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Changes in the magnetic field could therefore cause electrical grid failures, navigation system malfunctions, and satellite breakdowns.A weakening of the magnetic field might also mean more harmful radiation reaches Earth—and trigger an increase in the incidence of skin cancer.

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Not admonitions, but concrete evidence that multitasking compromises their efforts to learn.

The specifics are persuasive and here are some examples to share with students.

The group excavated clay samples from a site in the Limpopo River Valley, which borders Zimbabwe, South Africa, and Botswana.

During the Iron Age in southern Africa, around the time of the first millennium, there was a group of Bantu-speaking people who cultivated grain and lived in villages composed of grain bins, huts, and cattle enclosures.

As part of a field called “archaeomagnetism,” geophysicists team up with archaeologists to study the past magnetic field.

The Rochester team, which included several undergraduate students, collaborated with archaeologist Thomas Huffman of the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa, a leading expert on Iron Age southern Africa.“We were looking for recurrent behavior of anomalies because we think that’s what is happening today and causing the South Atlantic Anomaly,” Tarduno says.“We found evidence that these anomalies have happened in the past, and this helps us contextualize the current changes in the magnetic field.” The researchers discovered that the magnetic field in the region fluctuated from 400-450 AD, from 700-750 AD, and again from 1225-1550 AD.Using new data gathered from sites in southern Africa, University of Rochester researchers have extended their record of Earth’s magnetic field back thousands of years to the first millennium.The record provides historical context to help explain recent, ongoing changes in the magnetic field, most prominently in an area in the Southern Hemisphere known as the South Atlantic Anomaly.“When you burn clay at very high temperatures, you actually stabilize the magnetic minerals, and when they cool from these very high temperatures, they lock in a record of the earth’s magnetic field,” Tarduno says.

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