create a society in which world citizenship is possible."

Professor Benjamin Bloom, known as the father of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) said: "The purpose of education and the schools is to change the thoughts, feelings and actions of students."

B.F. Skinner determined that applied psychology in the class curriculum was the means to bring about such changes in the students' values and beliefs simply by relentlessly inputting specific programmed messages. The education system is now a captive of the Skinner model of behavior modification programming.

In 1990, Dr. M. Donald Thomas outlined the new education system in an article that appeared in The Effective School Report entitled "Education 90: A Framework for the Future."

"From Washington to modern times, literacy has meant the ability to read and write, the ability to understand numbers, and the capacity to appreciate factual material. The world, however, has changed dramatically in the last 30 years. The introduction of technology in information processing, the compression of the world into a single economic system, and the revolution in political organizations are influences never imagined to be possible in our lifetime.

Dr. Thomas provided the blueprint for today's education system that is designed to:

* De-emphasize academic knowledge;
* Establish the one-world agenda with the United Nations as its center, moving students away from a belief in national sovereignty, i.e., patriotism;
* Replace individual achievement with collectivist group-think ideology;
* And invade the family authority with an "It takes a village" mind-set.

These ideas permeate every federal program, every national standard, every textbook and every moment of your child's school day. It explains why today's children hasn't any time to actually learn the fundamentals we call the Three R's.

Without a strong basic education, today's children are mere pawns in the hands of those who have a far different world in mind than the one in which the first generations of Americans set the nation on its path to high achievement. It is not for nothing they are called Gen-X'rs, the tenth generation of Americans and, for those setting educational policy, perhaps the last to pledge allegiance to one nation, under God, indivisible, with freedom and justice for all.

Tom DeWeese is a national recognized expert on educational issues. He is the president of the American Policy Center. The Center maintains an Internet site at © Tom DeWeese, 2001

Charlotte Iserbyt: Secrets Of Skull & Bones Blown Wide Open

Anti-social Studies

Enter Stage Right
October 27, 2003

...Relativism is currently rife within the field of social studies. We now teach students to respect diversity even in regards to unconscionable acts. The book's treatment of tolerance is one of the strongest in the entire work:

Tolerance is an admirable quality. But if it is our sole universal value, are we not then called upon to tolerate the intolerable? And if so called upon, are we even capable of performing such an act of mental jujitsu? In fact, the pressure not to apply moral standards is more likely to produce an ethic of "indifference" than one of true tolerance—as young people learn not to pass judgment on all kinds of horrendous practices, especially when they are non-Western. In trying to suppress what is probably a natural human tendency (to judge), these students are more likely to become morally numb, certainly not "sensitive" to the "Other."

This is the perfect summation of the way in which relativism has corrupted our social fabric. People are no longer allowed to judge right from wrong because to do so would be to judge and to judge would be to embrace intolerance. This fosters in students a "who cares" attitude as nothing is better than anything else so why bother even thinking about it at all.

I have first-hand knowledge that many university instructors who are entrusted with the position of teaching teachers attempt to manufacture social activists as much as they attempt to graduate competent educators. I can still remember the time I walked into a classroom and was deflated to see that the instructor before me had left a recommendation for the students to read Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America. Such a book obviously gels well with progressive views of capitalism and the free market economy.

Within many social studies classrooms across the land, students are asked to critically think about events about which they know little. Two chapters, "The Training of Idiots" and "Ignorant Activists" outline the dynamics of how rarely our students are asked to learn about events and facts before they asked to psychoanalyze them [my phrase-BC].

It may well be that social studies is the subject progressive education has damaged the most. Indeed, one has to wonder how thrilled early progressives would be had they lived to witness the equality inherent in every student knowing practically nothing. How titillated they'd be by the frenetic swinging of "the leveler's ax" in so many school houses.

We cannot always see the results of miseducation, but masses of citizens who are ignorant about our history and the nature of our democracy will, by definition, see little reason to defend it. In a future crisis, some may have cause to remember Where Did Social Studies Go Wrong? Although most likely, with the students we are rearing today, they will find little value in dwelling in the past or examining any lessons that history has to offer.

Bernard Chapin is a writer living in Chicago. He can be reached at

Education: Excuses, Excuses, Excuses
August 4, 2010

Our educators aren't very good at raising SAT scores, increasing literacy, or spreading knowledge. But they are world-class at making excuses.

Let me rattle off a few. Money! You know money is always the problem. If only taxpayers weren't so selfish. Violence! This is a big deal. All the students are in gangs or fighting in the halls. Broken homes, divorce, domestic tensions! How can children concentrate? Even if the home is stable, kids are watching TV or goofing off on the Internet.

