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Predicting Space Weather

Hemos posted more than 7 years ago | from the but-don't-use-space-based-lasers dept.

Space 97

eldavojohn writes "Recently, a new discovery has been made explaining how & predicting when space weather occurs. Hopefully this will allow us to predict when and where these extreme forces of magnetic flux occur so that we can prepare to repair satellites or shut them down for safety reasons. Recent activities on the sun have surprised scientists including the explosive "solar tsunami" that happened last week. From the article, "The new study shows that the Northern Lights, also called aurora, and other space weather near Earth are driven by the rate at which the Earth's and Sun's magnetic fields connect, or merge, and not just by the solar wind's electric field. The merging occurs way out in space, at a spot between the Earth and Sun, roughly 40,000 miles above our planet's surface. Researchers have now developed a formula that describes the merging rate of the magnetic field lines and accurately predicts 10 different types of near-Earth space weather activity, such as the aurora and magnetic disturbances.""

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Space Weather (5, Funny)

JeepFanatic (993244) | more than 7 years ago | (#17196478)

I have enough problems getting accurate forecasts for my LOCAL weather. How am I supposed to trust the "Space Weatherman"?

Re:Space Weather (4, Informative)

uab21 (951482) | more than 7 years ago | (#17196626)

I know that you were shooting for funny there, but actually it should be easier to predict this than your local weather. It is a much simpler system (two objects of interest) with reasonably well understood rules at the scale of interest. Local weather, OTOH, is influenced by a much more complex system (the global atmosphere) with myriad influences (many heat sources, water sources, pressure variations, friction), multi-phase flows, as well as poorly understood rules at influential scales (turbulence - see the Navier-Stokes millenium problem). I would think that this sytem would lend itself to accurate prediction far more easily (now getting enough accurate data to make that prediction may be where the difficulty lies, currently)

Re:Space Weather (1)

crumley (12964) | more than 7 years ago | (#17198056)

Space weather may be a slightly simpler system than terrestrial weather, but terrestrial weather has one huge advantage which you alluded to. We have many in situ observations on Earth. The largest problem with understanding what is going on in space is that, we never have enough data. There are very few spacecraft taking measurements, particularly measurements outside of geosynchronous orbit.

In some sense you are right that there are only two objects of interests for Space Weather (the Earth and the Sun), but that picture is two simplified. Using that same level of simplification, there are one or two objects of interest for terrestrial weather (the Earth and maybe the Sun). Yes, fluid dynamics in the atmosphere is an interesting turbulent problem, but plasma fluid dynamics in space is no easier to deal with.

Re:Space Weather (2, Informative)

The_Wilschon (782534) | more than 7 years ago | (#17199600)

Plasmas, even very rarefied ones like the solar atmosphere, are very complex and chaotic systems. The atmosphere (of Earth) is subject to the laws of hydrodynamics. The solar atmosphere (the domain of space weather) (and yes, the solar atmosphere does extend out quite far, way past Earth's orbit) is subject to the laws of Magnetohyrdodynamics [wikipedia.org] . I would say that space weather ought to be immensely more difficult to predict. You have essentially one source of heat, but sources of magnetic fields are plentiful, and affect the motion of plasmas in much more complex ways than heat does, because the plasma itself is a major source of magnetic fields.

Re:Space Weather (1)

uab21 (951482) | more than 7 years ago | (#17202924)

Thanks - Shows to go ya what discipline snobbery gets you. You get all the fun of the N-S equations coupled with Maxwell's equations to give you non-gravitational body forces throughout your domain of interest. At the rather low densities of interplanetary space, however, what kind of Reynolds numbers are normal? Can you at least assume laminar flow? (although the wiki appears to say that solar flares occur when the simplifying assumptions used break down... always a bitch when the 'easy' way to solve problems doesn't work in the domain of interest)

Re:Space Weather (1)

The_Wilschon (782534) | more than 7 years ago | (#17204022)

I'm afraid I don't know much more than I have said already... Not my field (which is HEP). If you like, email me at Jon und_erscore Wilson2 (yes that's a '2', the numeral) a@t DONTbaylorSPAMME do.t eduCATIONAL, and I'll give you the emails of a couple of profs in our department who do plasma physics, specifically space plasma physics. They aren't the leaders of the field, that's for sure, and space plasma physics isn't the only thing they do, but they know more than I do.

I agree, the N-S equations are fun. At least, they make fun things happen.

Electrical Universe (1)

cluckshot (658931) | more than 7 years ago | (#17206362)

At risk of being called a troll ---> I am going to do a decent kind open discussion of what is known. This usually gets called troll on this forum. ---> It isn't troll rest assured!

There has been developing a serious discussion in the IEEE [lanl.gov] and in other groups of scientists who work with really hard science that cosmology as we have been generally told is just wrong. In particularly the electrical engineering technology provides accurate scalable and reliable methods and models to predict what is going on in the universe. These methodologies and quite well proved models run directly cross of a favorite theory of many scientists. The Einstein Theory of Special Relativity is the primary theory that runs cross of these results. Every time the SR theory is tested it fails. As the IEEE types theories are tested they not only predict what will be seen before hand, they do it every time.

There is a set of mathematically determined equations known as the Maxwell Equations which are standard engineering tools. These have never been found wrong. They are as close to "Facts" as we have in science. They are the basis of this new work in cosmology. Special Relativity is conversely a theory that reliably and always fails. If a decent respect to science is given, Special Relativity is a busted theory. This isn't disrespect of General Relativity. General Relativity is pretty good. It isn't 100% but it is pretty good. No disrespect of those who like Special Relativity is intended here. They just need to take a look in the context of good scientific methodology and trash the bad thinking. In all fairness these guys have a lot to contribute if they will let go of the mistakes of the past.

The Nebular Hypothesis for stellar formation etc, is also a completely busted theory. [thunderbolts.info] It simply has no data to stand on. We now have a strong mechanism for the formation and development of the universe. It is the EM Force. We even have good reason to believe that the G force [elo.com.br] is actually related and produced by the EM Force and is not a unique force.

The relationship to the weather in space and on the earth is as connected as the electrical circuits in your house are to the lights in your house. [space.com] To assume some disconnect or that the systems are in fact different systems is mistaken. The parent of this post is a pretty good posting, but it makes the mistaken assumption that these systems are disconnected. A considerable appreciation for the fact that the parent poster has at least begun the disconnect from the old broken theories of the past is in order though. It is very hard to imagine the scale and complexity involved. I would hope that maybe some good scientific thinking will begin to start and with respect for the fact that the reality is at best poorly understood and we have many past mistakes blinding us to what is going on.

Re:Electrical Universe (1)

The_Wilschon (782534) | more than 7 years ago | (#17210264)

I am a physicist, and I have been to cosmology conferences (for instance PASCOS 2006 at Ohio State University) (although my field is High Energy Physics, which incidentally not only depends on special relativity, but has provided a lot of the compelling evidence in favor of SR), and I do attest that the parent is in fact a troll, or at best, someone who has been really taken for a ride.

SPACE WETHER IS GAY (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17196728)

The intention of this post is to waste a modpoint. You are an idiot to mod me down.

Re:Space Weather (1)

creimer (824291) | more than 7 years ago | (#17196842)

The local weather forecast can suck at times. The forecast in my area was heavy rains a few days ago. When it sounded like it was raining pretty hard, I looked out the window to see no rain at all. Turned out it was raining into my bathtub (broken pipe from upstairs apartment). The forecast was correct but the area was wrong.

Trusting forecasts (1)

SpaceLifeForm (228190) | more than 7 years ago | (#17197984)

The 'Space Weatherman' doesn't have a bad track record.

Though, that could change once some company [wikipedia.org] finds a market for that data.

Re:Space Weather (2, Funny)

Aqua_boy17 (962670) | more than 7 years ago | (#17199892)

How am I supposed to trust the "Space Weatherman"?
I know, but look at it this way. At least they'd finally deserve the title "meteorologists".

Re:Space Weather (1)

danpsmith (922127) | more than 7 years ago | (#17200008)

I have enough problems getting accurate forecasts for my LOCAL weather. How am I supposed to trust the "Space Weatherman"?

Because...50% of the time it works, everytime!

Great! (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17196496)

Now I'll know way in advance when to put on my lead lined underwear!

Re:Great! (1)

creepynut (933825) | more than 7 years ago | (#17196672)

That's easy enough, some of us never take them off!

Umm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17198566)

This is Slashdot. It's not like we have much reason to be concerned with sterility... :-)

Wasting resources? (1, Interesting)

bogaboga (793279) | more than 7 years ago | (#17196498)

Instead of "wasting" time and resources in space issues, I suggest we spend some time exploring the depths of the sea. We know less than 2% of what lies under there! Maybe we can grab new medicines or even fuel to use as some form of energy. Heck the bottoms of the seas are nearer.

Not a waste! (5, Informative)

bchernicoff (788760) | more than 7 years ago | (#17196616)

Wasting time? These forecasts and the associated warnings that are generated when solar events occur are critical for protecting satellites and astronauts in orbit, predicting intereferance in HF radio transmissions including GPS accuracy, etc.

Re:Not a waste! (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 7 years ago | (#17196856)

Why is a turned off satellite safer than an energized one during a solar storm?

