Wind & Water, Inc. — Candace Czarny — is doing business as artofplacement.com. She has invented a wonderful marketing gimmick. It works well on the gullible — probably the same 20 percent of American adults who, according to the National Science Foundation, think the sun revolves around the Earth, or generally aren’t the sharpest knives in the drawer. Czarny’s gimmick is called The Inaccuracy of Reading the Degrees on a Compass.

Americans’ poor science literacy means that science and technology exist in a walled garden, a geek ghetto. We are a technocracy in which most of us don’t really understand what’s happening around us. We stagger through a world of technological and medical miracles. We’re zombified by progress. — Joel Achenbach

What She Says Reality Check
Earth has an electromagnetic field. Our solar sun also has an electromagnetic field. The American Heritage Science Dictionary explains electromagnetism:

The behavior and interaction of electric charges and electric and magnetic fields, such as electricity, magnetism, chemical bonds, and all forms of electromagnetic radiation, including light.

Geomagnetism (Earth’s magnetic field) is produced by the geomagnetic dynamo (more on that later).

The Sun has many magnetic fields. Nasa says

Magnetism, or magnetic field, is produced on the Sun by the flow of electrically charged ions and electrons.

However, the Sun’s field is called the solar magnetic field, not the “solar electromagnetic field” or the “solar sun electromagnetic field.”

Our solar sun goes thru 11year cycles of solar fluctuations called sun flares that create solar wind. In 2003 two of the strongest flares ever recorded flashed. National Geographic says that we are in the height of the sunspot cycle. According to Nasa, the sunspot cycle results from the recycling of magnetic fields by the flow of material inside the Sun. The Schwabe cycle is 10 to 11 years; the Hale cycle is roughly 22 years. There are longer cycles as well, such as the 88-year Gleissberg. (National Geographicworks from the same information.)According to the physics department at the University of Montana,

The most rapid changes to the Sun’s magnetic field occur locally, in restricted regions of the magnetic field. However, the entire structure of the Sun’s global magnetic field changes on an 11 year cycle. Every 11 years, the Sun moves through a period of fewer, smaller sunspots, prominences, and flares — called a “solar minimum” — and a period of more, larger sunspots, prominences and flares — called a “solar maximum.” A maximum and a minimum, taken together, make up one solar cycle. During the 11 years, the strongest magnetic fields (in sunspots) slowly migrate towards the Sun’s equator from locations about midway to the Sun’s poles. After 11 years, when the next cycle starts, the magnetic field poles are reversed.

Solar maximum occurred in 2000-2001, as did a reversal of the sun’s magnetic field (a Hale cycle). Solar minimum has been with us since 2004, according to Nasa. (Remember, solar minimum is “the lowest ebb of solar activity.”) The next solar storm cycle is expected to begin in March 2008 and to peak in 2011. The fractal signature in the solar wind helps scientists understand the cycle.

You can look at movies and data from 1996 to 2007 to see whether the “two of the strongest flares ever recorded” truly occurred in 2003. Note that the BBC says a flare in October 2003 was the “third largest detected since regular solar monitoring began 25 years ago” and “the strongest flare since 2001 which itself was the most powerful since 1989.”

The fluctuations from our solar sun have a major impact on the planet earth. This solar wind creates a vibration that disturbs the electromagnetic field of the earth. The greater the intensity of the solar fluctuations and the amount of fluctuations will determine the amount of disturbances of the earth‚Äôs electromagnetic field. The solar wind is a continuous stream of plasma (mostly protons and electrons) flowing outward from the Sun’s corona, its outer atmosphere, which is structured by strong magnetic fields. (Earth has a corona as well, called the geocorona.) Notice the word continuous: every few hours the Sun spews billions of tons of electrically charged particles — the wind. You can watch the solar wind and auroras.The Space Weather Center says

Our solar system is a series of bubbles within bubbles ‚Äì plasma within magnetic fields separated from each other by huge, flowing sheets of electric currents. It’s a pattern that’s repeated throughout the rest of our plasma universe. The Sun is enclosed in a magnetic bubble.
As the solar wind streams outward, pulling the Sun’s magnetic field with it, it forms a huge, teardrop-shaped magnetic bubble. This bubble, the heliosphere, contains the solar wind, the entire solar magnetic field, and all the planets (many with their own magnetic fields).
Earth isn’t the only planet to have a magnetosphere. Earth’s neighbor Mercury has one, and all the giant planets ‚Äì Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune and Uranus ‚Äì have huge magnetospheres. We don’t know about Pluto, because no spacecraft have yet visited the planetoid. We do know Venus and Mars don’t have planetary magnetic fields or magnetospheres ‚Äì but we don‚Äôt yet know why.

