There are some earth phenomena you can count on, but the magnetic field, someday is not of them. It fluctuates in strength, drifts from its axis, and every few 100,000 years undergo, dramatic polarity reversal—a period when north pole beco mes south pole and south pole becomes north pole. But how is the field generated , and why is it so unstable?
Groundbreaking research by two French geophysicists promises to shed some light on the mystery. Using 80 meters of deep sea sediment core, they have obtained me asurements of magneticfield intensity that span 11 polarity reversals and four million years. The analysis reveals that intensity appears to fluctuate with a clear, welldefined rhythm. Although the strength of the magnetic field varies irregularly during the short term, there seems to be an inevitable long term dec line preceding each polarity reversal. When the poles flip—a process that takes several hundred thousand years—the magnetic field rapidly regains its strength and the cycle is repeated.
The results have caused a stir among geophysicists. The magnetic field is though t to originate from molten iron in the outer core,3,000 kilometers beneath the e arth’s surface. By studying mineral grains found in material ranging from rocks to clay articles, previous researchers have already been able to identify revers als dating back 170 million years, including the most recent switch 730,000 year s ago. How and why they occur, however, has been widely debated. Several theorie s link polarity flips to external disasters such as meteor impacts. But Peter Ol son, a geophysicist at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, says this is u nlikely if the French researchers are right. In fact, Olson says intensity that predictably declines from one reversal to the next contradicts 90 percent of the models currently under study. If the results prove to be valid geophysicists wi ll have a new theory to guide them in their quest to understand the earth’s inne r physics. It certainly points the direction for future research.
1. Which of the following titles is most appropriate to the passage?
A. Polarity Reversal: A Fantastic Phenomenon of Nature.
B. Measurement of the Earth’s MagneticField Intensity.
C. Formation of the Two Poles of the Earth.
D. A New Approach to the study of Geophysics.
2. What have the two French geophysicists discovered in their research?
A. Some regularity in the changes of the earth’s magnetic field.
B. Some causes of the fluctuation of the earth’s magnetic field.
C. The origin of the earth’s magnetic field.
D. The frequency of polarity reversals.
3. The French geophysicists’ study is different from currently prevailing theories in ______.
A. its identification of the origin of the earth’s magnetic field
B. the way the earth’s magnetic intensity is measured
C. its explanation of the shift in the earth’s polarity
D. the way the earth’s fluctuation rhythm is defined
4. In Peter Olson’s opinion the French experiment ___ ___.
A. is likely to direct further research in the inner physics of the earth
B. has successfully solved the mystery of polarity reversals
C. is certain to help predict external disasters
D. has caused great confusion among the world’s geophysicists