That's a huge problem. Or they're sending text messages on their phones. Or spending hours with their video games. No wonder that schools can't get good results! Did we mention drugs? Kids are shooting up or stoned on marijuana. What else? They're hanging around malls, wasting time and going to bad movies. What can you expect when most kids are lazy or ADD? The parents are ignorant and won't help. The problems never stop. Not to mention, all the schools are too crowded. Teachers are overworked, and the whole system is broken from top to bottom and about to collapse...

In fact, there is only one thing our educators are better at than making excuses. And that is coming up with bad ideas.

Gee, probably there's a connection. Maybe if our elite educators stopped inventing pedagogical gimmickry, they would not need excuses.

Here's just a quick survey of education gone bad:

Starting in 1930, our educators have been insanely devoted to a reading method variously called Look-Say, Sight Words, Dolch Words, Whole Language, and Balanced Literacy (with so many aliases, you know it's a criminal). This gimmick has resulted in 50 million functional illiterates and a million dyslexics. Whole Word requires that children memorize words by their shapes, at a pace of about 300 words per year. Do the math. By the end of high school, students will know only 4000 words and be, for scholastic purposes, illiterate.

Speaking of math, our educators show a similar incompetence when they pick math pedagogies. Around 1960 educators said that New Math was the answer. Five years later they said, never mind. In fact, they went back to their laboratories and devised variations of New Math, which they called Reform Math, but the rest of the world sarcastically labeled New New Math. Some of the familiar variations are Everyday Math, MathLand, TERC, etc. All these pedagogies engage in the same trick: they mix in college-level terms and perspectives, while refusing to teach any of the standard methods for addition, multiplication, etc. Such approaches virtually guarantee children will never master ordinary arithmetic.

Meanwhile, a non-subject called Social Studies (truer name: Socialism Studies) appropriated everything it could grab--geography, politics, economics, civics, history--and tries to substitute PC opinions for knowledge.

Meanwhile, across ALL subjects, and all ages and grades, our educators sabotage what's left of the traditional curriculum by insisting that children need not memorize anything. Not a single fact. Additionally, educator are in love with constructivist thinking, whereby students are supposed to invent their own versions of everything. Which can take a long time. Our educators are similarly enamored of cooperative learning, whereby children do everything in groups, thereby guaranteeing that children will not be able to think independently. Another fad that cuts across all subjects is what might be called sloppy thinking--fuzzy math, fuzzy English, fuzzy everything. Close is good enough.

Imagine the cumulative impact of all the shoddy pedagogies described so far. You will easily imagine schools doing a very bad job. You will easily imagine a perpetual need for excuses, excuses, excuses.

I suggest it doesn't matter how much money you give these people. Nothing will improve until you take away their bad ideas. Educators are not a very glamorous group but I now think they have one thing in common with our Hollywood stars. They need to go to rehab now and then. For their own good. Somebody needs to take away their pills and bottles. Give them back their self-respect. Give them a life without excuses.

Bruce Deitrick Price is a novelist, artist and education activist. His main site is which now features 40 original articles on a range of topics, birds to robots, Latin to sophistry, phonics to Reform Math. If you love passionate non-fiction, you'll love this site.

Budget 2011: Education Spending Skyrockets

The United States is already a leader in per-student higher education spending - in 2009 state and local governments spent $88.8 billion to fund higher education - but ranks only 10th among developed nations in college degree attainment among adults age 25-34. - Kristin Conklin and Terrell Halaska, America's Higher Education Collision Course -- Who Will Pay?, Huffington Post, Posted: July 8, 2010

Heritage Foundation
February 1, 2010

The President’s FY2011 budget request calls for significant increases in education spending and, as promised, the Department of Education is exempt from Obama’s so-called spending freeze.
At a briefing today at the Department of Education, words such as “historic” and “bold” were used to describe the President’s budget. Secretary Duncan stated that the FY2011 budget represents “one of the largest increases” in education spending, which the president “sees as the key to our economic future”.

But is more spending on education the key to economic prosperity? For that matter, is it even the key to raising academic achievement?

Since 1985, inflation-adjusted federal spending on K-12 education has increased 138 percent. Yet, indicators of educational improvement such as increases in academic achievement and graduation rates have remained flat.

Despite the evidence that more spending is not the answer to increasing academic achievement, Assistant Secretary for Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development Carmel Martin noted during the briefing that discretionary funding for the Department of Education will increase 10 percent under the president’s proposed budget, raising total discretionary spending to $50.7 billion.