Either way, you're going to have radiation doing funny things to your silicon.

Re:Not a waste! (4, Informative)

yanko22 (207000) | more than 7 years ago | (#17197272)

It must have something to do with magnetic field exerting force on a moving electric charge [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Not a waste! (1)

bchernicoff (788760) | more than 7 years ago | (#17199278)

Nice sig.

Re:Not a waste! (1)

yanko22 (207000) | more than 7 years ago | (#17205676)

Shamelessly stolen from Sam Harris' Atheist Manifesto [truthdig.com] .

Re:Not a waste!....OffTopic (1)

TheCybernator (996224) | more than 7 years ago | (#17205158)

Once the solar radiations have screwed up the satellites...can we give them silicon transplants to fix them?

Re:Not a waste! (4, Informative)

monopole (44023) | more than 7 years ago | (#17200360)

It doesn't stop there. Extreme space weather can induce failures in the electrical grid resulting in large scale blackouts.

Re:Wasting resources? (1)

doctor_nation (924358) | more than 7 years ago | (#17196714)

You're right. We should immediately stop wasting time and money on anything that does not directly and immediately improve the condition of the human race. Unfortunately, your proposal fails this test. As does most art and science and entertainment.

Re:Wasting resources? (1)

Toby The Economist (811138) | more than 7 years ago | (#17196822)

Won't save you from a big meteorite strike, though.

Re:Wasting resources? (1)

susano_otter (123650) | more than 7 years ago | (#17197834)

Instead of wasting time posting on Slashdot, I suggest you explore the depths of sea yourself, if you care so much about it. "If you want a job done right..." and all that. I mean, if you think there's new medicines and fuels down there, how can you justify sitting on your ass fondling the Internet? Why would you suggest priorities for others that you don't have for yourself?

Re:Wasting resources? (1)

CRMeatball (964998) | more than 7 years ago | (#17198040)

Tell this to the millions of people without power the next time [wikipedia.org] a geomagnetic storm hits.

Re:Wasting resources? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17200038)

Space is about 100 miles from here, and the ocean is like 1000. I'd much rather save the time and just go to space!

Re:Wasting resources? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17210958)

The thing is, it is demonstrable that the 98% of unexplored sea doesn't do much that affects humans on a macroscopic scale.

Space stuff affects people directly, whether it's increasing the radiation dose given to people who fly, or knocking out the power grid in Quebec with a solar flare, or messing around with navigation and other satellites.

Cthulhu, on the other hand, has not risen from the unexplored depths of R'lyeh to fiddle with the ability of ships to navigate.

You hear about that new restaurant on Venus? (2, Funny)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 7 years ago | (#17196502)

They say the view is nice, but the atmosphere stinks.

Re:You hear about that new restaurant on Venus? (1)

CCFreak2K (930973) | more than 7 years ago | (#17203940)

I hear the restaurant at the end of the universe is better.

And the universe begins to look more electric (1)

pln2bz (449850) | more than 7 years ago | (#17196520)

The research further disabuses the notion that space is empty. The region between Earth and the Sun is full of energetic particles, most of which are generated Sun. Temperatures of a few million degrees accelerate a stream of these particles, called the solar wind, to roughly one million mph.

So, now we see charged particle interaction halfway between the Sun and the Earth? I'm guessing that we'd see similar things to varying degrees for many of the other planets too, which would tend to disagree with the notion that planets are disconnected bodies within the solar system.

I wonder where the *other* charged particles are coming from that are *not* from the Sun?

When a global dust storm that engulfed Mars coincided with the Earth's magnetosphere tail touching Mars, the coincidence was ignored because it was thought that the contact was too small to possibly be the cause of the dust storm. Maybe we should rethink this now?

Re:And the universe begins to look more electric (2, Funny)

ScentCone (795499) | more than 7 years ago | (#17196790)

And the universe begins to look more electric

I don't think that theory is very well grounded. *rim-shot*

Thank you, I'll be here all afternoon. Try the cold pizza.

Re:And the universe begins to look more electric (1)

doctor_nation (924358) | more than 7 years ago | (#17196800)

"So, now we see charged particle interaction halfway between the Sun and the Earth?" Uhh, no. 40,000 miles is practically nothing in space. The distance to the Sun from the earth is about 1.5e11 meters, or about 2300 times more than 40,000 miles. The 40,000 mile mark is probably the front of the earth's bow shock into the solar wind. So the planets really are pretty much disconnected.

Re:And the universe begins to look more electric (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 7 years ago | (#17197080)

When a global dust storm that engulfed Mars coincided with the Earth's magnetosphere tail touching Mars, the coincidence was ignored because it was thought that the contact was too small to possibly be the cause of the dust storm. Maybe we should rethink this now?

Whoa. Cite please. Is there any evidence that the Earth's magnetosphere extends that far, much less that it has actually crossed the path of Mars some time during human history?

Re:And the universe begins to look more electric (2, Interesting)

pln2bz (449850) | more than 7 years ago | (#17197742)

I don't have a citation, but it's not really the facts that are in dispute. It's the interpretation ...

http://www.thunderbolts.info/tpod/2005/arch05/0511 09dustmars.htm [thunderbolts.info] :

There is also another aspect to the interplanetary circuitry affecting Mars. The greatest storm on Mars (2001) occurred when the planet was nearing perihelion and was the closest it had been to Earth in about 12 years. At that time it was also being "tickled" by the Earth's plasma sheath, or magnetosphere, establishing a temporary electrical connection between Earth and Mars for the transfer of charge. It seems that Mars responded with an outburst of atmospheric discharges, these taking the form of monstrous dust devils--or more accurately, electrical tornadoes.

At the same time the electric currents flowing in the Martian ionosphere will drive the high-speed winds in the upper atmosphere.

In the two Martian dust storm images above, it appears that the dust is being jetted upwards rather than being blown along the surface. This is explicable in the electric tornado model and explains how dust is raised efficiently many kilometers into the thin air and suspended for a time electrostatically. The role of violent vortices on the leading edge of dust storms is particularly clear in the image we've placed here. Closer examination should show that these tornadoes form preferentially on high points and the sharp edges of craters or escarpments.

Even though charged particles fill space and even though the electric force is the strongest force in the universe, we're told that currents cannot be moving through space to an extent that they actually *do* anything.

Re:And the universe begins to look more electric (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 7 years ago | (#17198396)

Even though charged particles fill space and even though the electric force is the strongest force in the universe, we're told that currents cannot be moving through space to an extent that they actually *do* anything.

First, it's not actually demonstrated that Mars passed through the Earth's magnetosphere at that point. Second, last I checked, gravity was a inverse square law, while electromagnetism was a inverse cube law or worse. The problem is that you never seen stable naked charge. It's always paired with opposite charge. That means that the sources of static fields are no better than dipoles. That's why the electric force isn't considered at the cosmological level despite being a lot of orders of magnitude stronger on paper than the gravitational force. The strong and weak forces are even stronger, but they don't manifest on the cosmological scale at all.

Re:And the universe begins to look more electric (1)

Jonas the Bold (701271) | more than 7 years ago | (#17200988)

Yeah, exactly. Except you mentioned in the inverse cube law, and this guy doesn't really do math. Well lemme explain it a little for him.

Forces like magnetism and gravity fall off in different ways. Gravity falls off via the inverse square law, as does light intensity and other things. What this means, in layman's terms, is that if you double your distance from a light source, it's one quarter as intense. Double it again, and you get a quarter of that intensity. So if you're one meter from a (point) light, you will recieve four times the light you would at two meters. Gravity follows this rule as well, and falls off along that profile.

Magnetism falls off along the inverse cube law. That means that if at one meter from the magnet you recieve 1 newton of force, at two meters it would 1/9 of a newton, and at four meters it would be 1/27th of a newton. So as you can see, magnetism falls off very quickly.

Essentially, that is the differece between magnetism and gravity: Gravity falls off very, very slowly, but is very weak. Magnetism is very strong, but falls off so quickly that the strongest electromagnets we can produce can barely be detected a few tens of meters away.

If you do the math, you find that the earth's magnetic field at the distance of mars is so laughably weak it could not possibly induce weather there, and that gravity is literally billions of times stronger at that distance than magnetism.

You can even see this concept here on earth. A magnet can lift a piece of metal, so essentially, the magnet beats the entire earth for pull when the two are very close together. But put the piece of metal a foot away from the magnet, and suddenly the magnet's pull is completely insignificant.

Re:And the universe begins to look more electric (2, Informative)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 7 years ago | (#17202392)

Check out his posting history, logic and math will not alter this guy's rigid dogma.

The EU theory preys apon the same ignorance as "Chariots of the Gods" did in the 70's. The entire "theory" is a book that uses real observations to demolish a straw man argument. The authour can be somewhat excused since he seems to be suffering from persecution complex concerning the "scientific establishment", however I do find it drepressing that he is dragging gullible people down with him.

The best thing the GP could do for himself is to read Carl Sagan's "Demon haunted world", I have suggested this to him but he seems incapable of handling the "truth".

Re:And the universe begins to look more electric (1)

Jonas the Bold (701271) | more than 7 years ago | (#17204780)

Yeah, but I'm trying. Really the point I was trying to impress on him was that if you don't understand math, you can't understand physics. Maybe encourage him to go learn something about magnetism and electricity and then maybe he'll apply that knowledge to that theory and see how ridiculous it is.

