(ATR) Solar storms last August during the London Olympics may have disrupted timing of some events – perhaps invalidating records set during the Games.
This handout image from NASA and the Solar Dynamics Observatory shows a solar flare leaping off the sun and into space. (Getty Images)
A study by a pair of Swiss and German physicists published today in the journal Tempus
says that three extraordinary blasts of solar energy during the Games disrupted timing mechanisms around the globe, not just in London.
“We made this discovery for the Olympics by accident, while we were conducting experiments on the effect of solar storms on digital timing devices for a client, one of the major timekeepers in Europe,” says Dr. Heinrich Uhr of AF Laboratories in Erstenaprilburg, Germany.
Uhr tells Around the Rings
that solar activity runs in 11-year cycles and that the peak of the last cycle in 2002 came before the current generation of digital semiconductors. Testing by Uhr then as well as in 1990 revealed no aberrations in timing systems at those times, which did not include Olympic Games.
“This is the first time AF Labs has conducted the testing during the Olympic Games,” says co-author Monica Montre.
“We found timing systems globally to have been affected in the range of a tenth of a second to 100th of a second, clearly enough to lead to timings in London that would be scientifically inaccurate,” she said, describing the phenomenon as a “time warp”.
Records in London that are now thrown into doubt include David Rudisha’s 800m on the track, Missy Franklin’s backstroke victory and about a dozen other timed events from the track, pool and velodrome.
“While there may be questions about whether these record times are accurate, the results of these races – that is, who wins gold, silver and bronze – is not in doubt,” Uhr said.
World records like David Rudisha's in the 800m could be invalidated. (ATR/Panasonic Lumix)
Word of the study came late Friday as Europe began a long holiday weekend. Officials from Omega, the Swiss firm responsible for timing the Olympics, were not immediately available for comment, and neither was the IOC.
Montre says timings at other events through the past 18 months of peak solar activity were likely to have been affected by the geomagnetic storms. She says international federations IAAF, FINA and UCI should be made aware of this possibility.
To view the article “Time Warp: A Stochastic Probability Index of Geomagnetic Storms and the Olympics” click here.
Written and reported by Ed Hula
For general comments or questions,
20 Years at #1: Your best source of news about the Olympics is www.aroundtherings.com, for subscribers only