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Solar Wind

"Global warming is caused by the sun," Sue said. "It's pretty stupid, really, having a heater you can't turn down."

This was obviously a rehearsed speech, derived from a known unreliable source, designed by him to make a quick buck, but Kathy listened politely, interested to find out what his new line was. "What are you going to do about it?" she asked.

"What they do with a proper nuclear reactor is use a moderator -- rods the operators slide in and out -- but this one doesn't have them and there's no way of fitting them."

Maybe it's a bit big and a bit far away, Kathy thought, or maybe it hadn't been thought of when the Sun was built. She looked encouraging, waiting for the next gem.

"There's been a suggestion that we move the earth a bit further away from the Sun," Sue said.

"Won't that start a new ice age?" Kathy asked.

"Not if it's just a little bit," Sue said, "but apparently it's too hard. The rockets we've got aren't powerful enough. So they tried to build a big sunshade, in orbit, to block out some of the sunlight. But it seems that there's this strong solar wind that blew it away. It's already out past Jupiter."

"So that's why Pluto is so cold," Kathy said. The climax was obviously still to come.

Sue nodded. "So what we have to do is give the Sun a taste of it's own medicine -- reflect the sunlight back. It's called albedo. Snow and ice does it naturally -- that's why the poles and the ski fields are so cold -- but now we can all contribute."

To Kathy, the combination of impressive words and factoids confirmed it as a typical Des sales pitch, dating back to when he sold unroadworthy rust buckets as classic cars needing a little TLC, but then Sue had always been a sucker for Des's schemes.

Sue pointed to the roof of her house, where workmen were installing what Kathy had assumed were solar panels. As one of them was being jockeyed into position, it flashed in the sun.

"What are they?" Kathy asked.

"Mirrors," Sue said, her voice dripping with condescension. "There's a new government subsidy scheme for them, instead of for old hat solar panels."

"When did this start?"

"Today," Sue said proudly. "I'm one of the first domestic installations. The really big ones are out in the deserts. Simpson Desert. Nullarbor Plain."

Kathy had a bad feeling. "How big?"

"Totally big. Covers the whole area." Sue caught Kathy's expression and corrected herself. "There's small gaps between the mirrors. Enough for the lizards to get through."

"Is there any evidence that it will work?"

"It's got to. It's obvious."

"How long have the panels been there?"

"A few days."

"Have you seen the news?"

Sue shook her head. "I know there's been some vandalism," she said, "though it might be a meteor shower."

"I doubt it," Kathy said. "I was looking at the satellite pictures. There's a dirty great dust storm covering the whole area. They reckon that there's a huge updraught, which will be the hot air from the mirrors, pulling gale force winds in from every direction. Give it a few days and your mirrors will be buried under a deep layer of rocks and dirt. But don't try to walk on them in bare feet. They won't be intact. Nature's good at getting it's own back."

Copyright D.W. Walker, 2015


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