Included in this “historic” spending increase is $3 billion for ESEA programs, $173 billion in college loans and grants, and $9.3 billion for a new preschool program created in the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act (SAFRA), which has passed the House and is awaiting action in the Senate.

The budget increase also includes a $1 billion reserve fund for the Department of Education, contingent upon successful reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). But those of us who’ve taught in the classroom know that you don’t give students extra credit for simply doing their assignments. That’s why the administration’s proposed $1 billion incentive for Congress to complete a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act is puzzling. After all, it’s Congress’s job to complete legislative assignments such as ESEA, which has been due for reauthorization since 2008. It’s also a little strange for the White House to be proposing an extra $1 billion as an incentive, since the Congress holds the power of the purse and could choose to increase funding for ESEA itself.

Perhaps the president feels that this is the increase that will finally solve the problems facing American education. When it’s all said and done, the president’s Fy2011 budget for the Department of Education tops $77 billion. This includes $50 billion in discretionary spending, $1 billion for successful ESEA reauthorization, and $35 billion for Pell grants, which became mandatory in 2010. The budget increase comes on top of last year’s $100 billion infusion of “stimulus” cash into the Department of Education’s coffer. Unfortunately, the sacred cow of education spending has been spared of the spending freeze.

Rather than calling for “historic” increases in federal spending or gimmicks like this $1 billion ESEA reauthorization incentive, Congress and the administration should focus on streamlining and reforming federal education programs in 2010 to better serve students and taxpayers.
Click here for more analysis on the 2011 Budget.

Communism for Kids

Enter Stage Right
January 17, 2005

Any parent with a child in a public school has likely discovered that our education system is little more than a vehicle through which liberals indoctrinate our children with socialist ideology.

If this sounds like a radical assertion, I assure you it is not. In fact, examples abound indicating just how accurate it is.

Take the "community box," for instance. How many elementary school kids across the country show up the first day of school, only to have their brand new supplies pilfered by their teacher and thrown into one big box, to be distributed henceforth as said teacher sees fit? (As I recall, Marx also had very little regard for private property rights.)

Or how about "cooperative learning" methods of instruction? I use quotation marks here to point out how impossible it usually is to get kids to either cooperate or learn when they sit in groups about a pencil length from their neighbors. But in the event a teacher is blessed with darling little angels who'd never think to misbehave, the fact remains that students who have "more" knowledge are regularly expected to assist those who have "less." (How's that saying go again? "From each according to his ability…")

Ever heard of social promotion? This egalitarian concept is standard procedure at most public schools, where students are promoted from one grade to the next regardless of academic aptitude. It practically takes an act of Congress to retain failing students these days, lest we give them the impression that they are actually responsible for their own accomplishments.

These are not isolated examples, nor is this short list exhaustive. This is business as usual in many American public schools. But as ridiculous as every one of these concepts is, one would think some ideas would be beyond the pale. Not anymore.

According to a WorldNetDaily report, California schools have been barred from informing parents if their children leave school grounds "to receive certain confidential medical services that include abortion, AIDS treatment and psychological analysis, according to an opinion issued by the office of state Attorney General Bill Lockyer."

While it may come as a surprise, it's not altogether uncommon for high schools to allow students -- namely seniors -- to leave campus for various reasons during the normal school day without informing the front office -- say, during lunch period or to attend courses at local colleges. But I'd bet my lunch money parents are made aware of any such policies.

Make no mistake, this decree handed down by Attorney General Lockyer is not some unambiguous legal maneuver intended to protect the public school in the event it loses track of a student, or to safeguard a student's doctor-patient privilege. To the contrary, it is an announcement of Mr. Lockyer's intent to protect organizations like teachers' unions and Planned Parenthood, who have resisted efforts in the state to adopt parental notification policies for medical procedures like abortions.

Think about this for a second. If California's attorney general is allowed to get away with this absurd policy, your kid's geometry teacher essentially has more right to know your child is pregnant -- or has contracted HIV, or is potentially suicidal -- than you do. Moreover, how in the world is a "medical service" any longer confidential if someone other than a doctor and his patient is aware of it?

In plain English, it isn't. But this hasn't stopped school officials and liberal lawyers from assuming they know better than parents what's best for their own kids.

It is irrefutable that there are many outstanding teachers, and still more who are appalled by the actions of people like Bill Lockyer. But alas, this has not prevented public school districts from believing they have the right to act tyrannically, even if usurping authority from abusive or irresponsible parents generates policies that apply equally to the vast majority who aren't.

In the "perfect" society, there is no private property because everything belongs to the state (or the "village," in Hillary Clinton's mind) -- even your children.

