the sun in outer space the sun in outer space The sun is scary, right? It's almost like we should build a shield to protect ourselves from it. (Photo: Vladi333 / Shutterstock)

Harvard scientists want to build an Earth-sized shield to block the sun

How else can we protect our planet's technology from solar flares?

Remember that time Mr. Burns on "The Simpsons" tried to build a shield to block out the sun? Apparently he was on to something. Harvard scientists are now proposing we build an Earth-sized shield in space to protect the planet from solar flares.

“It is widely established that extreme space weather events associated with solar flares are capable of causing widespread technological damage,” write Manasvi Lingam and Israeli-born Avi Loeb, scientists at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. “We outline a mitigation strategy to protect our planet by setting up a magnetic shield to deflect charged particles." (Loeb, by the way, is the Israeli professor who thinks aliens may have star-powered spaceships.)

You might be thinking, "That sounds really stupid. If these guys weren't from Harvard, they'd just be regular crazy people." But there's some reasoning behind it.

Every 100 years or so, the sun burps out a bunch of particles, called a solar flare. Solar flares are generally harmless, unless you happen to be an advanced civilization that has become really dependent on electric technology. Because solar flares really mess with that technology. A burst could bring us back to the Stone Age, minus all that ancient knowledge and physical ability that primordial people used to survive the Stone Age.

If a solar flare hits us soon – and there's a pretty good chance one will – then we could be dealing with trillions of dollars in economic damage. So really, building an Earth-sized shield is kind of a bargain, say these scientists.

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