The solar wind contains magnetic clouds during solar eruptions known as flares and coronal mass ejections. And every eight minutes there is a flux transfer event, which opens a magnetic portal between the sun and the Earth.

Solar flares and CMEs occur whenever there’s a rapid, large-scale change in the Sun’s magnetic field.
— David Hathaway, a solar physicist at the Nasa Marshall Space Flight Center

A solar flare is an explosion on the Sun, caused by magnetic field lines around sunspots crossing and reconnecting with an explosive release of radiation across the electromagnetic spectrum (from radio waves to x-rays and gamma-rays). Flares are our solar system’s largest explosive events. In 2000 a massive flare was dubbed the Bastille Day Event.

A coronal mass ejection (CME) is a gas bubble with magnetic field lines. These can disrupt the solar wind and trigger major disturbances in Earth’s magnetosphere known as space weather. Space weather begins on the Sun, disrupts the space between the Sun and Earth, touches the atmosphere above Earth, and sometimes reaches the ground.

However, not all CMEs cause space weather. The Space Weather Center explains:

All magnetic fields have a direction. The solar wind‚Äôs field can point in all sorts of directions: towards Earth, away from Earth, towards the north, towards the south, and even towards the east and west. The actual direction of the field when a mass ejection comes crashing into Earth’s magnetosphere is very important. If it’s directed southward, we have found that disturbances in the solar wind, like CMEs, can penetrate Earth’s protective shield and cause magnetic storms. If the solar wind’s magnetic field has some other direction, like northward, then conditions are mild. The direction of the field acts like an electric switch: northward the switch is off; southward it is turned on.

You can watch a storm.
You can listen to storms.

The history of these solar fluctuations can be found in the earth‚Äôs tectonic plates. It is believed that at one time all of the continents of the earth were connected. It is also believed that the effects from on solar system and galaxy have caused the shift to the separate continents. How did the Schwabe cycle get mixed up with plate tectonics? The lunatic fringe! Czarny seems to have read some armchair pundits’ anti-global-warming sites and websites maintained by cranks (like this!), and arrived at the assumption that people look at the plates and see solar fluctuations, galactic influences, and more.Scientists haven’t found any “history of solar fluctuations” in the plates — they found magnetic striping. They haven’t found solar system effects (or galactic effects) — they know tectonics enable the magnetosphere on this planet. In fact, tectonics would stop if the temperature on Earth jumped 60 degrees Celsius.A primer on geomagnetism from New Scientist.
The Earth‚Äôs electromagnetic field is created by a solid iron inner core and a molten outer core. These two cores move in opposite directions. It is this movement of the cores that creates the energy that moves in the magnet pole that creates the earth‚Äôs magnetic field and magnetic north. What’s next, a chewy nougat center? Here is a realistic explanation from NOVA’s program Magnetic Storm.

… the liquid metal that makes up the outer core passes through a magnetic field, which causes an electric current to flow within the liquid metal. The electric current, in turn, creates its own magnetic field — one that is stronger than the field that created it in the first place. As liquid metal passes through the stronger field, more current flows, which increases the field still further. This self-sustaining loop is known as the geomagnetic dynamo.
Energy is needed to keep the dynamo running. This energy comes from the release of heat from the surface of the solid inner core. Although it may seem counterintuitive, material from the liquid outer core slowly “freezes” onto the inner core, releasing heat as it does so. (High pressures within the Earth cause material to freeze at high temperatures.) This heat drives convection cells within the liquid core, which keeps the liquid metal moving through the magnetic field.
The so-called Coriolis force also plays a role in sustaining the geomagnetic dynamo. Our planet’s spinning motion causes the moving liquid metal to spiral, in a way similar to how it affects weather systems on the Earth’s surface. These spiraling eddies allow separate magnetic fields to align (more or less) and combine forces. Without the effects caused by the spinning Earth, the magnetic fields generated within the liquid core would cancel one another out and result in no distinct north or south magnetic poles.