It is a sad day in public education when teachers and administrators -- who so adamantly proclaim their love for "the children" -- would even consider engaging in active parental deception to conceal affairs that pose such clear emotional burdens to youngsters.

What's worse, we're not even talking about forcing schools to report such distressing information, as we do if they suspect cases of child abuse -- we're talking about encouraging, even requiring, schools to intentionally withhold vital student health information from parents even if the parents ask for it.

Public schools can't even take students on field trips or hand out Tylenol without the consent of a parent or guardian, but if they want to toss out condoms and, apparently, schedule abortion appointments for knocked-up teenagers, why, that's just none of our business.

If this doesn't convince you that parents practically forfeit all control over their kids' lives upon subjecting them to the draconian fancies of today's state "education" facilities, nothing will.

Trevor Bothwell is editor of The Right He is currently co-authoring a book with colleague Lisa De Pasquale titled "Communism for Kids: How Liberals Attempt to Indoctrinate Our Children." Trevor can be contacted at © 2005 Trevor Bothwell

Indoctrination, Not Education

Enter Stage Right
February 12, 2001

The President's education plan, with or without vouchers, suffers from an essential defect. In the U.S. Constitution's enumeration of its powers and responsibilities as regards "raising revenue" (Article 1, Section 8) you will find no mention of "education."

While education is a national priority, it is more properly a priority of the parents of students, their teachers, and local school boards. The flaw in President Bush's education plans is the US Department of Education, an agency that since the 1970's has racked up a dismal record when it comes to educating the nation's youth. The "national standard" of education being discussed ignores the most fundamental issue. Under the DOE a deliberate plan to dumb down American students has been in place for decades. No one seems willing to discuss this.

We should not support the President's plan because it will expand the powers of the Department of Education. Forget the rhetoric of block grants and other forms of slippery bookkeeping jargon and logic designed to make this palatable. "Accountability" and "Leave no child behind" are political slogans that have helped ruin schools by diverting attention from the entrenched subversion of our schools.

Individual States are, in reality, the conduit for the programs designed by the federal Department of Education. Federal programs are intended to subvert the teaching of the fundamentals of reading, writing, and arithmetic, along with history, civics, and science. The problem is the top-down federal programs and other changes in American life such as the trend to litigate against the disciplinary powers of school authorities that have severely undermined the ability of local schools to achieve their intended goal.

· It is not the government's job through Outcome Based Education to shape the opinions, personalities, and values of students. That's the job for parents.

· It is not the government's job to set up health facilities in schools and insist that millions of students be required to take mind-altering drugs like Ritalin.

· It is not the government's job to send so-called social workers into the homes of parents, threatening to take their children from them.

· It is not the government's job to create School to Work programs as if students are mere economic units whose skills are to be pre-determined as to what occupation they will enter upon graduation. That's what the former Soviet Union did and that's what occurs in Red China, Cuba and other Communist nations today.

Since the 1960's, the federal government, in league with the all-powerful teacher's unions, has so transformed our schools that, by any standard and all current test scores, they have been degraded to the point where American students score well below those in other nations in almost every area of knowledge.

The Department of Education and the teacher's unions have ruined our nation's schools. Everyone knows it. Parents under the current system are powerless. In the schools, the principals and teachers are powerless to deal with disruptive students, to separate the slow learners from those who can progress at a faster rate, to avoid having disabled students mixed in so as to diminish the teacher's attention to the rest of the class.

Why do you think that tutoring services outside the school system are a booming business these days? Desperate parents spend money out of their own pockets to get the education for their children that the nation's schools are not providing. Millions more parents have turned to home schooling in order to insure their children receive the education public schools cannot and will not provide.

They do so to insure that their children grow up with the values that are prohibited in today's schools. These children uniformly score better on the same tests given those currently suffering from the lack of a real education they should receive in the schools.

The power to educate children must and should be returned to where it was before the tentacles of the federal government and the teacher's unions turned our schools into shooting galleries and indoctrination centers where environmentalism, global government, and sexual behavior are on the curriculum as the prime objective of a student's education. All signs point to the fact that the President is, in fact, a captive of the education establishment's rhetoric. If he is, you can bet the nation's mainstream media will be as well.

Giving tests in school is the oldest and best way to determine the progress of students. National standards that determine the federal and state funding of school districts, their budgets, the pay teachers and administrators receive, can only lead to schools that devote an enormous amount of the school day "teaching to the test." It's not the scores that matter; it's who sets the standards. Right now it is the "educrats" in Washington, DC.

