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Earth's Core Made In Miniature

Unknown Lamer posted more than 2 years ago | from the evil-geniuses-for-a-molten-tomorrow dept.

Science 175

ananyo writes "A 3-meter-tall metal sphere full of molten sodium is about to start work modeling the Earth's core. The gigantic dynamo, which has taken researchers ten years to build, 'will generate a self-sustaining electromagnetic field that can be poked, prodded and coaxed for clues about Earth's dynamo, which is generated by the movement of liquid iron in the outer core.'"

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Woohoo! (0, Offtopic)

youn (1516637) | more than 2 years ago | (#38290998)

Next step get miniature planets... heck and make them look like a palm tree... rather than get a palm tree visible from space... has already been done, get a palm tree visible from space for a change

Re:Woohoo! (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38291034)

what?

Re:Woohoo! (0)

youn (1516637) | more than 2 years ago | (#38291098)

Meant Make Miniature planets in orbit like they make miniature islands in the United Arab Emirates in the shape of a palm tree... with virgin galactic starting up next year, heck they might even be able to have rich guys land on the suckers. Yes I know won't happen tomorrow... maybe next month

Re:Woohoo! (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38291904)

what?

Re:Woohoo! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38292168)

What we have here is a failure to communicate

Re:Woohoo! (2)

Jeng (926980) | more than 2 years ago | (#38292514)

Prototypes are currently being tested in earth orbit.

http://www.bigelowaerospace.com/ [bigelowaerospace.com]

Re:Woohoo! (4, Interesting)

durrr (1316311) | more than 2 years ago | (#38291050)

Next step is to drop the content of the sphere into a lake surrounded by high speed 4k cameras with hardened storage units.

Re:Woohoo! (1)

JWW (79176) | more than 2 years ago | (#38291490)

Where's the +1 Ohhhhh Yeeeeaaaah mod?

Re:Woohoo! (2)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 2 years ago | (#38291354)

Better yet make them look like the name of some sheik but upside down.

Second apptmpt (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38291014)

Now, it's Earth after Universe.

spherical ... in vacuum (2)

mapkinase (958129) | more than 2 years ago | (#38291056)

In other words, they created a spherical model of Earth in vacuum.

Craving (5, Funny)

Anne_Nonymous (313852) | more than 2 years ago | (#38291076)

Suddenly I'm having a craving for a Cadbury Cream Egg.

How they know... (2, Interesting)

gr8_phk (621180) | more than 2 years ago | (#38291082)

The gigantic dynamo, which has taken researchers ten years to build, 'will generate a self-sustaining electromagnetic field that can be poked, prodded and coaxed for clues about Earth's dynamo, which is generated by the movement of liquid iron in the outer core.'

They probably know this physical model will exhibit a magnetic field because they did a FEA and CFD simulations of the thing. So why then did it have to be built?

Re:How they know... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38291102)

The gigantic dynamo, which has taken researchers ten years to build, 'will generate a self-sustaining electromagnetic field that can be poked, prodded and coaxed for clues about Earth's dynamo, which is generated by the movement of liquid iron in the outer core.'

They probably know this physical model will exhibit a magnetic field because they did a FEA and CFD simulations of the thing. So why then did it have to be built?

For Science!

Re:How they know... (5, Informative)

sslayer (968948) | more than 2 years ago | (#38291108)

Do you know what happens with practice and theory? In theory, they are both the same. In practice, they are not.

Re:How they know... (5, Insightful)

nine-times (778537) | more than 2 years ago | (#38291396)

And this distinction is noteworthy because you can measuring what happens in practice, find where it doesn't meet the theory, and revise your theory. This is how science gets done.

Re:How they know... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38292422)

And this distinction is noteworthy because you can measuring what happens in practice, find where it doesn't meet the theory, and revise your theory. This is how science gets done.

Or in this case: Measure what happens in practice, figure that the model is too small to be equivalent of the earth core anyway and scrap the project.

Re:How they know... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38292500)

Without the looming possibility of death? I'm skeptical.

Although, come to think of it, molten sodium might satisfy that requirement.

Re:How they know... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38291554)

Speaking of aphorisms, it has also been said that the hiatus between theory and practice is greater in theory than it is in practice.

Re:How they know... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38292028)

That word "hiatus". I do not think it means what you think it means.

Re:How they know... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38292570)

Then you might want to check a dictionary.

