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The Earths Magnetic Field

The Earths Magnetic Field

Many people know that the earth has a magnetic field, but few are aware that this field is shrinking. This decrease has been measured over a period of 150 years, and the rate of the decrease shows that something very earth-shaking took place less than 6000 years ago. The fossil record contains evidence of great disturbances in the field that give us an idea of the magnitude of the geologic events during Noah's flood. This fact sheet answers some common questions on this subject, beginning with basic questions about magnetism and ending with some current theories about geomagnetism.


What's a magnet?

Everyone knows what a magnet is, or what a magnet does. An invisible force (the magnetic field) attracts iron objects. This force can be very strong. A better question is ``Why does a magnet attract iron objects?''. For this we must take a look at what a magnet is made of.

If you take a bar magnet and break it in half, you end up with two smaller bar magnets. If you break the halves into fourths, you get four small bar magnets. If you have enough patience and time you can repeat this until you have millions of microscopic magnets.

All magnets have two poles; a north pole and a south pole. We call this a dipole (two poles). Two north poles or south poles repel each other. Try forcing the two north poles of two bar magnets together. The unseen magnetic field makes it feel like there's a water balloon between them resisting your push. Opposite poles (a north and a south) attract strongly.


How do you make a magnet?

Since opposite poles attract, you can put two magnets together to make a larger magnet. If you have many little magnets, you can keep adding magnets into a larger mass and have one large, strong magnet.

Some molecules, some atoms, and all electrons are little magnets. So why isn't everything magnetic? In most matter, the molecules, atoms, and electrons are all jumbled up together. In a strong magnet, most of the little magnets (magnetic domains if you want to get fancy) point in the same direction. This makes the magnetic force of all the little magnets add up to make a large magnet, called a permanent magnet.

Free magnets tend to align with each other. You can try this by placing one magnet on a table and slowly moving another magnet toward it. The magnet that is loose on the table turns to align with the magnet in your hand. If you stroke a piece of iron with a magnet, you gradually align the little magnetic domains, and the result is a larger magnet.

Electric current is the flow of electrons through a conductor. A conductor is a material that lets the electrons hop from atom to atom when influenced by an outside force. If you move a wire (which is an electric conductor) through a magnetic field, you force (induce) the electrons to travel in one direction through the wire. Electrons flowing through a conductor create a magnetic field around the conductor. This is called electromagnetism.


Can you ´unmake´ a magnet?

A stronger magnet can partially realign the magnetic domains of a weaker magnet.

Many different substances can be made into permanent magnets. However, for all these materials, there is a critical temperature called the Curie point. At this temperature or above, the molecules within the material are moving around too much for the material to retain the magnetic alignment necessary to exhibit a magnetic field.


How big can a magnet be?

We live on a magnet. The earth itself has a large magnetic field called the geomagnetic field. You can see the effects of the field when you use a compass to find out which direction is north.

Earth's magnetic field is very complicated. It can be thought of as being one large magnetic dipole with twelve more small magnets arranged at various angles.

A curious fact about Earth's magnetic field is that it is not lined up with the spin axis. Its alignment is about 11 degrees off the axis defined by the north and south poles. (Without knowing this, you can't find the North pole using only a compass!)


What does Earth's magnetic field do for us?

The magnetic field helps us find our way around. Using a compass, we can tell which way is north even when there are no familiar landmarks in sight.

The magnetic field shields us from much harmful radiation. Cosmic rays come from all directions, and the sun sends out a steady stream of high-energy particles known as the solar wind.


Genesis 1:6 describes the firmament (Hebrew raqia) separating the water below from the water above. Before the flood described in Genesis, the magnetic field may even have helped to suspend the firmament above the earth.


Is the Earth's field changing?

Scientists have made many careful measurements of the magnetic field over 150 years. These measurements show that the magnetic field is slowly shrinking. The intensity of the field decreases by half in 1400 years. This means that as time goes on we have less protection from cosmic radiation and the solar wind.


How strong has it been?

In 560 A.D. the field was twice as strong as it is now. In David's kingdom it was four times as strong. In Noah's time it was eight times as strong. There are limits to how intense the magnetic field could have been. If we assume that the field has been decaying at the same rate for 10,000 years, the field would have been more intense than that of a magnetic star. The heat and electrical extremes from such conditions would have made life on earth impossible.


This presents a significant problem for evolutionists and their belief in a 4.6-billion-year-old earth. Their answer is the dynamo theory, which assumes that the core of the earth is made of molten metal (iron-nickel mixture). Molten material inside the earth is far hotter than the Curie point, which means that the earth as a whole is not a permanent magnet; it must be an electromagnet. The dynamo theory is that slow, internal convection currents or planetary rotation generates the magnetic field, and that this mechanism has operated for the assumed 4.6 billion years. Since This theory also claims that the field reverses over extremely long periods of time.


Did the field ever change directions?

Of course, it's dangerous to observe a process for a relatively short period of time and then declare that the process has been behaving in exactly that way for all of time. This approach is routinely seen in traditional geology and paleontology (``...the present is the key to the past.''). However, in this case uniformitarianism is denounced by the evolutionists. They point to paleomagnetic measurements in rock formations.


As sediment accumulates or as molten rock cools, the earth's magnetic field is believed to have aligned the magnetic domains within the material as it hardened, locking in a record of the orientation of the geomagnetic field at the time. Measurements of the magnetic-field polarity in ancient volcanic lava flows show that Earths magnetic field gyrated wildly at one point in time. Other evidence for a change is that the residual magnetic fields in rock formed on the ocean floor where the great tectonic plates are pulling apart show a number of different orientations. The traditional assumption here is that these processes went on at the same rate in the past as we observe today. However, during the flood, when cataclysmic geologic events were occurring at a rapid pace, these processes may have been recording what happened to the magnetic field over weeks or months instead of hundreds of thousands of years.

Dr. D. R. Humphreys has studied the physical evidence of magnetic-field reversal and decay and developed a model that describes the magnetic field as having a high initial strength, a series of rapid reversals during the flood year, slower variations until the time of Christ's earthly ministry, then gradual steady decay.


The idea that the geomagnetic field could have rapidly reversed was rejected by the evolutionary community, even though a much larger body, the Sun, reverses its field every eleven years.

Recent discoveries have added more weight to Dr. Humphreys model. The April 5, 1995 edition (Vol. 14) of Science News reported on a Nature article that researchers are finding fresh evidence of extremely-rapid field orientation shifts, as much as six degrees per day. The article states that ``if that happened today, compass needles would swing from magnetic north toward Mexico City in little over a week''. The article quotes one geophysicist as saying ``that shows the core to be violently active in terms of the magnetic field''.

Violently active? "...on that day all the fountains of the deep were broken up..." Genesis 7:11, NKJV.


Will the field build back up again?

- Earth seems to have a broken generator. More of the observable facts support the model proposed by Dr. Humphreys. Whatever happened in the past, hard evidence exists for a freely-decaying geomagnetic field now. A collapsing magnetic field encounters resistance, which generates electrical current, which generates more magnetic energy. The result is a slow decay unless new energy is released into the decaying system from an outside source.

"He who was sat on the throne said `Behold, I make all things new!"... Revelation 21:5, NKJV.


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