Current curriculums and the way they are implemented insure that all students are indoctrinated to give the "right" answers to the questions determined by someone in Washington, DC, not the local school board, not the teachers, and not the parents. All real power has long since shifted to the Department of Education and this is why our schools are in wreckage.

It's easy to condemn the Democratic Party, controlled in large part by the teacher's unions, for embracing the President's and previous proposals for education in America. At its heart, it is a socialist concept. What is frightening is that Republicans have, since the 1960's, embraced it as well, oblivious to the true intent of "modern education." It must stop.

Title 1 and other programs provide the chokehold on education in America today. It controls school lunches, in-school healthcare programs, and pushes the concept of "at risk" children. This opens the door to a wide variety of abuses including the prescribing of mind-altering drugs, inappropriate physical exams, as well as permitting social workers to invade homes to enforce these programs.

Until Title 1 is dismantled and removed, the President remains as much a prisoner of the education establishment as everyone else in America. Right now, those with the least power are the parents of America's school children.

The history of the effort to model America's schools after those of the former Soviet Union is largely unknown to Americans. This is why they need to take back their schools. This is the new American Revolution.

Alan Caruba is the founder of The National Anxiety Center and writes a weekly column, "Warning Signs", posted on the Center's Internet site which can be found at © Alan Caruba, 2001.

May 21, 2013

Extreme Solar Storm Could Cause Widespread Disruptions on Earth

By Miriam Kramer,
May 21, 2013

If an extreme solar storm aimed at the Earth hits in just the right way, it could put interconnected electrical grids around the world at serious risk, experts say.

In addition to creating beautiful auroras, extreme solar storms could knock out a wide range of electric utilities needed to keep life in the United States and around the world functioning normally, according to presenters here at the fourth annual Electrical Infrastructure Security Summit.
"What [a solar storm] can do — even if it isn't causing a continental-scale outage — it can really cause a regional blackout," said Daniel Baker, director of the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado. "Imagine something like, for example, Superstorm Sandy. Imagine that kind of severe storm — but causing regional outages for weeks. Living without power really cascades and propagates in remarkable ways throughout our society."
As the sun reaches the peak in its 11-year cycle this year, scientists expect that active regions of the star — known as sunspots — will erupt, flinging streams of charged particles out into the solar system. Relatively minor storms can also create temporary radio blackouts and disrupt GPS navigation.

However, this doesn't necessarily mean that all solar eruptions will impact the Earth. Most coronal mass ejections are not aimed toward the planet, and instead shoot out harmlessly into other parts of the solar system. But once every century or so, an extreme solar storm is expected to impact the Earth, Baker told  

The last documented solar storm in this category is known as the Carrington event. Particles from a powerful coronal mass ejection overloaded telegraph wires, setting paper messages on fire in 1859.

These kinds of storms from the sun are notoriously difficult to predict. Experts understand the general conditions under which solar storms occur, but it's hard to forecast just how powerful the storm will be, said Karel Schrijver, a solar scientist and fellow at Lockheed Martin.
"A [coronal mass ejection] takes two to four days to get to the Earth, so if we had more observational resources, to map its motion — and if we had some measurements of the structure of what's going to hit you — there are ways by which we can certainly improve the forecast," Schrijver told
Scientists can use sun-observing satellites like NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory to monitor, and possibly forecast, solar weather that could be heading toward the planet, Schrijver said.
"There's a lot of space to be explored in terms of computer models that are becoming ever more powerful," Schrijver added. "The heliophysics division at NASA has a wonderful fleet of observatories that looks at the space between the sun and the Earth and the Earth's environment."

Fallout from Huge Solar Flare Sideswipes Earth Today
May 17, 2013

A huge explosion on the sun will deal Earth a glancing blow today (May 17) but should not pose a threat to the planet, scientists say.

The sun storm erupted late Tuesday (May 14) during a powerful solar flare — the fourth unleashed by a single sunspot in just 48 hours — and hurled a massive cloud of charged particles out into space at millions of miles an hour.

Such eruptions — known as coronal mass ejections, or CMEs — can wreak havoc if they hit Earth squarely, temporarily disrupting GPS navigation, satellite communications and power grids. But this one isn't aimed directly at us, so there's no cause for alarm, experts say.

Space weather forecasters with the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmosperic Administration "estimate a 40 percent chance of polar geomagnetic storms when the cloud arrives," astronomer Tony Phillips wrote today on, a website that tracks skywatching and space weather events.
"High-latitude skywatchers should be alert for auroras tonight," Phillips added.
The solar flare associated with Tuesday night's CME registered as an X-class flare, the most powerful type. It was the fourth X flare unleashed by a sunspot known as AR1748 since Sunday night (May 12).

