In certain internet circles, the perils posed by the dawning of a new millennium, especially the disorder associated with those loudly heralded Y2K computer failures, are whimsically referred to as TEOOWAWKI — i.e., The End Of Our World As We Know It.
The designation seems intended to serve as a talisman, expected to ward off a looming disaster by mocking it. TEOOWAWKI is perhaps a variation on the epithets scrawled across the plywood hammered up to protect the windows from a hurricane.
Now, it turns out that Y2K is only the beginning.
Consider the event known as the Solar Maximum. Later this year, energy activity on the sun is expected to begin building toward the peak of the sun’s 11-year cycle. As the largest particle accelerator in our corner of the cosmos, the sun throws out solar flares that release as much energy as several billion tons of TNT.
Believe it or not, the celestial fireworks are expected to reach their zenith early in the year 2000, just as we’re all reeling from Y2K.
Violent geomagnetic storms on the sun in the coming months are expected to trigger interruptions to satellite-based broadcasting, telephone, paging, and global-positioning services, according to scientists from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
These cyclical solar eruptions are nothing new, but the effects of the Y2K Solar Maximum are expected to wreak much more havoc this time around, thanks to our surging reliance on space-based communications.
And if for some reason you think education will be immune to the ravages of the Solar Maximum, you haven’t read this month’s “eSN Special Report”: Connectivity–Beyond the Promised LAN, beginning on page 25. As that roundup shows conclusively, schools from coast to coast increasingly depend on reliable electronic communications.
The “Special Report” and half a dozen other stories in this issue underscore how much more obviously everything is interconnected now. That, in turn, shows how much more we all need to keep track of.
It used to be you could tell all you needed to know about conditions by consulting the weather rock. If it was wet, you knew to take an umbrella. Now comes the bittersweet realization that we might actually need a solar weather report to go about our daily lives. Maybe that’s what TEOOWAWKI really means.
But just as progress can sometimes slow you down, the end of something always brings a beginning.
And in this season of relentless change, here’s a constant for you: At eSchool News, we’ll keep doing all we can to give you the news and information you need to navigate safely through this brave new world . . . even if those global-positioning satellites do go down.