Electronic devices and Uruguay’s magnetic field

It first happened when I moved to Uruguay. Three removable disk drives that were powered by electricity and which worked fine in Spain did not work when I got here. I wondered if something had happened to them on the journey. Or if it was something to do with the differences in electrical supply (220V and 5oHz compared to ), but I hadn’t had a problem in Argentina (also 220V and 5oHz) and it wasn’t very different to Spain (230V and 50Hz), where the drives were purchased. So what was it?

Could it be related to Uruguay being at the centre of a strange magnetic phenomenon? So, Uruguay has the weakest magnetic field around the world apparently (23,000 nT compared to the world average of 60,000 nT), a phenomenon that is referred to as the South Atlantic Magnetic Anomaly. This low magnetic field has been known to damage transformers and other electronic devices, and the BBC report that it can also affect radio communications and satellites. NASA has also reported problems with the space shuttle and laptops crashing when passing through this anomaly.

Rather than ditch the drives, I held onto them, and when back in the UK, I found they worked again, so it definitely seemed it has something to do with being in Uruguay. We have also had other incidences of electronic devices failing on us suddenly, including tablets, telephones and other gadgets. It seems to be part of a general weakening in the planet’s magnetic field, with some believing that this may lead to a reversing of the Earth’s magnetic field, although this is contested by others.


About Graham Stanley

Graham Stanley is author of 'Language Learning & Technology' (CUP, 2013), winner of the ESU Duke of Edinburgh award for ELT book of the year, and the co-author of 'Digital Play: Computer games and language aims' (Delta, 2011), awarded the ELT Innovation (ELTon) award for Teacher Resources.

Posted on September 10, 2018, in journalism, writing and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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