While incredibly powerful, Tuesday's flare actually was the weakest of the four rapid-fire X flares, clocking in at X1.2. The previous three registered as X1.7, X2.8 and X3.2 flares, respectively. Those three all occurred while AR1748 was facing away from Earth, however, so they did not affect our planet.

AR1748 is currently rotating toward Earth and should be lined up with us more or less directly by Saturday (May 18), researchers say. And the sunspot is still busy, firing off two medium-strength M flares over the past two days.

Scientists classifly strong solar flares into three categories, with C being the weakest, M intermediate and X the most powerful.

X-class flares can cause long-lasting radiation storms in Earth's upper atmosphere and trigger radio blackouts. M flares can cause brief radio blackouts in the polar regions and occasional minor radiation storms, while C flares have few noticeable consequences. Strong solar flares can also supercharge Earth's auroras, creating dazzling northern lights displays.

The sun is currently in an active period of its 11-year solar weather cycle and is expected to reach peak activity later this year. The current cycle, known as Solar Cycle 24, began in 2008.

Scientists have been tracking sunspots, solar flares and other space weather events since they were first discovered in 1843. Today, an international fleet of spacecraft keeps constant watch on the sun's activity.

Hyperactive Sun Fires Off 3 Major Solar Flares in 1 Day

By Tariq Malik,
May 14, 2013

The sun, it seems, is in overdrive. Late Monday night, the sun unleashed its third major solar flare in 24 hours — the biggest and most powerful solar storm of the year, so far.

This latest sun storm erupted Monday (May 13) at 9:11 p.m. EDT (0111 GMT) and registered as an X3.2 solar flare, one of the strongest types of flares the sun can release, space weather officials said. It came on the heels of two other recent X-class solar flares on Sunday night and Monday, all of which were sparked by a highly active sunspot on the sun's far left side.

Officials at the NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder, Colo., appeared amazed at the intense activity from the crackling sunspot. [Sun Unleashes Biggest Flares of 2013 (Photos)]
"Clearly an extraordinary active region is making its way fully onto the visible disk," SWPC officials wrote in a morning update today (May 14). "Can it keep up this hectic pace?"
Two of the three recent solar flares have been associated with massive explosions, called coronal mass ejections, which flung super-hot solar material into space at millions of miles per hour. Because the sunspot firing off the flares is not yet facing Earth, the solar eruptions pose no threat to satellites and astronauts in orbit, NASA has said.
"This marks the 3rd X-class flare in 24 hours," officials with NASA's sun-watching Solar Dynamics Observatory wrote in a statement. "Just like the two before this one also happened over the eastern limb of the sun and is not Earth-directed."
The Solar Dynamics Observatory captured amazing videos of the major solar flares and eruptions.
According to astronomer Tony Phillips of, scientists have just given the active sunspot a name: AR1748. It is one of nine active numbered sunspots currently visible on the surface of the sun.

While AR1784 has been spouting off many solar flares in recent days, most of them more moderate, M-class solar flares, the events on Sunday and Monday are taking solar activity to another level.
"These are the strongest flares of the year so far, and they signal a significant increase in solar activity," Phillips wrote in a update this morning.
Scientists use a tiered space weather scale to classify solar flare events, with each level representing a tenfold increase in power over the one before. At the bottom of the scale are A and B type solar flares, which have no effect on Earth. Next are C-class solar flares and the stronger, yet still medium-strength, M-class solar flares, which can supercharge Earth's auroras and cause radio blackouts when aimed at Earth.

X-class solar flares are the most powerful types of solar storms. When aimed directly at Earth, these major solar events can pose a danger to astronauts and satellites in space, as well as interfere with radio and GPS navigation signals.

The X3.2 solar flare is the most powerful yet seen this year and the third-strongest sun storm of the current 11-year solar cycle, called Solar Cycle 24.

The second strongest was an X5.4 solar flare in 2012, while the largest event was an X6.9 flare in 2011. So far, there have been 18 X-class solar flares in Solar Cycle 24.

The first X-class solar flare of 2013 (the Sunday event) registered as an X1.7 on the flare scale, with the mid-day Monday flare rating as an X2.8, NASA officials said.

Solar activity on the sun rises and falls over the course of its 11-year cycle. The sun is active phase of Solar Cycle 24 as it approaches its peak activity period, called solar maximum, which is expected to occur later this year.

Scientists have been monitoring solar flares and other space weather events since their discovery in 1843. Today, NASA and other space agencies continuously monitor the sun with spacecraft like the Solar Dynamics Observatory to track potentially dangerous space weather events.

