Solar Meltdown

Earth’s reliance on electronics could make the planet vulnerable to a global internet “meltdown” should a solar storm as powerful as the one that occurred in the pre-hi-tech year of 1859 knock out that technology. The Carrington Event of Sept. 1-2, 1859, caused serious damage to telegraph systems of the day.

Speaking to WIRED, researcher Sangeetha Abdu Jyothi said that while local and regional fiber networks probably wouldn’t be badly affected by such a large-scale solar storm, she is concerned about the repeaters used to connect the world’s vast undersea cable system.

Earlier studies have warned that other technology, especially orbiting satellites, could be fried by an intense solar storm.

Pollution Killer

A new report highlights how air pollution, mainly from coal, is impacting life expectancy far greater than diseases such as tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS, and even behaviour such as smoking cigarettes and waging war.

The Air Quality Life Index reveals that unless particulate pollution is reduced to meet World Health Organization guidelines, the average person will lose about 2.2 years of his or her life.

Even though China has slashed its air pollution, dirty air is still cutting about 2.6 years off its life spans. India has made no such efforts, and its citizens lose 5.9 years off their lives, especially in the highly polluted north of the country.