Re:And the universe begins to look more electric (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 7 years ago | (#17206706)

All credit for trying, I was simply warning you (and others) that this guy seems like a lost cause. As Albert once said to a journalist, "How can I tell you about baking a cake when you know nothing of butter, milk and flour."

Re:And the universe begins to look more electric (1)

pln2bz (449850) | more than 7 years ago | (#17205098)

The authour can be somewhat excused since he seems to be suffering from persecution complex concerning the "scientific establishment", however I do find it drepressing that he is dragging gullible people down with him.

But Big Bang Cosmology is still a *theory* right? I would think that open-minded people would want choices to compare and evaluate. You seem to want to deprive them of those choices by convincing others that I am misleading people even though evidence exists in support of both theories. Big Bang proponents tend to be hostile to the existence of any alternative that doesn't totally stack up, but I find fault with this approach. That would presume that without a doubt we are absolutely sure that EU Theory is wrong. The problem is that it hasn't fully been investigated yet. We would be dropping the theory before it was even really given a chance to develop in spite of the existence of observational evidence that supports it. That doesn't make sense to me.

Certainly nobody is being misled so long as there is no satisfactory explanation for things like dark matter and dark energy. To argue that we really only fully understand 4 or 5% of the universe and then chastise others for explaining those observed effects in terms of phenomenon we already understand is from my own perspective misleading gullible people. It is not as clear-cut as you would have people believe. If you're saying that we now definitely understand how the universe works, I'll remind you that we were just as sure each time we thought we knew many times before. Maybe in fact the human desire to feel sure that we know is actually getting in the way of being objective in the search for the truth.

Ultimately, there's no harm in educating people about EU Theory because the merits of the arguments on both sides will always win in the end. To insinuate that something bad is happening when people learn about alternative cosmologies is kind of silly. I could similarly argue that it is dangerous to declare stellar evolution the definite king in the middle of a global warming debate when we have observational evidence that the Sun is actually warming. This isn't to say that co2 isn't increasing the temperature, but rather that just decreasing co2 might not necessarily solve the warming problem. Constraining how we think about the problem certainly affects the solutions that we come up with for this particular topical problem. I would also argue that the constraints that BB Theory have imposed upon our Venus observations have almost certainly skewed our understanding of the process of greenhouse warming. Were it not for gravitational collapse theories, we would have *never* considered Venus to be our twin planet gone bad.

It's as if you're saying that people can't handle the process of thinking for themselves. Some people have categorized some of my articles on electrical activity on Mars as being informative. I believe that the only *bad* thing is if I misrepresent the theory or start taking offense at the insults that are dished at me. I have on occasion made mistakes (like for this particular /. article), but I promise, I'll get better over time. And I will do my best to never insult *anybody* for believing something different from myself. If all I can accomplish is to get people here to stop being hostile, then that will be an accomplishment in itself because people tend to think more when they're not feeling hostile.

And I've added your book to my list. Thank you.

Re:And the universe begins to look more electric (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 7 years ago | (#17207162)

"I would think that open-minded people would want choices to compare and evaluate."

Agreed, but EU has already been compared and evaluated, in the early 60's it was found to be hoplessly inadequate compared to the currently accepted theories. Black holes and CBR were predicted by current theory and found by observation, EU theory tacked on a bit to explain them after they were discovered, see the difference yet?

I first met you because of a comment about global warming and you may have noticed I pay scant attention to the details of your theories. However I am genuinely curious, exactly what is it that makes you think you are right and just about every scientist on the planet is wrong about everything from gravity to glaciers?

Re:And the universe begins to look more electric (1)

pln2bz (449850) | more than 7 years ago | (#17212128)

Agreed, but EU has already been compared and evaluated, in the early 60's it was found to be hoplessly inadequate compared to the currently accepted theories. Black holes and CBR were predicted by current theory and found by observation, EU theory tacked on a bit to explain them after they were discovered, see the difference yet?

I disagree that black holes perfectly match our observations. They were in fact theorized before jets were observed, and when jets were observed, it was then proposed that black holes could *emit* radiation. Furthermore, the nature of this emission from black holes is (for at least quasar jet 3C273) synchrotronic, which implies a current is occurring. From http://www.holoscience.com/news.php?article=9kpgc4 td [holoscience.com] :

There have been two competing theories of how emissions arise from the particles -- the "Inverse-Compton" theory proposing that the emissions occur when jet particles scatter cosmic microwave background photons, and the "Synchrotron Radiation" theory postulating a separate population of extremely energetic electrons or protons that cause the high-energy emission.

According to the researchers, while the lifetime of the X-ray producing particles is only about 100 years, the data indicate that the visibly brightest part of the jet has a length of about 100,000 light years. Since there would be insufficient time for the particles to shoot out from the black hole at close to the speed of light and then release their energy as radiation as far out as they are seen, the particles have to be accelerated locally, where they produce their emission.

"The new observations show that the flow structure of this jet is more complicated than had been assumed previously," Jester explains. "That the present evidence favors the synchrotron model deepens the mystery of how jets produce the ultra-energetic particles that radiate at X-ray wavelengths."
"Our results call for a radical rethink of the physics of relativistic jets that black holes drive," said Uchiyama.

There have been additional observations that have violated the theory of black holes that I believe are discussed in that article.

There is no need for black holes in EU Theory and they were never adopted by EU Theorists to my knowledge. According to them, the black hole is the result of dividing by zero: it is the end result of modeling a very strong force (pinching Birkeland currents) with a weak one (gravity). In order to compensate for the weakness of gravity, it is necessary to involve an infinite amount of mass.

I first met you because of a comment about global warming and you may have noticed I pay scant attention to the details of your theories. However I am genuinely curious, exactly what is it that makes you think you are right and just about every scientist on the planet is wrong about everything from gravity to glaciers?

I believe that we should not necessarily be constraining our interpretations of our observations by any cosmology because that presumes that we have more confidence in our cosmology than we have come to expect in other sciences. We should be studying phenomenon objectively on a case-by-case basis, and that typically means at least considering the simplest explanation for each observation. Things like neutron stars, for instance, are far easier to explain in terms of sparking.

I'm very disappointed in how people like Halton Arp and Immanuel Velikovsky have been treated in the past. I'm still in the process of learning about those incidents, but I'm getting the general sense (from this forum and from my readings) that there is a strong need for conformity in physics today. But when I look at history, I see that the brightest minds were the most unusual people who certainly did *not* conform. I don't believe that all good things come from experts in their own domains. There is a long history of people interjecting themselves into foreign domains with great success and we enjoy the fruits of their brave statements every day. This is the context within I view the www.thunderbolts.info crew. I believe that even if people don't agree with them that their research should be completely encouraged on the basis that things like the Big Bang Theory might be wrong. Of the evidence I'm able to comprehend, I don't agree that we know for sure that things like black holes exist. I believe that we can develop an opinion about who's right or wrong based upon methodology and by analyzing specific arguments that we do understand (even if we can't understand the most complex arguments). But I do try to understand as much as possible.

The fields of geology, archaeology and astronomy depend upon this principle called uniformitarianism, which I personally consider to be flawed. It is the presumption that we can draw conclusions about the past by just looking at the processes happening in our immediate surroundings. This assumption was necessary in order for those sciences to "develop". I don't really have a problem with people pursuing this avenue of research (in fact, I would encourage it), but the problem happens when the assumption is portrayed as being true without a doubt, and is then used to disqualify other possibilities. It is just as possible that there are transient or diffuse phenomenon in the universe that have escaped our ability thus far to observe them. In fact, I tend to believe that life would *only* evolve in regions of the universe that are not like the hostile regions we observe through our telescopes, and that a good case can be made that lines of research should be created to pursue this completely separate view of our surroundings -- that our immediate surroundings may just be in some ways an exception to an otherwise highly electrical universe, and the *reason* for why we are here. It seems logical to me, and yet, it is considered to be pseudo-science for most people.

My only purpose is to educate myself and others. EU Theory is consistently misrepresented on this forum, which is unique from a situation like the "Bad Astronomy and Universe Today" forum. There, the arguments tend to focus on the technical details. Here, people tend to not fully understand the EU Theory as well and they oftentimes discount it on the basis of their misrepresentations. I'm merely providing a service whereby I inform people of their mischaracterizations. I do not necessarily expect to change minds for people who have already made up their minds.

Re:And the universe begins to look more electric (1)

pln2bz (449850) | more than 7 years ago | (#17214922)

Actually, I wanted to add to my prior comments on these points specifically ...

Agreed, but EU has already been compared and evaluated, in the early 60's it was found to be hoplessly inadequate compared to the currently accepted theories

You should note that EU Theory is not really the same as Catastrophism. Although they agree on some points -- like that Venus used to be a comet and was formed relatively recently -- EU Theory additionally explains the mechanism for how this is so. The advent of x-ray and radio telescopes have also changed the picture quite a bit because they both can image signs of large-scale electrical currents in the universe (and have in fact done so), which would appear to confirm some of EU Theory.

