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"...the space defense initiative drove the USSR bankrupt, and it originated at my house in Tarzana."
- Larry Niven

Galactic Damping Field  
  A vast field of force emanating from the center of the galaxy.  

"...we're pretty well agreed here at the Institute that Dr. Corinth's theory is the right one. This postulates a force-field of partly electromagnetic character, generated by gyromagnetic action within atomic nuclei near the center of the galaxy. It radiates outward in a cone which, by the time it has reached our section of space, is many lightyears across. Its effect has been to inhibit certain electromagnetic and electrochemical processes, among with the functioning of certain types of neurones is prominent. We suppose that the Solar System, in its orbit around the galactic center, entered this force-field many millions of years ago - hardly later than the Cretaceous. Doubtless many species of that time died out. However, life as a whole survived - adapted nervous systems compensated for the inhibiting force by becoming that much more efficient...

The general effect of the world's coming out of the inhibitor field was, of course, a sudden zooming of intelligence in every life form possessing a brain. Suddenly the damping force to which every living organism was adjusted, was gone."

From Brain Wave, by Poul Anderson.
Published by Space Science Fiction in 1953
Additional resources -

Compare to the more modestly-sized meteoric dust cloud from Secret of the Buried City (1939) by John Russell Fearn.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Brain Wave
  More Ideas and Technology by Poul Anderson
  Tech news articles related to Brain Wave
  Tech news articles related to works by Poul Anderson

Galactic Damping Field-related news articles:
  - Speciation Driven By Cosmic Cycles?

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