In the commentary “Should NASA Be Taking Cosmic Radiation More Seriously?” [Oct. 7, page 19], Joseph N. Pelton writes, “Such gaps in the protective shield [of the magnetosphere] can allow poisonous gases and radiation to pour through, and such events are thought to have already killed millions of birds and fish.”

I can only guess that Mr. Pelton speaks of events like the birds’ deaths in Arkansas and elsewhere. As National Geographic reported Jan. 6, 2011: 

“At any given time there are ‘at least ten billion birds in North America … and there could be as much as 20 billion — and almost half die each year due to natural causes,’ said ornithologist Greg Butcher, director of bird conservation for the National Audubon Society in Washington, D.C.”

“‘Right before they began to fall, it appears that really loud booms from professional-grade fireworks — 10 to 12 of them, a few seconds apart — were reported in the general vicinity of a roost of the birds, flushing them out,’ [ornithologist Karen] Rowe [of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission] said.”

“[T]he birds died from blunt-force trauma. … ‘They collided with cars, trees, buildings, and other stationary objects.’” 

If Mr. Pelton insists on the speculation that “poisonous gas” enters the Earth’s atmosphere through “cracks in the magnetosphere” and kills wildlife, I would kindly ask for peer-reviewed papers in scientific journals supporting his argument.

Michael Geyer

Weßling, Germany