Something happened recently that you should be aware of. In June of 2005, a mission called Deep Impact shot a copper ball at Comet Tempel 1 in order to study the effect that this impact would have upon the body. The results shocked experts and we continue to wait for the analysis of those results. However, Wallace Thornhill of www.thunderbolts.info accurately predicted the results for that mission.

He predicted that prior to impact, there would be a charge equalization between the copper ball and the comet. This is the same thing that the EU Theorists say about impact craters -- that charge equalization tends to occur between a planet and any approaching body prior to any impacts that may follow. On planets, this charge equalization will oftentimes result in a burn scar and multiple smaller craters. This is an important point because it implies that planets, comets and asteroids are not necessarily charge neutral. Thornhill was right. There was a small flash of bright light as the ball approached the comet, followed by the larger flash of the impact. He made other notably correct predictions as well (from wiki):

* (1) "The discharge and/or impact may initiate a new jet on the nucleus (2) (which will be collimated -- filamentary -- not sprayed out) and (3) could even abruptly change the positions and intensities of other jets due to the sudden change in charge distribution on the comet nucleus."
* (4) "The impact/electrical discharge will be into rock, (5) not loosely consolidated ice and dust. (6) The impact crater will be smaller than expected."
* (7) "Tempel 1 has a low-eccentricity orbit. Therefore its charge imbalance with respect to its environment at perihelion is low. (It is a "low-voltage" comet.) Electrical interactions with Deep Impact may be slight, but they should be measurable if NASA will look for them. They would likely be similar to those of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 prior to striking Jupiter's atmosphere: The most obvious would be a flash (lightning-like discharge) shortly before impact."
* (8) "An abundance of water on or below the surface of the nucleus (the underlying assumption of the "dirty snowball" hypothesis) is unlikely."
* (9) "The (electric comet) model predicts a sculpted surface, distinguished by sharply defined craters, valleys, mesas, and ridges--the opposite of the softened relief expected of a sublimating "dirty snowball"."

If comets are not in fact sublimating snowballs with out-gassing jets, but rather electrical phenomenon whose jets are the result of electrical machining, then this is a big big problem for the gravitational constant G. Comets are known to exhibit something called non-gravitational acceleration, which means that they follow orbits that would appear to violate the gravitational constant. It was theorized by a man named Whipple that this was the result of gases building up inside of the comet and spurting out, throwing the comet around in strange directions. But it appears that these jets are in fact electrical machining -- which is a very different type of thing that probably does not account for the strange movements. Many EU Theorists have been proposing for some time now that there is a relation between the electrical charge of bodies in space and their gravitational pull, and that a massive charge equalization increased the Earth's gravity during the time of the dinosaurs, making them impossible creatures in our current gravity. This would be supported by the discoveries of numerous discoveries of large flying dinosaur creatures called pterosaurs, which with 40-foot wingspans (and even allegations of 60-foot wingspans for some partial finds), confound aeronautical engineers. We don't have any flying creatures on this planet that exceed around 50 lbs, and these other creatures would clearly weigh much more than that. There is a detailed debate on this particular subject involving things like hollow bones and so on at http://www.bearfabrique.org/Catastrophism/sauropod s/biganims.html [bearfabrique.org] .

Black holes and CBR were predicted by current theory and found by observation

Actually, certain *aspects* of the CBR were predicted. It is rarely mentioned by BB advocates that the CBR temperature predictions ranged from 5 to 7 to 50 Kelvin prior to the observational value of 3 Kelvin (which actually more closely matches the steady state predictions). Once the observation was made, the Big Bang equations were retrofitted for that value. Similarly, when some galaxies were noticed to not be casting shadows against the backdrop of the CBR light, additional technical mechanisms were invoked to explain this phenomenon. So, it hasn't been the smooth-sailing proof that it is sold as, and it is rarely mentioned that there are in fact other potential explanations for the CBR. We just don't pursue those explanations because the funding is in Big Bang Theory.

Re:And the universe begins to look more electric (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17209416)

But Big Bang Cosmology is still a *theory* right?

That's the creationist semantic dodge about evolutionary biology. "It's just a theory — you should have an open mind." The process of evolution is a fact; there is a theory that explains how that process takes place, which is mostly correct but probably wrong about some of the details.

Likewise, the expansion of the universe from a hotter, denser state is a fact. There are a whole class of related models about how specifically that happened, called "Big Bang cosmology". They all agree on the gross features of the expansion, but they don't have the details pinned down exactly and won't until we know more about things like dark matter and dark energy.

Big Bang proponents tend to be hostile to the existence of any alternative that doesn't totally stack up, but I find fault with this approach. That would presume that without a doubt we are absolutely sure that EU Theory is wrong. The problem is that it hasn't fully been investigated yet.

That happens to be incorrect. The major claims of the various EU theories are demonstrably false.

Certainly nobody is being misled so long as there is no satisfactory explanation for things like dark matter and dark energy. To argue that we really only fully understand 4 or 5% of the universe and then chastise others for explaining those observed effects in terms of phenomenon we already understand is from my own perspective misleading gullible people.

EU theory doesn't actually have any alternatives to dark matter and dark energy; it cannot collectively explain the galactic rotation curves, origin and spectrum of the cosmic microwave background radiation, flatness of space, Type Ia supernova observations, and so on and so forth. In fact, it can't adequately explain any single one of those phenomena without resorting to dark matter or dark energy, let alone all of them.

I would also argue that the constraints that BB Theory have imposed upon our Venus observations have almost certainly skewed our understanding of the process of greenhouse warming.

Big Bang cosmology has nothing to do with planetary formation or the greenhouse effect.

Were it not for gravitational collapse theories, we would have *never* considered Venus to be our twin planet gone bad.

Nor do "gravitational collapse theories".

Re:And the universe begins to look more electric (1)

pln2bz (449850) | more than 7 years ago | (#17252432)

That's the creationist semantic dodge about evolutionary biology. "It's just a theory -- you should have an open mind." The process of evolution is a fact; there is a theory that explains how that process takes place, which is mostly correct but probably wrong about some of the details.

Likewise, the expansion of the universe from a hotter, denser state is a fact. There are a whole class of related models about how specifically that happened, called "Big Bang cosmology". They all agree on the gross features of the expansion, but they don't have the details pinned down exactly and won't until we know more about things like dark matter and dark energy.


I'd like to note that you've likely made your decision about Big Bang Theory without actually learning about this other alternative to the extent that you normally would of things you dismiss. Many people will say they have, but few really did. My problem is that practically nobody even *knows* what EU Theory is. I get lectured on a daily basis about why EU Theory is silly and I can typically point out that these opinions are based upon mischaracterizations with little more than a few seconds of research. Let's be real here -- nobody actually cares enough to research it. And yet everybody is so sure that it's not true. As far as I can tell, I'm actually the only person who has in fact read what EU Theory is. That doesn't mean looking up the wikipedia entry. I mean, I have read nearly all of the freely available materials. It took me about three months of my free time. I'm a normal college-educated slashdot-reading guy. I've worked at a major semiconductor manufacturing firm for a few years and coded for a dot-com for another couple years. I was an average student, but at a great school. My final judgment?

These guys make a lot of really good points. We are being obstinate idiots by not pursuing the possibility that they may be correct. There are numerous observations on Mars alone that just don't make any sense *without* electricity (and that's surely not for lack of NASA trying).

In the end though, it really comes down to one single idea: That we should first try to explain the universe in terms of forces and matter that we understand *before* resorting to un-physical forces and matter.

The major claims of the various EU theories are demonstrably false.

I'm going to ask you to back that up, actually. I'm always interested in hearing what people believe to be wrong with EU Theory. So, please, educate me.

EU theory doesn't actually have any alternatives to dark matter and dark energy; it cannot collectively explain the galactic rotation curves, origin and spectrum of the cosmic microwave background radiation, flatness of space, Type Ia supernova observations, and so on and so forth. In fact, it can't adequately explain any single one of those phenomena without resorting to dark matter or dark energy, let alone all of them.

Okay, so this is the part where I explain to you what EU Theory is. Keep in mind that I'm not trying to convince you. I'm just going to summarize the information that I have read. You can believe whatever you want.

EU Theory proposes that the large majority of the universe (more than 99%) is made of plasma that consists of mobile electrons, protons and ions. This means that this plasma can conduct electricity. Plasma is particular about the shapes that it takes in the universe. It tends to form what are called Birkeland Currents. We know very well from plasma laboratory experiments that these Birkeland Current filaments tend to attract one another. This attraction is called the "pinch effect" or "z-pinch". This attraction is the strongest known force in the universe -- approximately 10^39 stronger than gravity -- and it decays inversely to the *single* power (not the square or the cube, as many people will try to tell you). So, you have the most abundant state of matter. You have the strongest force in the universe acting over that most abundant state of matter. One would think that astrophysicsts would try to work this into their theories of the universe. It's a natural conclusion that this force may have a role to play in the formation of stars and even planets. This is not some weirdo logic. This makes perfect, logical sense.

Plasma physicists (namely Peratt) have generated computer simulations that show that fundamental plasma equations, by themselves, without any dark matter or dark energy, can generate spiral galaxy morphologies. I refer you to the pictures at http://www.thunderbolts.info/tpod/2004/arch/040913 plasma-galaxy.htm [thunderbolts.info] . Now, in those pictures, you'll notice that the spiral arms will develop gaps -- and yet the arms will retain their overall shapes. The equations appear to be telling us that, given the proper electrodynamics, plasma principles operate just fine over diffuse flows.