Magnetic North and True North (the Earth’s axis) although thought to be one in the same, are not. Magnet North moves an average of 40 kilometers every year. In the last 100 years Magnetic North has moved approximately 1200 kilometers. True north is a navigational term that expresses the relationship between where you are now and the direction of the north pole on the celestial sphere. The difference between magnetic direction and the direction on the celestial sphere has been known for nearly 2,000 years — but evidently Czarny just discovered this.Actually the magnetic pole can wander as much as 80 km in a day — and that’s not including the “jerks” or “impulses.” Here is one reason why San Yuan is called Space and Time School not “Compass School”!Czarny’s cherry-picked claims don’t tell you the whole story. Here is the complete quote from the Geological Survey of Canada:

During the last century the Pole has moved a remarkable 1100 km. What is more, since about 1970 the NMP has accelerated and is now moving at more than 40 km per year. If the NMP maintains its present speed and direction it will reach Siberia in about 50 years. Such an extrapolation is, however, tenuous. It is quite possible that the Pole will veer from its present course, and it is also possible that the pole will slow down sometime in the next half century.

Because people have known about polar wandering for centuries yet still use compasses, then the compass is not irrelevant.

Obviously, merchandisers do not believe the compass is irrelevant or they would not be releasing numerous gadgets with compasses, like this one that Wired raved about.

Electronic devices are affected by solar winds and CMEs. Czarny should be saying that mobile phones and GPS are irrelevant, too.
Czarny’s claims are just the ravings of a scientifically-challenged crank when you know that compasses don’t really point at the poles. Compasses read only local magnetic field intensity and dip.

The compass points in the directions of the horizontal component of the magnetic field where the compass is located, and not to any single point.  — US National Geophysical Data Center

What a coincidence — feng shui is concerned only with the local environment and the feng shui compass was invented to read the local environment! We’re not taking readings off the twin poles of Earth — we’re reading what is occurring in the local environment!

“D’oh!” as Homer Simpson says.

When you know that no compass actually “points north,” you probably know some of the other reasons that Czarny’s ideas look like garden-variety crank. From Magnetic Storm:

The magnetic field … streams out near the South Pole, loops around the planet, and then runs back into the core … the Earth’s magnetic field runs from south to north …

The convention in physics is that the end of a dipole magnet where the magnetic field emanates outward is termed the “north” pole of the magnet; the end where the magnetic field goes inward is termed the “south” pole of the magnet. The geomagnetic field flows out of the South Pole, and runs back into the North Pole (in this computer simulation of Earth’s magnetic field, inward field lines are blue and outward field lines are yellow).

On Earth, geomagnetic north is actually at the geographic South Pole.

This is not a typographical error: the magnetic pole in the Canadian Arctic is really the south pole of Earth! The Western convention is to call the Canadian one the North Pole.

A Western compass has a needle painted to look like it is pointing north … but it is actually pointing south just like a Chinese compass. And a compass “pointing” to either pole is a figure of speech — nothing more.

To put it another way:

Most people incorrectly believe that a compass needle points to the north magnetic pole. But since the Earth’s field is the effect of complex convection currents in the magma, which must be described as several dipoles, each with a different intensity and orientation, the compass actually points to the sum of the effects of these dipoles at your location. In other words, it aligns itself with the magnetic lines of force. Other factors, of local and solar origin, further complicate the resulting field. It may be all right to say that a compass needle points “magnetic north” but it only roughly points to the north magnetic dip pole.

In 1265, Peter Peregrinus noted that one pole of a magnet suspended in water pointed to the pole star. Ancient Chinese discovered this more than a thousand years earlier, with the south-pointing spoon — the original magnetic compass invented for feng shui. The handle pointed south, the ladle pointed north, and (like earlier feng shui devices) the device aligned with the stars of Beidou (the Dipper or Ladle) to align with the pole star.