Re:How they know... (2, Insightful)

TheLink (130905) | more than 2 years ago | (#38291990)

I believe the physical model will experience gravity in one direction, whereas the simulated model doesn't have to?

Re:How they know... (2)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 2 years ago | (#38292198)

Hopefully, the effects they're looking to measure are larger than the anomaly from gravity.

Of course in the best case scenario, they'd just have a three-metre ball of molten sodium on the ISS, but I don't think NASA can afford to replace all the staff who would die of horror just contemplating the idea. Maybe they could send it up on the vomit comet, or just drop it from a great height? I'd watch a video of that.

Re:How they know... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38292000)

Qouth the experimental geophysicist in charge: "There are neither theory nor experiments at these parameters”. So, what does it matter how theory and practice interact, here?

(BTW, GO TERPS!)

Re:How they know... (0)

timeOday (582209) | more than 2 years ago | (#38292072)

Of course, a 3m metal sphere full of molten sodium is, in turn, just a model of the earth, which in theory preserves many of the earth's interesting properties, and imposes a different set of fidelity limitations as compared to a computer model. Whether this physical model is better than a computer model probably depends on the question being asked, but more importantly, each informs the other.

Re:How they know... (1)

TheLink (130905) | more than 2 years ago | (#38292260)

Yep.

After all the earth's core might have a really tiny blackhole or more - apparently it's not a foregone conclusion that a mini blackhole will swallow everything in a short time - could actually take billions of years. :)

Re:How they know... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38292494)

And that is the reason for the comparison of a physical model to a computer model. If they can't model the "simpler" molten metal sphere, then they know they have to go back to work on the models. If they can, then maybe they can extrapolate to the Earth.

Maybe.

Re:How they know... (1)

rsclient (112577) | more than 2 years ago | (#38292412)

"...and you can't just do the math and ignore the fringe effects! With electric motors, it's all fringe effects" (Carnegie Mellon EE professor).

Real theorists are painfully aware of how their models don't reflect reality, and are careful to say so.

Re:How they know... (2)

RafaelGCPP (922041) | more than 2 years ago | (#38291142)

They probably know this physical model will exhibit a magnetic field because they did a FEA and CFD simulations of the thing. So why then did it have to be built?

Because simulations do not substitute real experiments. For instance, why would one need LHC if the simulations show the Higgs boson? (Q.E.D.)

Re:How they know... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38291156)

Numerical analyses are only mathematical models. Mistakes can be made, or sometimes something unexpected is important. FEA and CFD give you the ability to do physical testing or prototyping just once instead of several times. Usually.

Re:How they know... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38291332)

Be cause none of the theories, Magneto Hydro Dynamics (MHD), the Vlasov Equation, etc... are correct. The equations are two complex to solve so they have to make approximations. You need experiment to understand what terms are important and what terms are wrong. Plus a lot of times theorists use rediculus scaling parameters such that these phenomena can never happen in nature.

In science nobody believes the theory except the theorist and everybody believes the experiment except the experimentalist.

Re:How they know... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38291402)

Plus a lot of times theorists use rediculus...

Wow, and here I am thinking calculus was hard.

Re:How they know... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38291496)

yeah, this rediculus is really two complex

Re:How they know... (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38291524)

Imagine if it was three complex!

Re:How they know... (1)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 2 years ago | (#38292620)

Plus a lot of times theorists use rediculus...

Wow, and here I am thinking calculus was hard.

Calculus is hard. And if the dentist slips while scraping away at it? That's gonna be nasty.

Re:How they know... (4, Insightful)

JosKarith (757063) | more than 2 years ago | (#38291466)

Calculations showed powered flight to be possible - why did Orville & Wilbur build the Flyer?
Why was the first atomic pile built? Why the first moon shot?
Because we can. Because theory is all well and good, but to actually have the thing in reality confirms (or disproves, usually dramatically) the theory.

Re:How they know... (3, Insightful)

DarkOx (621550) | more than 2 years ago | (#38292158)

Well powered flight has immediate and obvious useful applications, this thing less so, at least as far as I can see. Powered flight means I can get there faster, or cross rough terrain impossible in other vehicles, etc etc. Giant sphere of super heated liquid salt, not really sure how I can use that. Which is not say that is a reason not build the thing.

A better analogy would be Orville and Wilbur carving a wooden wing and running around the bike shop with it to feel that it does indeed produce lift when pushed through a fluid like air. Its a required precursor to powered flight, and would more represent this sort of basic research. At some point you have to try things.