I'm not going to go into the details of all of the things you bring up except to say that there are surely multiple explanations for many things we see in the universe. We are completely blind to these other possibilities because we do not *really* pursue them. It was once stated that the existence of the CBR *proved* The Big Bang. Well, that's nonsense. CBR can exist for just about *any* cosmology. You should not let yourself be so gullible to accept arguments that the Big Bang has been *proven* because we have not really put serious money behind any competing cosmology. In truth, if we only fund one particular cosmology, be it BB Theory or EU Theory, we can develop proofs for it. The *real* goal should be to develop proofs for *both* and then compare those proofs. Until we actually do that, it's silly to argue that either one has actually been proven because there's the potential that we may have merely found enough sufficient proof that we have caused ourselves to become disinterested in any other reasonable explanation.

Once you actually learn about what EU Theory says, it's easy to become a little bit concerned. There is quite a bit of observational evidence, both near and far, that suggests that it may in fact be true. Once you get to the point of understanding this evidence, you then move onto the ramifications. What are the ramifications for mankind if EU Theory is true, but man refuses to acknowledge it? This is a very interesting question because most cataclysmic scenarios that people like to think of break down differently in terms of EU Theory. In the final analysis, it turns out that man fairs really poorly if the gamble on BB Theory turns out to be wrong. And this is why this is ultimately so interesting to me -- because even though this theory has merits that nobody's paying any attention to, and even though people who don't know what they're talking about frequently ridicule people who have done their homework on it, the ramifications of ignoring it if it's true means that we would not survive as a planet most of the violent scenarios it envisions. This is a really important part of the debate if you ask me. We're risking pretty much everything on BB Theory being right. You need to ask yourself: how sure *are* you that BB Theory is right? Are you really as sure of BB as you are of evolution? Would you bet your *life* on it -- and the future of the entire human race?

Well, you don't really need to answer that because the answer is that we already are. In truth, however, I don't believe that the evidence really exists to have that much confidence in any particular cosmology yet. They are all still just theories. And we really need to be hedging our bets a little bit here.

Re:And the universe begins to look more electric (1)

pln2bz (449850) | more than 7 years ago | (#17204362)

I've been playing devil's advocate for a while now on Slashdot mostly because it appears that people tend to repeatedly misunderstand or misstate the Electric Universe arguments. But it's also, for my many "fans" out there, an attempt to elicit effective arguments *against* Electric Universe Theory. I'm willing to admit that I can in fact be wrong, but this science isn't actually like other sciences. We don't have the level of proof for concepts like black holes, neutron stars and gravitational collapse that we have for things like chemical reactions or mechanics of the cell, or whatever. My postings appear to inevitably elicit condescending conversations with people who are familiar with the math and proofs for the Big Bang. I find some of these arguments somewhat convincing, but I also find that the EU people also have some good points that are being completely ignored by the mainstream.

I've actually had a hell of a time just trying to get people to read documents which contradict their world view of physics, which has affected my own impression of the Slashdot crowd as being generally close-minded on the subject. Many times, people will suggest that the EU people should actually stick their necks out and make some predictions. Perhaps it's not being done to the *extent* that would be required of a real competing cosmology, but it has been attempted and they did succeed with the Deep Impact mission to comet Tempel 1. I will point you to this document as I have every person before:

http://www.thunderbolts.info/pdf/ElectricComet.pdf [thunderbolts.info]

If you can explain why this document is in error, you will be the first. In fact, you'd be the first of many to even comment on it.

The problem is that you never seen stable naked charge. It's always paired with opposite charge. That means that the sources of static fields are no better than dipoles. That's why the electric force isn't considered at the cosmological level despite being a lot of orders of magnitude stronger on paper than the gravitational force. The strong and weak forces are even stronger, but they don't manifest on the cosmological scale at all.

This is surely a common argument. But I'm not so sure that it's true. The EU theorists point out that you can find observations that would contradict it:

http://www.thunderbolts.info/tpod/2004/arch/040803 charge-space.htm [thunderbolts.info]

Now, I'm quite sure that there is a non-EU explanation for NGC4458. My general point is that the assumptions within astrophysics today are constraining our interpretation of our observations. Since astrophysicists assume that charge separation does not commonly occur in space, they concoct alternative explanations to describe our observations that treat electricity as a secondary phenomenon. But sometimes, these alternative explanations by themselves seem ridiculous compared to the electrical explanations. Things like black holes and neutron stars can possibly have very simple electrical explanations if you're willing to accept that we may have made some mistakes with our understanding of electricity's role in space.

The fact that we can create spiral galaxies without the need for dark matter or dark energy is another example (http://www.thunderbolts.info/tpod/2004/arch/04091 3plasma-galaxy.htm). Astrophysicists would rather believe in these phenomenon that aren't fully understood rather than believing that plasma could be doing this on its own without any dark matter or dark energy. In the process of seeing the effect happen for a simulation of a spiral galaxy, I'm forced to wonder why this wouldn't apply to actual spiral galaxies. As you can see, the computer towards the end of the simulation actually includes significant breaks in the spiral arms. This says to me that electricity can act to shape structures of the universe even when the flows are diffuse.

I don't really see why these sorts of things deserve such hostile responses, to be honest. The result of hostility is conformity and I can't imagine that that's a good thing for physics. The last thing I would want to do is to stop somebody from believing in the Big Bang if that's what they want to believe in. They could be the person that actually proves it, so if I act to derail their interest and I turn out to be wrong, then I may impact world events in a bad way. What I don't appreciate is the converse -- when people are so sure that they are right about their stellar evolution and Big Bang Cosmology and stuff that they refuse to accept that others may differ from them. We should be encouraging the EU Theorists to do their best to prove their theories. Like I said, these things aren't really proven yet and we should treat them that way until they are.

Re:And the universe begins to look more electric (1)

pln2bz (449850) | more than 7 years ago | (#17204596)

Actually, I wanted to add something that I just ran across. From http://www.thunderbolts.info/tpod/2005/arch05/0510 31plasma.htm [thunderbolts.info] :

Parallel plasma filaments attract one another with a force inversely proportional to their distance apart. Compare this with gravity, which attracts matter with a force inversely proportional to the SQUARE of the distance. That makes pinched Birkeland currents by far the most effective way of condensing rarefied dust and gas to form molecular clouds and stars.

This is the explanation for why EU Theorists commonly say that the electrical force is the strongest force in the universe. Pinching Birkeland currents are the archetypal form that plasma tends to take in space. It's the same thing that you see in novelty plasma globes. Those strands that go to the glass from the center are actually a pair of twisting filaments. You can see these structures with telescopes throughout the universe, but they don't have to be illuminated in order to conduct currents.

The mere existence of these types of structures in the universe would seem to imply that there is at least *some* matter that is being condensed through this method because in the presence of gravitational forces, the Birkeland currents will always win. To say that all planets and stars are the result of gravitational collapse is the same as saying that the pinch effect could never happen on a universal scale -- and I do not believe that all plasma physicists would necessarily agree with that statement. In fact, I believe that this is the debate itself.

Re:And the universe begins to look more electric (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 7 years ago | (#17218064)

I've actually had a hell of a time just trying to get people to read documents which contradict their world view of physics, which has affected my own impression of the Slashdot crowd as being generally close-minded on the subject. Many times, people will suggest that the EU people should actually stick their necks out and make some predictions. Perhaps it's not being done to the *extent* that would be required of a real competing cosmology, but it has been attempted and they did succeed with the Deep Impact mission to comet Tempel 1. I will point you to this document as I have every person before:

Any competing theory must explain what we actually observe and not require unobserved processes. Going to the above paper that claims comets are "electrical" asteroids. Yet there's no process that would keep such an object electrically charged. With constant exposure to the Solar Wind, any charge will rapidly be neutralized. To counter this, the authors invent the idea that the Sun is at the bottom of a vast electrical potential. We don't observe this potential. Any charged object, like a proton or electron, when emerging from this should experience substantial acceleration (or deceleration depending on charge) which we can observe. The Earth cuts through these fields and we should see extremely active interplays of the Earth's magnetic fields and trapped charged particles with this field. We don't see any of that. Until this theory makes predictions compatible with what we actually see, it's not worth consideration.

I feel more generous about the cosmological version. We need to see evidence of cosmological scale charge concentration first. At least, we have already observed cosmological scale imbalances, namely, the difference in concentration between matter and anti-matter or the concentration of mass. So this isn't unreasonable to consider unlike the cometary theory above.

This is surely a common argument. But I'm not so sure that it's true. The EU theorists point out that you can find observations that would contradict it:

This doesn't actually demonstrate charge seperation. At high enough energy, even the nuclei will be broken up, resulting in a plasma of protons, neutrons, and electrons (as well as other simple particles). We don't know that there's an overall positive charge here.