When premodern Europeans obtained the compass, they emphasized the end of the compass needle that they believed pointed to the north pole star, calling it the “north seeking pole,” which was eventually shortened to “north pole.”

When William Gilbert discovered why a magnet behaved this way Europeans realized that

the names that Peter Peregrinus had chosen were confusing. The north pole of a magnet pointed to the north geographic pole of the earth because it was attracted to the north geographic pole which meant that the north geographic pole was a south magnetic pole, the confusion this caused has remained until the present day. On all maps the south pole of the earth magnet is named the “north magnetic pole.”  — Paul Doherty: 200 years of magnetism in 40 minutes

This confusing mindset is thought to have prevented the Eurowest from proving the nonconservation of parity and winning the Nobel in physics.

All Czarny’s blather about “magnet [sic] north,” etc., shows that she does not understand real feng shui, and she does not understand the science — even at an elementary-school level.

It is as if Czarny lives in the Dark Ages — and wants all of us to live that way, too.

The secular variation of the magnetic field and declination have been known since Chinese invented the compass for feng shui. That’s why the old masters said to take compass readings early in the morning or just before sundown. We know now that the particle stream at those times is less likely to affect the compass. The old feng shui masters weren’t physicists, but they were keen observers of nature.

There are rings on a Luopan that correct for deviation and declination. How can Czarny be so ignorant about feng shui and yet claim to be a feng shui expert?

For example, on a San He luopan (what Czarny would call a “Form School” luopan), the Earth Plate Correct Needle is the “baseline” and contains the needle housing or Central Pool of Heaven (the name is an allusion to the polestar). The needle is magnetized to the main field of Earth of the date of manufacture so the baseline — the Correct Needle — is current geomagnetic conditions.The Human Plate Central Needle compensates for declination.

This plate was added during the Tang era and shows declination as 7.5 degrees west of true north (“north” as in Western convention). During the southern Song era the Heaven Plate Seam Needle was added for magnetic deviation, 7.5 degrees east of true north (magnetic deviation is the error induced in a compass by local magnetic fields).

Joseph Needham suggests these were observed declinations. Why were feng shui practitioners the first to notice declination? For the same reason that the Shang palaces at Yinxu are roughly ten degrees west of “true north” (western convention). Feng shui people were siting the buildings and tombs, and in the transfer of knowledge from master to student people noticed changes. Just as they noticed precession moved the stars, they observed that the magnetic field moved, and that the needle did not align with the polestar.

The Seam Needle and Central Needle also mark even divisions of 15-degree sectors around the pole. The sun appears to move 15 degrees an hour — 15 degrees/hr = 360 degrees/24 h — and at night, the stars move 15 degrees an hour. There is a relationship with the celestial circle — after all, there are 24 primary lines of right ascension, located at 15 degree intervals along the celestial equator. Wow — no wonder you could tell time with a feng shui device! The Red Cross lines on a luopan are Great Lines or Great Circles on the celestial sphere — the colures.

Tony Smith makes some interesting observations about these rings:

… the total width of a given 24-part sector including both the Correct Needle sector and its Seam Needle counterpart is 22.5 degrees, or roughly the inclination of the spin axis of the Earth to the axis of the Plane of the Ecliptic of the orbit of the Earth.The shift of the Central Needle sectors similarly gives a 22.5 degree total width of a given 24-part sector, shifted East of South instead of West of South.Perhaps the shifts were introduced to take into account the difference between the poles of the spin axis of the Earth and the poles perpendicular to the Plane of the Ecliptic of the orbit of the Earth, with both East and West shifts being needed to take into account all the different directions of the Earth’s spin axis poles as the Earth’s spin axis goes through the Precession of the Equinoxes, a 26,000 year cycle stabilized by the Earth’s interactions with the Moon and the Sun.

Tony might be a crank, but at least he’s done his homework — in that regard, Czarny would benefit from his example.

Christopher Columbus knew about declination — so has every other explorer since. “True north” is an astronomical indicator — the polestar!

Since at least the Neolithic, people have used the polestar to find “true north.” Looking at the stars was how people found their way around the world for thousands of years before the magnetic compass was invented. Moreover, the Chinese used the idea of the celestial circle long before Westerners. Consider that the cardinal directions that Yao gave his people (in Yaodian c. 2300 BCE) were astronomical.