Re:How they know... (1)

i621148 (728860) | more than 2 years ago | (#38291504)

Because the power of CFD and FEA is iterative. You create a math model and simulate the results. Then you test the results to see if they match your prediction in the lab. If the results are not quite exactly what you calculated then you can adjust them with factors. Instead of building 80 prototypes, you only have to build one.

Re:How they know... (1)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 2 years ago | (#38291508)

These models are built on prior experience with given phenomena. They are kept, because up to now, they have successfully predicted physical occurrences to within small margins of error.

The problem is, we can not be certain of two things
(1) The model accurately maps the events happening to a mathematical basis, rather than mapping something else entirely, that happens to overlap reality in the cases we've tested.
(2) There are effects, that in previous tests, have had very minor effect on previous experiments, but a more pronounced effect on the new setup.

The first case would require a dump/rewrite of the theory, and the second would require tweaking (maybe another order of correction calculations).

Either way, we need to test since we know our models are not perfect, and at minimum, #2 is a very real possibility (and #1 can't be thrown out).

Re:How they know... (1)

i621148 (728860) | more than 2 years ago | (#38291548)

Also this article says it is too hard to do a CFD...
http://complex.umd.edu/MHD_nonlinear_lab.html.html [umd.edu]
"The wide range of time and length scales relevant to turbulent flows at realistic geophysical and astrophysical parameters prohibits direct numerical simulation, and makes any computational study difficult and time intensive."

Re:How they know... (1)

b0bby (201198) | more than 2 years ago | (#38291686)

From TFA:

No one knows whether this feedback loop will work, says Lathrop, because “there are neither theory nor experiments at these parameters”.

Enthusiasm for the effort is building beyond Lathrop's group. “Everyone in the community is waiting with bated breath,” says Andrew Jackson, a geophysicist at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich. “He's asking questions that we don't know the answer to.”

Re:How they know... (1)

Hentes (2461350) | more than 2 years ago | (#38292532)

To see if the models hold up to an actual experiment.

Banned by Michelle Obama (-1, Offtopic)

operagost (62405) | more than 2 years ago | (#38291086)

The First Lady demanded the rotund sphere immediately be put on a low-sodium diet.

Panned by Michele Bachmann (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38291114)

The Cuckoo Lady demanded the US close our miniature embassy.

Go (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38291088)

Go seaclub [seaclub.com.ua] ...

Not anything special (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38291154)

This isn't anything new or special. They only thing that would make a difference is if this one actually worked.

http://plasma.physics.wisc.edu/viewpage.php?id=mde
http://plasma.physics.wisc.edu/viewpage.php?id=mpdx

That doesn't sound right... (1)

ErikZ (55491) | more than 2 years ago | (#38291168)

You can get molten sodium at 105C?

Re:That doesn't sound right... (4, Informative)

Megahard (1053072) | more than 2 years ago | (#38291206)

Well, you could check. Melting point of sodium is 97.72 C.

Re:That doesn't sound right... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38292114)

So it'd be possible to melt sodium in nothing more complex than a pot of boiling water?

Hehe... heh.... heh.......

(Do not try this at home)

Re:That doesn't sound right... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38292140)

At what pressure?

Re:That doesn't sound right... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38291220)

You can get molten sodium at 105C?

Per wikipedia, the melting point for sodium is 97.72 C. So, yes.

https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Sodium

Re:That doesn't sound right... (1)

Intron (870560) | more than 2 years ago | (#38292080)

At what pressure? Earth core or sea level?

Re:That doesn't sound right... (1)

Baloroth (2370816) | more than 2 years ago | (#38292438)

Sea level (or thereabouts). Earth core would be much higher. Sodium the metal, BTW, not the salt.

Re:That doesn't sound right... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38291224)

In a vacuum?

Re:That doesn't sound right... (4, Informative)

Baloroth (2370816) | more than 2 years ago | (#38292414)

Sodium != salt, which is probably what you are thinking of (seems to be the trend in the comments around yours). Sodium is a metal, not a salt (NaCl is common table salt, which melts closer to 1000C or something).

Inaccurate Model (3, Funny)

Mr Bubble (14652) | more than 2 years ago | (#38291210)

This model is inaccurate as it does not provide for the Reptilian space.

Re:Inaccurate Model (3, Funny)

DrXym (126579) | more than 2 years ago | (#38291290)

It's inaccurate because the simulated Earth is not resting on a 4 elephants or a giant space turtle.

