A Little Knowledge is Dangerous

    One of the local QRPers bolted around the curve and made his way quickly up the hill. This one was in a hurry and he was beaming confidence with the brilliance of one of those quartz-halogen headlights! A QRPer with new found DX knowledge. Of this we were sure for we had seen this many times before.

    As we approached we thought of the newly minted QRPers and the process all DXers had to go through. As each one passes along the normal progression to being one of the Big DX Guns, with totals well over three hundred, there are levels of DX knowledge gained at each step. And this QRPer had obviously just found out something that might increase his DX totals. What else makes a DXer happy? Nothing. DXers live for more DX. That's the way it's always been and that's the way it always will be.

    "I have great news!" he began, looking at us and puffing a bit from his quick trip up the hill. "Did you know there are really two solar cycles instead of one?" This was not what we had expected. "Everyone knows that, more or less, solar cycles come and go in eleven year cycles. DXers pay more attention to this than any other amateur does. Just ask the Palos Verdes Sundancers" we replied, confident we had headed this off. "No!" the QRPer replied confidently, "No, that is all wrong. The folks at NASA and the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena have known for years that the solar cycle actually is a 22-year cycle, not 11. And they have scientific proof, gathered from satellite observation and shuttle experimentation. All we have is a 'gut feeling' and some theories based on a group of Sundancers down Palos Verdes way. And I'm here to explain the difference!"

    We weren't sure we wanted to hear the difference. For as we were thinking about the different levels of knowledge a DXer gains along the way, we were also thinking about how many times they re-invent the wheel. While DX knowledge is the most important thing a DXer can accumulate, after DX totals that is, the source of this knowledge has to be balanced. There are two good sources of DX knowledge and any DXer who has been around the track a few times will tell you this. The first is gained from listing to the Old Timer, from reading the DX bulletins, listening to the rumors and the like on the repeaters and from watching the messages on the DX clusters and BBS systems. And the second is gained from experience. Along this road to DX understanding a QRPer must accumulate all this knowledge from both sources. But what makes him different, what makes him a true-blue DXer is not measured in sheer volume of knowledge, but rather in the accuracy of this knowledge and gaining the ability to sort the good from the bad. The DXer that can do this will become one of the deserving . . . one who will understand the Inevitable Truths of Dxing, the Mysteries of the Ages and the Eternal Enigmas that separate QRPers from true-blue DXers. Absolutely.

    We never got a chance to explain this because the QRPer ploughed right on with his new theory or solar cycles. "You see" he explained, "the reason we have solar cycles is that the polarity of the sun reverses, with the north pole moving southward and actually doing a complete 360 degree rotation and re-appearing back where it started. And this internal revolution takes place over 22 years. And so, while it may seem that the solar cycle is 11 years, it really is 22. Understand?"

    We didn't. This QRPer had the habit of ending almost everything with "Understand?" And while we didn't, we decided it best not to show our ignorance of solar physics and the like. So we countered with our own logic. "It seems to us that we are running into a Bull Market for DX right now" we replied, neither acknowledging understanding nor the lack of it. "The flux is rising and there is more DX for everyone, although for some more than others. And for as long as we can remember, both sunspots and DX come in 11-year cycles." The QRPer didn't even blink, "Yes, that may be so, but you have to admit that the 22-year cycle is very exciting news and an important factor. As to whether it is in phase with the so-called 11 year cycle is yet to be determined. And I will be researching that as well. But for now, let's concentrate on the 22-year cycle. It also happens that as the solar polar region moves along its path, magnetic loops are spiraled outward and fold back into the sun. Understand?"

    We didn't understand a thing at this point, so we just sat there with a blank face. "I've also done some researching on the behavior of the earth's magnetic field. And you know that I've found that there are also magnetic loops that exit and enter the earth at approximately 30-degree intervals of latitude, intersecting with 60-degree intervals of longitude. Now, when the solar wind intersects the bow shock of the interplanetary magnetic field, it follows that there will be enhanced areas of magnetic activity at these points. This will lead to a fluctuation in the electrical currents in the ionosphere between these points, creating a grid of enhanced electrical lines. Understand?" At this point the QRPer was jiggling with joy at the thought of what he had discovered and that he was finally able to tell us a few things that we did not already know.

    He was right! We were beyond even thinking about what the QRPer was saying. Our brain muscles were starting to hurt so we decided the only thing to do was to get a second opinion. If nothing else, it would keep the QRPer quiet for a few minutes. So we took him up the hill to discuss this with the Old Timer. He repeated his newly acquired knowledge as the Old Timer sat back and listened in silence. Predictably, he wound down looking the Old Timer in the eye and saying, "Understand?"

    The Old Timer stared right back at him and replied "Yes." Son of a Gun! Maybe the Old Timer had been doing a bit of research of his own. We were starting to worry that the QRPer might be onto something here. And if it would enhance our ability to work DX, we decided we had better pay a bit more attention.

    The Old Timer looked at the QRPer and continued, "You've discovered something that not many know. In particular, this business of the magnetic anomalies here on earth and the fact that they fold back at 30 and 60 degree intersections . . . that is one of the most tightly guarded DX secrets." The QRPer beamed with pride and then snapped to his feet with a sudden wave of enlightenment. "I've always wondered why some people work more DX than others. And I always attributed it to a low tower and low power going up against a high tower and high power. But that has nothing to do with it! It's where you live, isn't it? If you happen to live near one of these intersections where the magnetic loop enters or leaves the earth's surface, you are bound to work more DX, right?" The Old Timer was non-committal and we just stared at the two of them. The QRPer rolled on, almost going into self-oscillation with pride, "I bet if I look at the DXCC leaders and where they live, I'll find they are concentrated around these areas."

    The Old Timer just looked and nodded slowly as the QRPer picked up speed. "Furthermore, I bet there aren't many places left that aren't staked out. But I'll find one! I'm still young and I don't mind moving. I'll find a magnetic intersection point and I'll be on Honor Roll in a quarter of the time it will take me to do it from here." And with this, he raced out the door and was off down the hill.

    We looked over at the Old Timer and asked slowly, "Is he on to something?" The Old Timer shrugged and said "Don't think so. But take a look on the map and see where the sparsely populated areas are that intersect 30-degrees latitude and 60-degrees longitude." We had a quick look and turned back to the Old Timer, "Looks like there's one in China. And another one in Russia, just below the Arctic Circle. Then the middle of Argentina seems to be about the only other place that qualifies . . . pretty well everywhere else is heavily populated or over the oceans."

    "I noticed that", the Old Timer replied, "I think he might have to do some thinking about balancing his academic knowledge against his experience. But then again, maybe he's right." Somehow we didn't think so, but at times like this it is best to leave the Old Timer alone. After all, he'd gotten rid of the QRPer for us! And no one argues with success. But somehow we felt that once the QRPer had dug out his atlas and did a bit more research, he'd be back to enlighten us again. We didn't think we could take any more enlightenment for a while, so we started thinking about that trip to Phoenix the XYL had been talking about. And while it hadn't been our first choice of things to do, it had suddenly become more attractive. As Albert so often said, "All things are relative, some more so." And we knew better than to argue with Albert in situations like this!

This story is in the public domain and may be reproduced in any format. - VE1DX

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Last updated on Thursday, 12 April 2007