Scientist tries to mimic Earth's spinning magnetic heart

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Washington, June 12 : A scientist is trying to mimic the Earth's spinning magnetic core by spinning a 26-ton steel sphere filled with boiling metal at about 90 miles an hour.

According to a report in Discovery News, the scientist in question is Dan Lathrop from the University of Maryland, who hopes to unlock Earth's spinning magnetic heart.

In the process, he would create the world's first artificial, spherical and self-sustaining magnetic field, or dynamo, which could predict fluctuation in the Earth's magnetic field.

This fluctuation damages electronics in orbit and on land.

Besides pointing compasses north, the magnetic field acts like a protective shield, blocking harmful particles from the sun, which fry the electronics on board orbiting satellites and mess with the electrical grids powering homes and offices on Earth.

Some researchers speculate that without a magnetic field, technology on Earth would have had a much more difficult time.

That shield is generated by superheated iron moving about a tenth of an inch each second deep in the planet's core.

Though that may sound simplistic, but the movement generates a changing magnetic climate the same way the planet's rotation creates weather.

Just like predicting the weather is an inexact science, predicting magnetic weather can be a tough job too.

Recreating the dynamo that powers Earth's magnetic field, or any dynamo for that matter, has proven difficult. Only a handful have ever been created, and only using complicated piping and settings that don't resemble a planetary dynamo.

If researchers understood more about how the dynamo at the center of the Earth operates, they could help protect satellites and electrical grids, while explaining a scientific mystery: why the strength of the Earth's magnetic field has decreased by about 10 percent over the last 150 years and continues to do so.

"If you can predict a hurricane coming, you can manage the damage," said Lathrop. "We could have a predictive science for what happens inside the Earth's magnetic field," he added.

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