Re:Inaccurate Model (3, Funny)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 2 years ago | (#38291576)

That model has been disproven. You'll note the model has support system that quite accurately simulates the stiffness, damping and degrees of freedom of Turtles All The Way Down.

Re:Inaccurate Model (1)

skids (119237) | more than 2 years ago | (#38291304)

Actually, the effect of gravity on the model simulates the gravitational pull of the giant turtle upon which the world is balanced. So they are covered.

Re:Inaccurate Model (1)

Lord Lode (1290856) | more than 2 years ago | (#38291478)

The skin of the sphere looks pretty reptilian to me...

Re:Inaccurate Model (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38291518)

Craaab people, craaab people

Re:Inaccurate Model (1)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | more than 2 years ago | (#38291742)

Oddly, it does account for Lumpy Space.

Re:Inaccurate Model (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38292184)

It probably also omits the large solid diamonds floating around.

Now work can begin... (4, Funny)

Saishuuheiki (1657565) | more than 2 years ago | (#38291214)

...on our doomsday device to stop the earth's core from spinning.

Small scale tests first before we build the full-size model.

Drop it into water! (1)

cruff (171569) | more than 2 years ago | (#38291266)

They could let Mythbusters have it when they are done. Take it to a suitable pond (inside a dense metropolitan area the way things are going for them lately), rig it with explosives to open the outer shell, and let all that yummy sodium drop into the water. Make sure several angles of slo-mo are being shot.

Re:Drop it into water! (2)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | more than 2 years ago | (#38291782)

Are they still doing that? It's why I stopped watching. Too much just blowing things up, to much overacted reactions, too much "Warning! Science Content!" as if that's a bad thing...

So the next step... (0)

Cyno01 (573917) | more than 2 years ago | (#38291272)

Is a miniature Aaron Eckhart and douchey french guy?

How can this produce accurate results? (3, Interesting)

wisebabo (638845) | more than 2 years ago | (#38291288)

How can this produce accurate results that will possibly match that of reality? This device (unless they are planning to put it on the space station) will be overwhelmingly influenced by the (real) earth's gravity. Convection will obviously be way off.

So, unless they are trying to model how the earth's core would act if it were enclosed in a giant metal sphere and placed on a gigantic table subject to one-gee, won't this simulation be way off?

Even if they put it in space, I'm not sure the simulation would be correct, the forces provided from the self-gravitation would probably be off.

Re:How can this produce accurate results? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38291368)

How can this produce accurate results that will possibly match that of reality? This device (unless they are planning to put it on the space station) will be overwhelmingly influenced by the (real) earth's gravity.

well, first they will have to turn off the (real) earth's gravity.

Re:How can this produce accurate results? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38291448)

That's why the USAF have given funding to SETI for the new exoplanet.

Re:How can this produce accurate results? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38291520)

Because they know about gravity alot? This kind of experiment can provide alot of data even if it's not complete. Taking in the data, the data can be adjusted to take into account gravity influences on it. While that does take alot of calculations, it's still possible since they at least have some data set (they do these types of calculations all the time). Compare this to the alternative of having no model to check the theory. Since they are verifying theory, it's alot easier to throw gravity into it.

Re:How can this produce accurate results? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38291542)

The Earth does sit in a gravitational field from the Sun + rest of solar system + rest of galaxy +... but besides that I'm guessing the important thing is the electromagnetic fields rather than the gravitational ones. I don't think very much is known at all about the physical (dynamo) processes that sustain Earth's magnetic field, or the Sun's for that matter so any insights could be useful.

Re:How can this produce accurate results? (1)

skids (119237) | more than 2 years ago | (#38291754)

Thanks, the next time I am falling from an airplane without a parachute on, I will remind myself: relax, you are in a gravitational field, just like that rapidly approaching tree limb.

Re:How can this produce accurate results? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38291558)

They will probably just subtract 1-gee from the results.

Re:How can this produce accurate results? (3, Funny)

u38cg (607297) | more than 2 years ago | (#38291602)

Alternatively, you could stop worrying about these things, and enjoy the fact you've built a thirteen tonne sphere of rotating molten sodium. Enjoy yourself, you know?

Re:How can this produce accurate results? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38291672)

Oh no! What fools they've been. All this time wasted, when you, humble Slashdot poster, could have pointed out their mistake on day one.

Or, just maybe, these scientists know better than you what they're doing.

