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Solar-powered crises?

While all hell is breaking loose in the world economy, the sun has been left out of the blame game. But then, why should the nearest star be on the list of suspects? Well, we have reasons to believe that even if sunspots are not behind the meltdown, there is a correlation.

india Updated: Oct 06, 2008 21:40 IST

While all hell is breaking loose in the world economy, the sun has been left out of the blame game. But then, why should the nearest star be on the list of suspects? Well, we have reasons to believe that even if sunspots are not behind the meltdown, there is a correlation. During the late 19th century, scientists and political economists like William Stanley Jevons theorised that the timing of commercial crises or business cycles was linked to the 11-year solar cycle. It was Samuel Heinrich Schwabe who first noticed a periodic variation in the average number of dark spots on the sun. But it was others like Jevons who sniffed out a connect between solar activity and ‘mortal markets’.

Variations in sunspots were thought to influence the bountifulness of harvests and the price of corn, thus affecting business confidence. But Jevons changed his story several times. He originally sought to establish an 11-year cycle in British grain prices between 1254 and 1400. He then shifted the basis of his argument to later centuries, asserting that a stable 11-year cycle existed for commercial crises.

When British crop statistics did not support a regular connection, he shifted the chain of causality to British colonies like India. Association doesn’t imply causality. But is the periodicity of commercial crises and the solar cycle too coincidental? Don't watch this space. Watch the sun.