The Sun - Killer No.1?
Sunspots are anticipated on March 9, 1934. They are expected to be of high intensity. Please report if there is an unusual number of complications in cases of acute or chronic diseases; attacks of bronchial asthma, angina pectoris; pains in the joints, liver or kidneys; cases of sudden death.Above is a bulletin circulated at the time to hospitals and clinics by the Medical Service of the Sun.
One of the founders of this unusual service was Alexander Chizhevsky. In 1915 he published a paper "The Sun's Periodic Influence on the Earth's Biosphere", in which he drew a remarkable parallel between physical processes in outer space and phenomena in living nature, specifically, human society. Later he tried to establish a relationship between the regular appearance of spots on the sun and outbreaks of epidemics and aggravation of nervous and cardiovascular diseases.
For a long time his research met with scepticism. Nevertheless, the coincidence noted by Chizhevsky and other pioneers in this field remained a fact. An unaccountable but stubborn fact which could not be ignored by scientists.
By the 1930s, the French researchers M. Faure, G. Sardou and J. Vallot had collected a vast amount of statistical evidence proving that in 84 per cent of the cases the passage of sunspots across the sun's central meridian coincided with sudden deaths and exacerbations of chronic diseases. They established an international institute for the study of solar, terrestrial and cosmic radiation. Chizhevsky was on the board of the Institute from 1931 to 1940.
In the early 1930s, P. I. Kurkin, a Soviet physician, published his findings after years of inquiry into cardial diseases and cerebral haemorrhages. Analysis revealed that these diseases occurred most frequently when the sun was densely covered with spots. The facts were many, but the connection was elusive.
Passions were running high. In heated polemics Professor Chizhevsky's opponents almost went so far as to call him a charlatan - a man whose ideas had won numerous supporters in different countries and attracted the attention of world authorities such as Svante Arrhenius, Giorgio Piccardi and Helmuth Berg, and who had been elected honorary president of the 1st International Congress on Biophysics and Cosmobiology in New York.
Early in 1965, a commission was set up by the Academy of Sciences to assess Chizhevsky's contribution to science. The commission, headed by Professor B. M. Kedrov, came to the conclusion that many of his works and his ideas were of considerable scientific value.
Was Mesmer Right? On August 11, 1784, a commission appointed by Louis XVI to inquire into the suspicious experiments of Franz Mesmer, denounced him as an imposter. The report stated that magnetism was beyond perception by any of our senses, and had had no effect either on the members of the commission, or on the patients on whom it was tried out.
But the effect of magnetism on the nervous system has since been demonstrated by various researchers, among them Soviet physicians Professor M. Mogen-dovich and his assistant R. Skache-dub, who during the Second World War used magnets to relieve the suffering of wounded soldiers, attributing the alleviating effect of the magnetic field to its depressant action on the nervous system.
In recent years, Soviet scientists have found that when magnetic disturbances are especially strong, mortality from infarction is II to 16 times higher. During a magnetic storm in 1961, which lasted for more than a week, two infarctions were recorded daily in the Urals city of Sverdlovsk.
There are masses of statistics to show that geomagnetic storms are accompanied by outbreaks of cere-bro-spinal meningitis, eclampsia (convulsions), and the aggravation of cardiovascular and other diseases.
The French eighteenth century commission was none the less correct when it said that magnetism was not perceived by any of our senses. In fact, we do not notice at all that the Earth itself is a great magnet.
All the same, numerous experiments have proved that a magnetic field has an effect on a living organism. Perhaps it is sensed directly by the cells of our bodies or by our nervous systems. After all, if magnetic interference can play havoc with a missile guidance system or an industrial automaton and actually lead to breakdowns, why should it not knock out whole sets of components of the sophisticated cybernetic machine known as the human system? A. S. Pres-man, a Soviet biologist, believes that since a sick person's controls are out of gear, which impairs his powers of adaptation to environment, he is more sensitive to magnetic storms than a healthy person.
According to Chizhevsky, the damage is done by bioactive solar rays rather than geomagnetic storms. Is there any connection, incidentally, between sunspots and geomagnetic storms?
Beware 1969 Galileo discovered sunspots in the early seventeenth century. It was later established that their number varies periodically. The presence of a great number is an indication that the sun is entering its active phase. It develops whorls where the magnetic field is hundreds of times more powerful than in the surrounding area, and thousands of times stronger than on Earth.
These fiery vortices spurt jets of charged particles. Giant clouds of ionized gas reach the Earth's atmosphere and saturate it with electrons and protons. Most particles are enmeshed in the magnetic web, fail to reach the Earth and remain caught in the Earth's radiation belts. These are the cascades of solar cosmic rays that generally upset the geomagnetic field. If diseases tend to rage during magnetic storms on Earth, they are nearly always preceded by the appearance of spots and flares on the raging Sun.
The Soviet scientist N. A. Shultz analysed statistics from the USSR, Britain, France, Italy, Belgium and other countries and discovered that the increasing frequency of flares on the Sun and the appearance of powerful solar prominences almost invariably led to characteristic changes in the properties of the blood, a reduction in the number of leucocytes and an increase in the number of lymphocytes.
Chizhevsky used these and other results to back up his hypothesis that the Sun acted on living organisms directly, not through changes in the magnetic field or other intermediary factors. He asserted that a component of solar radiation, which he named penetrating Z radiation, from time to time tended to gain in intensity and have a lethal effect on weak, old, worn-out organisms. Those suffering from serious disorders of the nervous system went first; then came cardiovascular cases, and only then people with other illnesses. Chizhevsky wrote in a Paris magazine in 1928 that his study of 45,000 cases had led him to believe that the nervous system was the first to react to solar disturbances.
Soviet scientists are not unanimous about Chizhevsky's theory. Some are inclined to believe that it is the magnetic storms, but not the Sun, that affect the sick; others reject the very idea that the Sun could increase the death rate, directly or indirectly. The debate goes on, but conclusive answers will eventually be provided by research now being conducted in the USSR and other countries.
Whatever the answers, hardly anyone will now dispute the fact that sunspots are a danger signal. Happily, they put in a massive appearance only at 11-year intervals. The last occurrence was in 1958, and the next will be in 1969.
Special services have been set up in many Soviet cities to keep doctors informed of forthcoming solar flares and magnetic storms.
Seventy countries, including the Soviet Union, cooperated under the International Quiet Sun Year programme (1964-1965), effectively using rockets, satellites and other such means which offer new possibilities to heliobiology. A comparison of the IQSY results with those to be obtained in active Sun years will help to establish the truth.
Information furnished by the Soviet interplanetary station, Venus-4, showed that the intensity of cosmic rays generated by solar flares in 1967 was hundreds of times greater than during the IQSY. An even greater increase is expected in 1969. Doctors will have to be on their toes.