Sunspot Blasting Out Major Solar Flares Will Face Earth Soon

By Mike Wall,
May 14, 2013

The super-active sunspot responsible for unleashing the three most powerful solar flares of 2013 within a 24-hour stretch this week is slowly rotating toward Earth and will likely be facing our planet by the weekend, experts say.

Active Region 1748, as the sunspot is known, unleashed three monster solar flares between Sunday and Monday (May 12 to 13). Every one of the solar storms registered as an X-class flare — the most powerful type — with each successive event stronger than the last, culminating in an X3.2 megablast Monday night.

These solar explosions did not affect Earth, since AR1748 was not facing our planet at the time. But the sunspot is now circling into view, so future flares and any associated eruptions of super-hot solar plasma — called coronal mass ejections (CMEs) — could potentially target our planet, scientists say.

[Sun Unleashes Biggest Flares of 2013 (Photos)]
"In a couple of days, it will be far enough onto the disk that any CMEs that we got would probably have some impact on Earth," solar astrophysicist C. Alex Young, of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., told
AR1748 should be near the center of the solar disk by around Saturday, Young added.
"If it sends something off, then we can expect to get some CMEs sort of head-on" at that point, he said.
Sunspots are temporary dark and relatively cool patches on our star's surface where the local magnetic field is very strong. They frequently, but not always, serve as staging grounds for powerful solar flares and CMEs.
At about the size of two Earths, AR1748 is not a particularly large sunspot. (Sunspots can stretch for tens of thousands of miles across the solar surface.) But the active region does appear to have an unusually complex structure, Young said.

Because AR1748 is near the sun's limb at the moment, it's tough to say if its complexity is increasing, which could be an indicator of future activity. But things should become clearer in the next day or so, as scientists get a better look at the sunspot, he added.

While researchers will take AR1748's complexity and evolution into account when gauging its future eruption potential, they'll also look closely at its past behavior.
"One of the biggest indicators of an active region flaring is that it already flared," Young said. "In this case, the fact that it's already put out a really large flare gives it a strong possibility that it'll do it again."
Scientists give AR1748 a 40 to 50 percent chance of firing off another X-class flare, he added, though this probability is a rough estimate that could change as further information becomes available.

X-class flares aimed at Earth can have consequences on a planet-wide scale, triggering widespread radio blackouts and long-lasting radiation storms.

Earth-directed CMEs have even more destructive potential. When a CME's charged particles interact with Earth's magnetic field, they can spawn geomagnetic storms powerful enough to disrupt GPS signals, radio communications and power grids.

Solar activity waxes and wanes over an 11-year cycle. The current cycle, called Solar Cycle 24, is ramping up toward an expected peak later this year.

Scientists have been tracking the sun's weather cycle since 1843, when it was first discovered. Today, NASA and other space agencies use sophisticated satellites and spacecraft to monitor the sun's activity with high-definition instruments to keep tabs on space weather events.

Earth's Rotating Inner Core Shifts Its Speed
May 13, 2013

Earth's solid-metal inner core is a key component of the planet, helping to give rise to the magnetic field that protects us from harmful space radiation, but its remoteness from the planet's surface means that there is much we don't know about what goes on down there. But some secrets of the inner core are being revealed by acoustic waves passing through the planet's heart and iron squeezed to enormous pressures in the lab. Two new studies, both detailed online May 12 in the journal Nature Geoscience, reveal that Earth’s inner core may actually be softer than previously thought, and that the speed at which it spins can fluctuate over time.

Under the liquid-metal outer layer of the Earth's core is a solid ball of superhot iron and nickel alloy about 760 miles (1,220 kilometers) in diameter. Scientists recently discovered the inner core is, at 10,800 degrees Fahrenheit (6,000 degrees Celsius), as hot as the surface of the sun.

Churning in the liquid outer core results in the dynamo that generates Earth's magnetic field. Geoscientists think interactions between the inner and outer cores may help explain the nature of the planet's dynamo, the details of which remain largely unknown.
"The Earth's inner core is the most remote part of our planet, and so there is a lot we don't know about it because we can't go down and collect samples," said Arianna Gleason, a geoscientist at Stanford University in California.
Shifting speeds

One way scientists can learn more about the inner core is by analyzing acoustic waves from earthquakes that ripple through the inner core as they pass through the planet. Hrvoje Tkalcic, a geophysicist at the Australian National University in Canberra, and his colleagues relied on earthquake doublets — earthquakes that occur in pairs and generate extraordinarily similar acoustic waves — to investigate the inner core. Because these waves are so alike, the data they return are readily comparable, and because they are separated relatively briefly in time, they can help the researchers image subtle changes that might occur in that time frame.

