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Biomed Pharmacother. 2004 Oct;58 Suppl 1:S150-87.

Chronoastrobiology: proposal, nine conferences, heliogeomagnetics, transyears, near-weeks, near-decades, phylogenetic and ontogenetic memories.

Author information

  • 1Halberg Chronobiology Center, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, USA. halbe001@umn.edu

Abstract

"Chronoastrobiology: are we at the threshold of a new science? Is there a critical mass for scientific research?" A simple photograph of the planet earth from outer space was one of the greatest contributions of space exploration. It drove home in a glance that human survival depends upon the wobbly dynamics in a thin and fragile skin of water and gas that covers a small globe in a mostly cold and vast universe. This image raised the stakes in understanding our place in that universe, in finding out where we came from and in choosing a path for survival. Since that landmark photograph was taken, new astronomical and biomedical information and growing computer power have been revealing that organic life, including human life, is and has been connected to invisible (non-photic) forces, in that vast universe in some surprising ways. Every cell in our body is bathed in an external and internal environment of fluctuating magnetism. It is becoming clear that the fluctuations are primarily caused by an intimate and systematic interplay between forces within the bowels of the earth--which the great physician and father of magnetism William Gilbert called a 'small magnet'--and the thermonuclear turbulence within the sun, an enormously larger magnet than the earth, acting upon organisms, which are minuscule magnets. It follows and is also increasingly apparent that these external fluctuations in magnetic fields can affect virtually every circuit in the biological machinery to a lesser or greater degree, depending both on the particular biological system and on the particular properties of the magnetic fluctuations. The development of high technology instruments and computer power, already used to visualize the human heart and brain, is furthermore making it obvious that there is a statistically predictable time structure to the fluctuations in the sun's thermonuclear turbulence and thus to its magnetic interactions with the earth's own magnetic field and hence a time structure to the magnetic fields in organisms. Likewise in humans, and in at least those other species that have been studied, computer power has enabled us to discover statistically defined endogenous physiological rhythms and further direct effects that are associated with these invisible geo- and heliomagnetic cycles. Thus, what once might have been dismissed as noise in both magnetic and physiological data does in fact have structure. And we may be at the threshold of understanding the biological and medical meaning and consequences of these patterns and biological-astronomical linkages as well. Structures in time are called chronomes; their mapping in us and around us is called chronomics. The scientific study of chronomes is chronobiology. And the scientific study of all aspects of biology related to the cosmos has been called astrobiology. Hence we may dub the new study of time structures in biology with regard to influences from cosmo- helio- and geomagnetic rhythms chronoastrobiology. It has, of course, been understood for centuries that the movements of the earth in relation to the sun produce seasonal and daily cycles in light energy and that these have had profound effects on the evolution of life. It is now emerging that rhythmic events generated from within the sun itself, as a large turbulent magnet in its own right, can have direct effects upon life on earth. Moreover, comparative studies of diverse species indicate that there have also been ancient evolutionary effects shaping the endogenous chronomic physiological characteristics of life. Thus the rhythms of the sun can affect us not only directly, but also indirectly through the chronomic patterns that solar magnetic rhythms have created within our physiology in the remote past. For example, we can document the direct exogenous effects of given specific solar wind events upon human blood pressure and heart rate. We also have evidence of endogenous internal rhythms in blood pressure and heart rate that are close to but not identical to the period length of rhythms in the solar wind. These were installed genetically by natural selection at some time in the distant geological past. This interpretive model of the data makes the prediction that the internal and external influences on heart rate and blood pressure can reinforce or cancel each other out at different times. A study of extensive clinical and physiological data shows that the interpretive model is robust and that internal and external effects are indeed augmentative at a statistically significant level. Chronoastrobiological studies are contributing to basic science--that is, our understanding is being expanded as we recognize heretofore unelaborated linkages of life to the complex dynamics of the sun, and even to heretofore unelaborated evolutionary phenomena. Once, one might have thought of solar storms as mere transient 'perturbations' to biology, with no lasting importance. Now we are on the brink of understanding that solar turbulences have played a role in shaping endogenous physiological chronomes. There is even documentation for correlations between solar magnetic cycles and psychological swings, eras of belligerence and of certain expressions of sacred or religious feelings. Chronoastrobiology can surely contribute to practical applications as well as to basic science. It can help develop refinements in our ability to live safely in outer space, where for example at the distance of the moon the magnetic influences of the sun will have an effect upon humans unshielded by the earth's native magnetic field. We should be better able to understand these influences as physiological and mechanical challenges, and to improve our estimations of the effects of exposure. Chronoastrobiology moreover holds great promise in broadening our perspectives and powers in medicine and public health right here upon the surface of the earth. Even the potential relevance of chronoastrobiology for practical environmental and agricultural challenges cannot be ruled out at this early stage in our understanding of the apparently ubiquitous effects of magnetism and hence perhaps of solar magnetism on life. The evidence already mentioned that fluctuations in solar magnetism can influence gross clinical phenomena such as rates of strokes and heart attacks, and related cardiovascular variables such as blood pressure and heart rate, should illustrate the point that the door is open to broad studies of clinical implications. The medical value of better understanding magnetic fluctuations as sources of variability in human physiology falls into several categories: 1) The design of improved analytical and experimental controls in medical research. Epidemiological analyses require that the multiple sources causing variability in physiological functions and clinical phenomena be identified and understood as thoroughly as possible, in order to estimate systematic alterations of any one variable. 2) Preventive medicine and the individual patients'care. There are no flat 'baselines', only reference chronomes. Magnetic fluctuations can be shown statistically to exacerbate health problems in some cases. The next step should be to determine whether vulnerable individuals can be identified by individual monitoring. Such vulnerable patients may then discover that they have the option to avoid circumstances associated with anxiety during solar storms, and/or pay special attention to their medication or other treatments. Prehabilitation by self-help can hopefully complement and eventually replace much costly rehabilitation. 3) Basic understanding of human physiological mechanisms. The chronomic organization of physiology implies a much more subtle dynamic integration of functions than is generally appreciated. All three categories of medical value in turn pertain to the challenges for space science of exploring and colonizing the solar system. The earth's native magnetic field acts like an enormous umbrella that offers considerable protection on the surface from harsh solar winds of charged particles and magnetic fluxes. The umbrella becomes weaker with distance from the earth and will offer little protection for humans, other animals, and plants in colonies on the surface of the moon or beyond. Thus it is important before more distant colonization is planned or implemented to better understand those magnetism-related biological- solar interactions that now can be studied conveniently on earth. (ABSTRACT TRUNCATED)

PMID:
15754855
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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