Now, I'm quite sure that there is a non-EU explanation for NGC4458. My general point is that the assumptions within astrophysics today are constraining our interpretation of our observations. Since astrophysicists assume that charge separation does not commonly occur in space, they concoct alternative explanations to describe our observations that treat electricity as a secondary phenomenon. But sometimes, these alternative explanations by themselves seem ridiculous compared to the electrical explanations. Things like black holes and neutron stars can possibly have very simple electrical explanations if you're willing to accept that we may have made some mistakes with our understanding of electricity's role in space.

Neutron stars and black holes are simple explanations. You don't need to concoct a stable massively charged system. Enough mass in one place and you get these objects held together merely through gravity.

Re:And the universe begins to look more electric (1)

pln2bz (449850) | more than 7 years ago | (#17258382)

Any competing theory must explain what we actually observe and not require unobserved processes.

Wow. You are the first person on Slashdot to apparently have read the paper. So, first of all, congratulations. It is a momentous occasion.

Actually, I don't believe in this particular instance that this is the *only* standard for determining whether or not a cosmology deserves investigation. I can think of another standard, planetary and star formation, that would without a doubt qualify EU Theory for investigation. When you get down to it, there really are only two logical ways to form stars and planets: through nebular collapse and through the z-pinch effect. These two mechanisms both represent the strongest forces in the universe that we are aware of. If you understand that you only have two primary options to begin with, then it make sense that you would study both of them. Additionally, z-pinch might better explain the unexpected variations in planetary atmospheres within the solar system than nebular collapse.

Going to the above paper that claims comets are "electrical" asteroids. Yet there's no process that would keep such an object electrically charged. With constant exposure to the Solar Wind, any charge will rapidly be neutralized

Your second statement is true, but the first statement does not follow from it. You must understand the difference between charge carriers in space and charge carriers in a plasma or an object in space. Within an object or plasma, charge can accumulate, separate and earn some protection from charge equalization with its surroundings. This is actually a very important point because it's how Kristian Birkeland theorized that the aurora borealis was the result of plasma being sent at us from the Sun. Just as you reason, Birkeland realized that if the Sun was merely sending charged particles at us, then these particles would very rapidly acquire the charge of the space that they traveled through and they'd become neutral in charge. Plasma, on the other hand, naturally develops a protective sheath around its charge which effectively protects that charge.

To counter this, the authors invent the idea that the Sun is at the bottom of a vast electrical potential. We don't observe this potential. Any charged object, like a proton or electron, when emerging from this should experience substantial acceleration (or deceleration depending on charge) which we can observe. The Earth cuts through these fields and we should see extremely active interplays of the Earth's magnetic fields and trapped charged particles with this field. We don't see any of that. Until this theory makes predictions compatible with what we actually see, it's not worth consideration.

What you're actually alleging here is that diffuse charge flows are not possible within the universe. This is more a failure of imagination than anything else because it is conceivable, and even probable, that there are charge flows within the universe that are too diffuse for us to measure over a few tens of meters. The charge differential at the Earth's distance from the Sun is perhaps only one or two electrons per cubic meter, but the charge density is far higher closer to the Sun. The thing is, we can see these phenomenon happening over millions of kilometers. I like to think about this problem in terms of scale. It is only because humans are so small compared to the flows that we have difficulty in conceiving of them. If we were a million times larger, then these diffuse flows would not seem unusual to us at all.

We actually do observe acceleration of the solar wind as it comes from the Sun. This acceleration, in fact, continues as the particles move past the Earth, Venus and Mars. This lacks any traditional explanation and it actually matches what we would expect with charges moving through a field in the same way that your television works when it accelerates electrons until they hit your screen. This is the result of the Sun's weak electric field, which is a natural byproduct of the charge separation that occurs in a plasma charge sheath.

We still can't accurately predict the effects of solar storms. You can't really use this *lack* of understanding to rule out much of anything really.

Neutron stars and black holes are simple explanations. You don't need to concoct a stable massively charged system. Enough mass in one place and you get these objects held together merely through gravity.

There's nothing simple about spinning a star at 300 revolutions per second. That's why scientists had to propose that it was made of neutrons in the first place. But then, the problem with packing neutrons into a star like that is that it violates the "Island of Stability", a law of physics. Most people respond to this by stating that the gravity keeps it all together. But this is all speculation really. An actual observation of a nearby pulsating star, the Vela Pulsar, show a stringy thing coming off of it that resembles an actual spark. Check it out: http://www.thunderbolts.info/tpod/2004/arch/040920 pulsar.htm [thunderbolts.info] . We would be wise to modify our speculations when we make observations that potentially contradict them.

Black holes aren't quite so simple either. They don't just suck matter in. They also (at least apparently) emit jets. These jets present a problem for theory. From http://www.holoscience.com/news.php?article=9kpgc4 td [holoscience.com] :

Composite false-color image of the quasar jet 3C273, with emission from radio waves to X-rays extending over more than 100,000 light years. The black hole itself is to the left of the image. Colors indicate the wavelength region where energetic particles give off most of their energy: yellow contours show the radio emission, with denser contours for brighter emission (data from VLA); blue is for X-rays (Chandra); green for optical light (Hubble); and red is for infrared emission (Spitzer).
The jet suddenly becomes very bright at A, where the high-energy X-ray emissions dominate; moving further away from the quasar, progressively lower-energy emissions dominate. Letters label individual jet features.
Image credit: Y. Uchiyama, M. Urry, H.-J. Röser, R. Perley, S. Jester

There have been two competing theories of how emissions arise from the particles -- the "Inverse-Compton" theory proposing that the emissions occur when jet particles scatter cosmic microwave background photons, and the "Synchrotron Radiation" theory postulating a separate population of extremely energetic electrons or protons that cause the high-energy emission.

According to the researchers, while the lifetime of the X-ray producing particles is only about 100 years, the data indicate that the visibly brightest part of the jet has a length of about 100,000 light years. Since there would be insufficient time for the particles to shoot out from the black hole at close to the speed of light and then release their energy as radiation as far out as they are seen, the particles have to be accelerated locally, where they produce their emission.

"The new observations show that the flow structure of this jet is more complicated than had been assumed previously," Jester explains. "That the present evidence favors the synchrotron model deepens the mystery of how jets produce the ultra-energetic particles that radiate at X-ray wavelengths."
"Our results call for a radical rethink of the physics of relativistic jets that black holes drive," said Uchiyama.

So, no, it's not as simple as you're thinking.

Re:And the universe begins to look more electric (1)

pln2bz (449850) | more than 7 years ago | (#17264472)

At the risk of straining your desire to read material, I'm going to block excerpt an interesting piece on neutron stars from www.thunderbolts.info. My guess is that the thunderbolts crew will not really care so long as I include the URL, http://www.thunderbolts.info/tpod/2006/arch06/0601 23nebula.htm [thunderbolts.info] . My intention is to present an example of an alternative perspective on neutron stars, which you appear to be quite confident in. Notice how the history of the concept colors its credibility:

At the core of the Crab Nebula pictured above is a remarkable churning "wheel-and-axle" structure (inset) whose discovery shocked astronomers. No conventional model of supernova remnants ever anticipated exotic structures comparable to what is seen here.
Some things are known about the Crab Nebula, however. It is close to certain that it is the result of a supernova observed from Earth in 1054 A.D. The inner ring of the central "motor" has a diameter of about one light year. Intensely energetic jets stream outward from the central light source in two directions along the axis of an intense magnetic field. Additionally, observations over time have shown that rings and strands of material are moving outward on the equatorial plane at great speeds, some up to half the speed of light.

The point of light at the center of the image is a pulsar, so called because it generates pulses at radio frequencies roughly 60 times a second. (Pulses can also be observed optically and in X-rays.)

But what cause these rapid pulses? Most astronomers today attempt to interpret pulsars using a strange idea based entirely on mathematical conjectures. They say that the pulsar is a tiny spinning "neutron star"--the collapsed remains of the historic supernova.

Neutron stars were predicted theoretically in the 1930's to be the end result of a supernova explosion. For many years astronomers doubted their existence. But then, with the discovery of the first pulsar in 1967, astronomers imagined that the pulses were due to a rapidly rotating beam of radiation sweeping past the Earth. Having ignored all of the things that electricity can do quite routinely, the theorists were required to conceive a star so dense that it could rotate at the rate of a dentists drill without flying apart. So the neutron star received a second life. The energy of the star's radiation, it was supposed, came from in-falling matter from a companion star.

The imaginative construct received no support from later observations. In the Crab Nebula, what we now see is not gravitational accretion, but material accelerated away from the central star. In fact, all of the weird and wonderful things said about neutron stars, such as the super-condensed "neutronium" or "quark" soup from which they are claimed to have formed, lie outside the realm of verifiable science. They are abstractions disconnected from nature, but required to save a paradigm that has no other force than gravity to provide compact sources of radiation.

[...]

Such speculations, resting upon the earlier flights of cosmological fancy, beg the question as to the origin of all other stars. Supernovae are exceedingly rare events, and there is no sound reason to believe that neutron stars are even physically possible.

However appealing the original logic may have been to some, the neutron star model should have been discarded when pulsars were found with supposed "spin" and cooling rates that required the mathematicians to conjure ever more dense and exotic particles-like quarks-that have never been observed.