There's only one way to find out... fiiiiight!

Re:How can this produce accurate results? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38291886)

Well thank goodness we have *you* to vouch for them!

Appears the lab is government funded. It really took them 10 years to build this thing? I have a friend who single handedly tore down and completely rebuilt two dozen cars in that same time frame, all for a profit. Some were real old classics where he had to machine some of the parts from scratch. It would not have surprised me to visit one day and see a smelter in his garage because he had to fashion something from a block of raw metal ore. ;-)

And, sorry, not all of us view all scientists as perfect angels who never have a negative thought or motivation in their heads. They're human like the rest of us. This whole thing *could* just be a make work project.

Re:How can this produce accurate results? (4, Insightful)

athmanb (100367) | more than 2 years ago | (#38291690)

A team of physicists has worked 10 years on this, writing hundreds of pages of papers to coerce funding out of federal institutes but you can spot the flaw in their plans after 30 seconds of thinking and writing an Internet comment?

Re:How can this produce accurate results? (3, Insightful)

clickforfreepizza (2465094) | more than 2 years ago | (#38292064)

I'm sick and tired of this kind of banal and destructive comment. Please read GP again. Is "This cannot work. Case closed." really what you get from it?

I think GP is trying to understand the experiment. Pointing out issues which are problems according to his current understanding is an excellent first step to learn more.

Always adding a disclaimer that we are aware that we are no experts would be as superfluous as your answer. Don't you hate it when you teach someone and it goes like this: "Okay, what don't you understand?" - "Well... everything." Pointing out "Here's what doesn't make sense." should be a relatively obvious and welcome form to ask for clarification.

And even if you do not believe that the poster wants to learn, you could answer him in a constructive manner and thus help others with similar questions. If you cannot or do not want to do that, please ignore him.

Re:How can this produce accurate results? (2)

bruce_the_loon (856617) | more than 2 years ago | (#38292544)

Yes Mr Pizza, "This cannot work. Case closed." is exactly what I read from a comment like that. When someone makes a comment about how the experiment can't possibly work because it might be affected by the gravity, it tells me instantly that the poster knows absolutely nothing about the scientific method and that they believe that building a device that partially matches the reality of earth and will be verified against a model with parameters that take that into account is useless.

It is exactly the same as the idiot posters about the neutrino speed discrepancy who said that the scientists obviously didn't measure the distance right or something equally idiotic.

People who post comments like that are irreparable and I made the decision long ago to actively ignore them since it was taking too much energy to try and get a clue into their thick skulls about how science actually works.

</rant>

Re:How can this produce accurate results? (1)

nschubach (922175) | more than 2 years ago | (#38292290)

I suppose the argument is that physicists were involved? We could replace that one key words and you basically described the whole lobbying process and many people have issues with the way that money is spent:

A team of [managers] has worked 10 years on this, writing hundreds of pages of papers to coerce funding out of federal institutes but you can spot the flaw in their plans after 30 seconds of thinking and writing an Internet comment?

I'm not saying the GP was right or wrong, but I had to point out the comparison.

Re:How can this produce accurate results? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38291738)

I think you're right. If this device works, it will basically prove that the dynamo effect works even if the convection is not around a central field. My worry is that this may be important. Anyway, you won't know before you try...

Re:How can this produce accurate results? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38291784)

How can this produce accurate results that will possibly match that of reality? This device (unless they are planning to put it on the space station) will be overwhelmingly influenced by the (real) earth's gravity. Convection will obviously be way off.

So, unless they are trying to model how the earth's core would act if it were enclosed in a giant metal sphere and placed on a gigantic table subject to one-gee, won't this simulation be way off?

Even if they put it in space, I'm not sure the simulation would be correct, the forces provided from the self-gravitation would probably be off.

Because despite the title, these experiments are not meant to model the earths core. They are meant to generate the dynamo mechanism. Basically how does convection create magnetic fields. The real problem is boundary conditions and diagnostics. The magnetic fields created will be small and the wall of the apparatus disturb the flow. So far none of these experiments have been able to generate a successful dynamo.

Re:How can this produce accurate results? (1)

TeknoHog (164938) | more than 2 years ago | (#38291814)

How can this produce accurate results that will possibly match that of reality? This device (unless they are planning to put it on the space station) will be overwhelmingly influenced by the (real) earth's gravity.