That is why the liuren astrolabe — a “feng shui compass” before the magnetic compass was invented — used sightlines to mark astronomical features with local features of the landscape. Those sightlines were transferred to every feng shui device since then. Both baguas are ancient star maps, and astronomy is part of real feng shui and the three types of feng shui compasses.

… the declination as well as the polarity of the magnet had been discovered, antedating the European knowledge of the declination by some six centuries. The Chinese were theorising about the declination before Europe knew even of the polarity …
— Joseph Needham: “Thoughts on the Origin of Chess,” from Science and Civilization in China (1962)

The feng shui compass known as the Sinan and later as the Shipan — the original magnetic compass or zhinan zhen — was shaped like a ladle because it was paying homage to the Ladle or Bushel in the skies — Beidou — which pointed to the polestar.

The navigator knows the geography, he watches the stars at night, watches the sun at day; when it is dark and cloudy, he watches the compass.
— Zhu Yu: Pingzhou Ke Tan (1117 CE)

If you are determining placement of furniture based upon magnetic north, the degrees are not critical, the overall direction is. However, if you are determining your property or site location based upon Magnetic North your compass reading will not be specifically accurate in reading the actual degrees of the location.

Only Czarny and her fellow cranks believe compasses are no longer useful because the Earth’s magnetic field fluctuates. She makes bizarre statements like this because she doesn’t know how real feng shui uses a compass, and she doesn’t understand the science behind how a compass works.

To paraphrase Napoleon Bonaparte,

In McFengshui, stupidity is not a handicap.

The rest of the world that actually uses a compass doesn’t see the problem. People still have to calibrate aircraft with the compass swing. Large ships still carry compasses (here is a great manual on compass swing for ships, courtesy of the US Geospatial-Intelligence Agency).

Many cars are equipped with compasses. Ocean oil rigs carry compasses. Surveyors have recourse to them as well.

The magnetic compass is a crucial navigation tool in many areas, even in times of the global positioning system (GPS). — Philips Semiconductors

Nasa notes:

The Earth’s magnetic field is used by geologists to determine subterranean rock structures. For the most part, these geodetic surveyors are searching for oil, gas, or mineral deposits. They can accomplish this only when Earth‚Äôs magnetic field is quiet, so that true magnetic signatures can be detected. Other surveyors prefer to work during geomagnetic storms, when the variations to normal subsurface electric currents help them to see subsurface oil or mineral structures. For these reasons many surveyors use geomagnetic alerts and predictions to schedule their mapping activities.

It seems that Czarny has not yet discovered these amazing facts about 21st-century life.

Czarny emphasizes her ignorance with her bizarre claim of aligning furniture with “magnetic north” and claiming that the Western convention of “magnetic north” is the basis of authentic feng shui.

The addition or subtraction of the Magnetic Declination to your compass reading will give you a close reading, however, it will not be accurate degree because magnetic north is in constant movement. Declination is useful when you are going somewhere — which is why airports have runways named for degrees of declination. Runway numerals are determined from the approach direction to the runway end and are equal to one-tenth of the magnetic azimuth of the runway centerline, measured in a clockwise direction from magnetic north.Amazingly, Czarny doesn’t see the logical flaw in her claim: if she has ever flown in an airplane, she has benefitted from “accurate degree” on a compass. Otherwise she would not have made it to her destination!A similar lame-brained thinking occurs among boaters assuming that because they have GPS, they don’t need a compass.Today, a good practitioner who doesn’t follow the rule of the old masters can take advantage of space weather notifications, because a severe incident could exert a profound influence on the compass. The solar flare in October 2003 changed compass variation at the Lerwick geomagnetic observatory in Scotland by 5.1 degrees in only 25 minutes.
The rings and reading of the Lo Pan Compass, includes measurements as small as 1 degree. Two or more of the 36 compass rings are lined up to divine your fortune. She has no clue how a Luopan is used!The degrees on a Luopan are important with authentic feng shui.

  • They measure time as an angle — which is why San Yuan is the Space and Time School (technique).
  • They indicate the vector of geomagnetic influences.
  • They indicate the vector of any local manifestations of space weather.