Critics of the "neutron star" hypothesis say that it is a violation of common sense to speak of matter being gravitationally compressed to the point that the orbiting electrons in an atom are forced to join with the protons in the nucleus to form neutrons. The nearly 2000-fold difference in weight between the electron and the proton will ensure charge separation in an intense gravitational field. Each atom will become a tiny radial electric dipole that assists charge separation. And the electric force of repulsion is 39 orders of magnitude stronger than gravity, so extremely weak charge separation is sufficient to resist gravitational compression. The force of gravity is effectively zero in the presence of the electric force.

All of today's popular ideas about supernovae, the supposed progenitors of neutron stars, were formulated under a gravity-only ideology that has, in recent decades, been challenged (and electric theorists would say overturned) by the discovery of plasma and powerful electric and magnetic fields in space. Supernovae have recently been identified as catastrophic stellar electrical discharges. The remnant of such a discharge cannot be the imagined rapidly spinning super-dense object: powerful electrical forces will always prevent gravitational "super-collapse."

Plasma physicists have shown (in the words of K. Healy and A. Peratt) that the pulsed radiation detected from some supernova remnants may "...derive either from the pulsar's interaction with its environment or by energy delivered by an external circuit. ...[O]ur results support the 'planetary magnetosphere' view, where the extent of the magnetosphere, not emission points on a rotating surface, determines the pulsar emission." These concrete results do not rest on events merely imagined. And they dovetail with facts that are now inescapable: electric discharges in plasma are fully capable of generating the exotic structures of supernova remnants seen in deep space. The "wheel and axle" form of the supernova remnant in the Crab nebula is that of a simple Faraday electric motor. Its structure also conforms to the stellar circuit diagram espoused by the father of plasma cosmology, Hannes Alfvén.

Their reasoning is more compelling to me than that which accompanies more common explanations in astronomy that I've read because they always focus on the latest observations; they make distinctions between speculation, and theory that is supported by observations; and they include an historical context for most of their explanations. They do not care about what the most popular theory is. Even though they have an obvious slant, they are doing a better job of evaluating the evidence without any cosmological constraints than most others. I find that within this presentation package that their case is actually far more compelling for people who have no pre-existing vested interest in astronomy and cosmology. I investigated the gravity-driven universe theories before learning about EU Theory. But at the point where I had spent the same amount of time for each (3 weeks each), the EU case seemed to be supported by more observational evidence than the more popular paradigm. Much of the gravity-only paradigm is basically just speculation based upon assumption with observational issues that remain to be solved. By contrast, EU Theory deals with those observational anomalies with a cohesive, detailed explanation that requires no mysterious forces, unobserved particles or exotic phenomenon. I agree that it's not always true that the simplest explanation is right, but it certainly makes sense that we should always seriously investigate the simplest explanation. The fact that we are not doing this remains an underappreciated enigma that our grandchildren will one day rightly question us about.

Based upon my readings and in the time I've spent talking to people about it here and on other forums, it appears certain to me that we are underappreciating the effect of electricity and the pinch effect within the universe. I'm actually preparing long-term plans to become seriously involved in teaching people about the theory. My goal has become to try to teach the fundamentals of EU Theory to large audiences within 2.5 hours, which based upon my own personal experiences so far, is the point in time at which nearly everybody leaves regardless of the merits of the material. It's kind of silly that people expect to re-learn the mechanics of the universe from scratch in less than 2.5 hours. I am beyond confident that the potential popularity of this theory and its implications has been vastly underappreciated by modern-day astronomers and slashdot-devotees. People love to learn about space and the notion of the planetarium is due for a revision. Mark my words: for better or worse, you guys will eventually be seeing the phrase, "Electric Universe", in Slashdot's article subject lines. It's inevitable. If I don't do this, somebody else will. The story is too compelling to be forever ignored (even if it ends up being wrong). People will be glad that they learned about it and that they finally have choices in astronomy.

Re:And the universe begins to look more electric (2, Insightful)

danpsmith (922127) | more than 7 years ago | (#17200154)

Take the red pill and learn about Electric Universe Theory.

I took the so-called "red pill" [wikipedia.org] , and discovered the following: "Suffice to say for now that if science is what you are looking for, you will find none where the electric sun is concerned, save that which shows it to be an untenable hypothesis."

Please don't push your misguided psuedo-science off as something grounded in reality. Remember, scientists look for facts and work them into theory, quacks make up a "theory" and then try to find facts to fit it. The electric sun is as much science as "creation science" or "intelligent design," and should be met with the same contempt by anyone logical enough to read a science book.

Re:And the universe begins to look more electric (1)

pln2bz (449850) | more than 7 years ago | (#17204746)

I took the so-called "red pill", and discovered the following: "Suffice to say for now that if science is what you are looking for, you will find none where the electric sun is concerned, save that which shows it to be an untenable hypothesis."

If you continue to read down towards the end of the article, you will see some evidence in support of EU Theory. What you have to realize is that there is evidence for and against both Big Bang and EU Theories.

Once the Deep Impact results become official, in fact, astrophysics will most likely have to grapple once again with the concept of non-gravitational acceleration for comets. Whipple's theories about outgassing jets does not appear to simply follow from the observations. Of course, they may do their best to avoid actually having to think about this again.

The lack of an obvious energy input to the Sun is generally treated as the most serious flaw of the Electric Sun Theory. Astrophysicists will argue that it has never been measured and the solar wind would tend to push against and negate any possible input. I personally believe that it's still open for debate in that you can observe that diffuse electrical flows are happening in Peratt's spiral galaxy simulations using plasma (see http://www.thunderbolts.info/tpod/2004/arch/040913 plasma-galaxy.htm [thunderbolts.info] ). They are also presumably what is causing those parts of the simulation to light up. Maybe this simulation is just too simple to be compared to spiral galaxies. These are the kinds of things that people should be talking about and working on, but there's really no interest in pursuing it in the Big Bang crowd because they're pretty sure that they're already right.

Please don't push your misguided psuedo-science off as something grounded in reality.

Actually, I could say the same thing for concepts like black holes, neutron stars and gravitational collapse. These things have never actually been proven to the extent that we expect in other sciences.

Remember, scientists look for facts and work them into theory, quacks make up a "theory" and then try to find facts to fit it. The electric sun is as much science as "creation science" or "intelligent design," and should be met with the same contempt by anyone logical enough to read a science book.

You're basically saying that the pinch effect cannot happen on a universal scale even though we can generate it in the lab, even though plasma scales in both time and space, and even though we see a lot of things through our telescopes that look very much like Birkeland Currents. I personally believe that the arguments for faraway electric stars is currently much more convincing than for our own Sun, so I wouldn't dismiss the entire theory on the basis of the Electric Sun model by itself. You're attacking the weakest part of the theory and completely ignoring its better parts.

I'm guessing you're not interested based upon your tone, but if you do decide to look at the arguments in *favor* of EU Theory, then wiki is probably not the best site for that. That would be www.thunderbolts.info. But I would suggest that if you decide *not* to understand EU Theory's merits then it makes little sense to be so hostile towards it. It's really not a big deal to have disagreements in cosmology. In fact, you can make very good arguments that it is actually a *bad* thing that everybody might believe in a single cosmology. It is after all possible that we could be wrong.

Re:And the universe begins to look more electric (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17209186)

The lack of an obvious energy input to the Sun is generally treated as the most serious flaw of the Electric Sun Theory. Astrophysicists will argue that it has never been measured and the solar wind would tend to push against and negate any possible input. I personally believe that it's still open for debate in that you can observe that diffuse electrical flows are happening in Peratt's spiral galaxy simulations using plasma

Two problems:

1. Peratt's simulations have nothing to do with the aforementioned objections to the Electric Sun theory: the posited electric energy input to the Sun manifestly does not exist.

2. Peratt doesn't have any plasma simluations of galaxies. He has plasma experiments that form spiral structures. Claiming they are simluations of galaxies because they're spiral shaped makes about as much sense as claiming that ball lightning is a simulation of a star because both of them are spherical.

Maybe this simulation is just too simple to be compared to spiral galaxies. These are the kinds of things that people should be talking about and working on, but there's really no interest in pursuing it in the Big Bang crowd because they're pretty sure that they're already right.

More relevantly, they're sure that "plasma galaxies" are wrong, for obvious reasons, one of which is that plasma effects don't scale the way EU proponents claim they do. The electric force exerted on intragalactic gas, let alone on stars, due to intragalactic electromagnetic fields is negligible compared to the gravitational force. (And we do know how strong those fields are, and therefore the forces they exert.) Certainly those fields are important in understanding the ionization state of intragalactic gas, but they have little to do with galactic structure.

Actually, I could say the same thing for concepts like black holes, neutron stars and gravitational collapse. These things have never actually been proven to the extent that we expect in other sciences.

There are plenty of theories in other sciences that are accepted to the same extent black holes, neutron stars, etc. are in astrophysics. In any field of science there is a spectrum of evidence and acceptance for all of the various theories and models floating about.

I personally believe that the arguments for faraway electric stars is currently much more convincing than for our own Sun, so I wouldn't dismiss the entire theory on the basis of the Electric Sun model by itself.

This is just the creationist "God of the Gaps" argument all over again. Face it: the same physics which describes our Sun also describes other stars; they aren't radically different objects that just happen to look the same as ordinary stars.