Seismic observations and computer models of the Earth's innards suggested the inner core spins at a different rate than the mantle does, but there were conflicting estimates for how fast the inner core actually rotated. By analyzing 24 earthquake doublets, Tkalcic and his collaborators found the speed at which the inner core spun apparently fluctuated over the course of approximately decades between 1961 and 2007.
"It is the first observational evidence that the inner core rotates at a variety of speeds with respect to the mantle...It also reconciles old discrepancies," Tkalcic told OurAmazingPlanet. (Past analyses of how fast the inner core rotated came up with different speeds.)
The inner core, on average, rotates eastward. At the speeds it travels, it might, on average, complete a revolution every 750 to 1,440 years. However, these speeds appear unstable, which makes it uncertain just how long it actually takes to finish a turn on its axis, Tkalcic said.

It remains unknown exactly why these fluctuations in speed happen. Gravitational and magnetic forces likely both play a part, Tkalcic said.

Weak iron

In another study, Gleason and her colleagues sought to learn more about the inner core by mimicking its conditions in the lab. They measured the strength of iron by squeezing it within a diamond anvil at room temperature while scanning it with X-rays.
"We know the Earth's inner core is composed mostly of iron, but we don't really know too much about the behavior of iron under the pressure and temperature at conditions in the core," Gleason said.
The metal was subjected to more than 200 billion pascals of pressure, or about 180,000 times the pressure of the average human bite.
"We found the inherent mechanical strength of iron under those conditions is quite low, surprisingly weak," Gleason said.
These findings may help explain why material within Earth's inner core is apparently distributed in a lopsided way, Gleason said. The weakness of iron might lead crystallites in the inner core to flow and line up a certain way, she explained.

Gleason noted that the researchers did not mimic the extreme temperatures found in the inner core, nor did the metal they experimented with match the composition of the inner core. In future experiments, they hope to use lasers to heat the metal to the proper temperatures, and test various iron-nickel alloys.

Solar Flares Explained: What You Need to Know

By Mike Wall,
May 13, 2013

The sun has unleashed two colossal flares since Sunday night, firing off its most powerful eruptions of 2013 in less than a day.

The first flare peaked Sunday (May 12) at 10:17 p.m. EDT (0217 GMT), registering as an X1.7-class eruption. The second flare, which occurred at midday on Monday (May 13), was even stronger, clocking in at X2.8, scientists said.

X-class flares are the most powerful type. Here's a brief rundown on solar flares, their classification and their potential impacts on Earth. 

Classifying solar flares

Solar flares occur when a buildup of magnetic energy on the sun is suddenly released. They usually erupt from sunspots, temporary dark and relatively cool patches on our star's surface where the local magnetic field is very strong.

Flares generate a burst of radiation across a wide range of the electromagnetic spectrum. They're often accompanied by coronal mass ejections (CMEs), which hurl enormous clouds of super-heated plasma into space.

Scientists classify strong solar flares into one of three categories: C, M or X (with A and B classes, too, for weaker eruptions). There's a tenfold increase in power from one class to the next, so an X flare is 10 times stronger than an M flare, and 100 times more powerful than a C.

There's also a finer gradation within each class, from 1 to 9 in the case of C and M flares. But the number goes higher for X flares, because it's the top of the scale and the sun occasionally fires off eruptions more than 10 times stronger than an X-1. For example, in 2003, the sun let loose a flare that registered as an X28 before overwhelming the sensors that measured it. It remains the most powerful solar flare ever recorded.

Effects on Earth

Flares that are C-class and weaker don't affect Earth in any meaningful way. M-class eruptions can generate brief radio blackouts at the poles and minor radiation storms that could endanger orbiting astronauts.

X-class flares, on the other hand, can have consequences on a planet-wide scale, triggering widespread radio blackouts and long-lasting radiation storms.

The CMEs that often accompany solar flares have even more destructive potential. When a CME's charged particles interact with Earth's magnetic field, they can spawn geomagnetic storms powerful enough to disrupt GPS signals, radio communications and power grids.

In March 1989, for example, a CME caused a power blackout in Quebec, leaving 5 million Canadians in the dark in cold weather for hours. The event caused about $2 billion in damages and lost business, scientists say.

We should expect more activity from the sun over the coming months. Solar activity waxes and wanes on an 11-year cycle, and researchers think the current cycle, known as Solar Cycle 24, will peak later this year.

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