FTFA:

The experiment will use Earth's natural magnetism as a 'seed field' to kick-start the process. As this field is dragged and stretched by the spinning, conducting liquid it will generate electric currents. Those currents will then create additional magnetic fields that, when sufficiently twisted around, can amplify themselves and drive the process forward.

Re:How can this produce accurate results? (4, Insightful)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 2 years ago | (#38292230)

Being able to answer that question, and not merely ask it, is why these people get to play with 3-metre balls of molten sodium for a living.

Re:How can this produce accurate results? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38292400)

I am one of the physicists who worked on this for 10 years. Damn! We never thought of that. I will inform the rest of the team. I should have listened to my mother... she wanted me to be a dentist.

Re:How can this produce accurate results? (1)

Hentes (2461350) | more than 2 years ago | (#38292492)

From the article it seems that they aren't building this to be a perfect model of the Earth's core. The question they would like to answer is if it's even possible for heated sodium to generate a magnetic field.

Space Vessel Applications? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38291300)

Just like the Earth's core shields us from the harmful particles that disrupt power grids and the like, couldn't this type of setup produce a shield that could protect a spaceship from them as well?

Disclaimer: This shield will not protect you against phaser fire and photon missiles.

Good example of the use of physical models... (3, Interesting)

Zrako (1306145) | more than 2 years ago | (#38291318)

in relationship to yesterdays article on physical models in the age of computers (http://science.slashdot.org/story/11/12/06/1736231/physical-models-in-an-age-of-computers). This is a great example of when a physical model is invaluable to scientific research even though a computer model could have been used. What happens in theory doesn't always hold true in practice.

Re:Good example of the use of physical models... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38291670)

Well then again they don't have an overarching theory, so there resorted to doing actual physical experiment. You can't write equations in a computer model if you don't know the equations.

I do find it nice that there is still a place for physical models, and will be as long as there are ideas that need to be tested to see if the theory does indeed fail. You can't simulate something with a theory and expect contradictory results (well maybe you can but it would be harder I think).

Yawn (5, Funny)

Oswald McWeany (2428506) | more than 2 years ago | (#38291338)

Yawn! Wake me when they have a dual-core earth.

The single-core model is bound to revolve to slowly!

Re:Yawn (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 2 years ago | (#38292470)

Fuck it, we're going to five cores!

Space Travel (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38291432)

This will be awesome if they can make a stable magnetic field. I imagine the heat and power required to keep equilibrium temp and speed could easily be taken from some atomic battery. Perhaps even a thorium core. The resultant shield would protect the crew/equipment on distant voyages. This is the start of some truly groundbreaking tech.

Re:Space Travel (1)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 2 years ago | (#38292248)

I think there are more efficient ways of making magnetic fields using electrical power. An "electro-magnet", if you will.

It's a Spindizzy (1)

RogueWarrior65 (678876) | more than 2 years ago | (#38291472)

A la Cities In Flight. Cool!!

Just starting? (3)

Lando (9348) | more than 2 years ago | (#38291612)

Hmmm, knowing that I've seen this before, I decided to go lookabout http://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/engineering/4277476 [popularmechanics.com] Ummm so what did they do? Apparently they emptied the thing of the sodium it had in 2009, either that or the 2009 article is in error.

Not sure if this is all that interesting, appears to just be a pr piece to help ensure people don't forget about them. Not sure why there is a time discrepancy. The show I saw before has some sort of sodium filled ball for measuring magnetic fields, and I assume that it's probably the same one. Since I watch most of my documentaries on Netflix now, I have to assume this thing is several years old.

Re:Just starting? (1)

Bengie (1121981) | more than 2 years ago | (#38291802)

I was wondering this to and I also recently saw a documentary on Netflix involving a large sodium 3m sphere.

$2 million! (1)

Thelasko (1196535) | more than 2 years ago | (#38292022)

Did I read that right? They built this thing for only $2 million dollars!

Ten years in the making, the US$2-million project is nearly ready for its inaugural run.

That's incredibly cheap for a project like this. Over the 10 years it took to build, that's only $200k/yr. That's only 2 or 3 salaries, not including materials, and overhead.

Spinning == Science (1)

Ambiguous Coward (205751) | more than 2 years ago | (#38292440)

I just want to say I'm really glad that it visibly spins. If it were just a funny looking sphere sitting there that made noises, this would more or less all be for naught. But since it actually spins while it makes noises, you can tell that real science is being done. I'm not saying it couldn't use a few concentric rings, each spinning on its own axis, but this is definitely a step in the right direction.

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