We often take for granted that when we speak the sound will travel to whomever we are chatting with and that we can see objects around us. In both cases waves are carrying the information that our ears and eyes are able to intercept, and our brain is able to process. When we start to think more about waves it turns out that they are all around us. Some we would consider beneficial such as the sound waves and electromagnetic waves in the visible spectrum that allow us to hear and see. Others would be considered problematic such as the waves that carry the destructive energy of an earthquake or large tsunamis that can wipe out coastal areas. The sun, like other stars, emits the entire spectrum of electromagnetic waves containing energy in all directions which provides energy for life on earth to flourish, but it can also pose a threat. Solar flares are large emissions from the sun that send large amounts of energy towards the earth all at once. Sometimes these emissions interact with the earth’s magnetic field to create auroras such as the aurora borealis that can be seen at night. But if the sun’s emissions are large enough, they are called coronal mass ejections (CMEs) and the electromagnetic energy they emit can interfere with transformers, satellite communications, and electronic devices.
Reflect on the ways that different types of waves impact your daily life and review the Discussion resources.
Then, discuss the following.
1. Choose one type of wave to research that is different from your classmates and share your findings with the class. Discuss how it impacts our lives, and if these impacts are positive or negative.
2. The earth’s magnetic field and atmosphere help protect it from solar radiation, but they cannot protect the planet completely from larger CMEs. The largest CME on record happened in 1859 and is called the Carrington Event. During this event telegraph communications were disrupted. Do some research on CMEs and discuss how a large one would impact your life and your community. Is there anything you can do to be better prepared for a CME event?
3. As we learn more about our universe, we see that humans will not be able to live on the earth forever. At some point the sun will die and make the earth uninhabitable. Don’t worry, it is not forecasted to happen for another 5 billion years. The earth faces other dangers from space such as asteroid impacts and gamma ray bursts (from the death of larger stars) to name just a couple. Humans also pose a threat to their own existence with climate change. A runaway greenhouse effect could make the earth more like Venus. This is one argument for promoting space travel and developing technology for colonizing other planets.
a. Do you think more effort and resources should be put into colonizing the moon and other plants? Why or why not?
b. If you were able to be part of a mission to go to Mars, or another planet, would you want to participate?