You're attacking the weakest part of the theory and completely ignoring its better parts.

There is no actual Electric Universe theory; there is just a hodge-podge of loosely connected vague suggestions applied to everything from meteorology to stellar physics to cosmology, using proposed mechanisms that are completely disparate, other than all having something to do with electromagnetism.

(On a related note, the "Big Bang theory" has nothing to do with meteorology or stellar physics, so please stop referring to the conventional models of those phenomena as "Big Bang physics". The Big Bang theory refers specifically to the origin and expansion of the universe, not the structure of planets, stars, or galaxies.)

Re:And the universe begins to look more electric (1)

pln2bz (449850) | more than 7 years ago | (#17210432)

2. Peratt doesn't have any plasma simluations of galaxies. He has plasma experiments that form spiral structures. Claiming they are simluations of galaxies because they're spiral shaped makes about as much sense as claiming that ball lightning is a simulation of a star because both of them are spherical.

This is another instance of misrepresentation of EU Theory. They have *both* simulations and experimental support. Unless you are alleging that they are actually lying, they specifically state that spiral galaxies can be generated using simple plasma equations without any dark matter or dark energy to generate its rotational properties. Without that evidence, I'd be a little bit closer to where you're at.

More relevantly, they're sure that "plasma galaxies" are wrong, for obvious reasons, one of which is that plasma effects don't scale the way EU proponents claim they do. The electric force exerted on intragalactic gas, let alone on stars, due to intragalactic electromagnetic fields is negligible compared to the gravitational force. (And we do know how strong those fields are, and therefore the forces they exert.) Certainly those fields are important in understanding the ionization state of intragalactic gas, but they have little to do with galactic structure.

If the electric force were in fact negligible on the intergallactic gaps, then his computer simulations should not have worked in the first place because they are apparent within his simulations.

It appears to me that the EU Theorists are alleging that mistakes have been made in characterizing electricity within the universe. For instance, there appear to be numerous observations involving synchrotron radiation as the primary component to electron radiation, and yet no corresponding reference to the electric fields and currents which by definition must be causing them appears. From http://www.thunderbolts.info/tpod/2006/arch06/0603 09radio.htm [thunderbolts.info] :

So there were attempts to simulate synchrotron radiation using only gravity and magnetic fields. But Alfvén had already come to realize that magnetism alone is not sufficient. Causative electric fields and currents are essential. The simulations failed.

In other words, it's not clear to me that the observations are being objectively interpreted.

This is just the creationist "God of the Gaps" argument all over again. Face it: the same physics which describes our Sun also describes other stars; they aren't radically different objects that just happen to look the same as ordinary stars.

Well, this is the exact point. It's the persuasive arguments *for* faraway electric stars that convinces me that there is likely an electrical explanation for our Sun too. This is not anything like creationism because I'm willing to be proven wrong. I just am not impressed with the evidence that has been offered by the astrophysicists for BB Theory or stellar evolution. Stellar evolution has been observed to be violated for various stars and even for the same star on multiple occasions.

One of the most convincing observations that I've read about is the European Space Agency's XMM-Newton X-ray observatory's imaging of a star-forming region called R Corona Australis (http://www.thunderbolts.info/tpod/2005/arch05/050 304starbirth.htm [thunderbolts.info] ):

Based on their model, astronomers had assumed that the cloud was "between 10,000 to 100,000 years into the process of gathering itself together". Its temperature was estimated at 400 degrees below zero Fahrenheit (minus 240 Celsius). Traditional theory says that millions of years will pass before the cloud has collapsed sufficiently to "ignite the nuclear fusion" of a new star.

Investigators had not anticipated anything comparable to the events they observed. Extremely high energies were at work, strong enough to produce X-rays--something that could never occur in an inactive and diffuse cloud in space: " The detection of X-rays from the cold stellar precursor surprised astronomers," states a report by SPACE.com. "The detection of X-rays this early indicates that gravity alone is not the only force shaping young stars," said Kenji Hamaguchi, a NASA-funded researcher at the Goddard Space Flight Center.

The gravity-driven universe is, of course, the bedrock of popular cosmology. Now it has failed another test. "The observations reveal that matter is falling toward the core 10 times faster than gravity could account for," the report states. According to Michael Corcoran of NASA Goddard, a co-author on the report, "The X-ray emission shows that forces appear to be accelerating matter to high speeds, heating regions of this cold gas cloud to 100 million degrees Fahrenheit".

That's obviously not a minor error and an objective person might begin to seriously doubt this theory of gravitational collapse.

There is no actual Electric Universe theory; there is just a hodge-podge of loosely connected vague suggestions applied to everything from meteorology to stellar physics to cosmology, using proposed mechanisms that are completely disparate, other than all having something to do with electromagnetism.

I don't consider that the fault of the theory or its proponents. It's unfortunately the natural result of focusing so heavily on one particular cosmology to the exclusion of most others.

You can poke holes in EU Theory and I can poke holes in the dominant paradigms. We could go on forever like this. If you're not interested in learning about EU Theory or if you have decided that BB Theory is true, then I recommend that you just move on. There's nothing that I can explain to you that would probably change your mind.

um ya (1)

jrwr00 (1035020) | more than 7 years ago | (#17196536)

Why cant they just send them up there with the proper shielding in the first place?

Re:um ya (1)

timtwobuck (833954) | more than 7 years ago | (#17196612)

weight: every pound lofted into orbit costs more money: direct cost of the installation & materials of said shield effectiveness: do we have something sufficient that would not hinder the mission critical items aboard the sat.?

Re:um ya (2, Interesting)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 7 years ago | (#17199574)

Why cant they just send them up there with the proper shielding in the first place?

Because (in addition to the weight issue) proper shielding for solar mass ejection events makes damage from cosmic radiation FAR WORSE. The small number of horrendous-energy particles, absent shielding, mainly pass through tissue causing litte damage. But run them through a "shield" and each kicks out a storm of lower (but still high) energy charged particles that are going slow enough to each cause a LOT of interactions in tissue.

To shield against cosmics you need a mountain (though an atmosphere does an OK job). So it's normally better to keep spacecraft walls thin and let them shine through. But that leaves you unshielded against coronal mass ejections.

So when the sun kicks up you shelter, and accept the temporary increase in exposure to secondary cosmic radiation to avoid the massive increase in exposure to a solar storm. Out of the bonfire, into the hot tub.

But you want to BE in the hot tub when the bonfire starts, rather than be out on a spacewalk or up to your ears in some half-assembled space-station project. Thus the importance of prediction.

News Flash: Evidence of Space Warming (4, Funny)

aquatone282 (905179) | more than 7 years ago | (#17196570)

Researchers have found evidence that human-based carbon emissions are causing a 0.000001% increase in background radiation throughout the known universe. This man-made change will cause the extinction of life-forms on other worlds sometime in the next 50 billion years.

Al Gore will address the United Nations at 1 p.m. with a new 123-slide PowerPoint presentation outlining the new taxes that must be implemented immediately to stop Space Warming.

ROFL! (1)

Mr. Firewall (578517) | more than 7 years ago | (#17196964)

Mod parent up!

Warning time? (1)

Non-CleverNickName (1027234) | more than 7 years ago | (#17196634)

After RTFA, I'm curious as to how far these "forecasts" would stretch.

Even if a giant solar flare was predicted quickly and accurately, unless it was predicted early enough to give us a 10 minute warning before arrival, we're screwed.

...Come to think of it, even if we get a 10 minute warning of a solar flare heading our way, what exactly would be able to do about it? Still seems like we're screwed, we'll just know about it a little sooner...

Re:Warning time? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17196694)

even if we get a 10 minute warning of a solar flare heading our way, what exactly would be able to do about it?

You could premptively shoot yourself in the head to avoid the pain of being irradiated to death.

Re:Warning time? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17198192)

Solar flares are only predicted in terms of "chance of occurring", e.g. right now there is a 10% chance of an X class flare within the next 24 hours, according to spaceweather.com. We know they happen almost immediately after they happen, based on the initial radiation burst, which is best observed by satellites in space, as fairly little of it reaches Earth. Well, it obviously takes 8 minutes for the radiation to reach us (or to reach our satellites and then their readings to reach us).

We can see the associated CME approaching anywhere from something like 15 minutes to (more typically) a day or so before its effects reach Earth, and can include disruption of communications, satellites, electrical equipment etc., some of which can be protected by switching it off.

Re:Warning time? (1)

bizard (691544) | more than 7 years ago | (#17199784)

I actually sat in on a lecture a few months ago by a scientist in Berkeley (don't remember where he was actually from) whose model was also accurately predicting space weather. He showed us 300 minutes of simulation and then showed us what the sun actually did during that time period and they matched very closely, so theoretically he could predict 300 minutes into the future. However, when asked how much computer time was spent to get those 300 minutes he said, "3 months...on a 2000CPU machine".

He mentioned the Johns Hopkins group and said that they were much closer to realtime (still behind) but that their model was simpler...I don't know whose model was more accurate.

Embarassment (1)

bizard (691544) | more than 7 years ago | (#17199822)

Those were not 300 minutes of simulation, but 300 seconds, sorry.

Re:Warning time? (1)

tgd (2822) | more than 7 years ago | (#17201742)

Solar storms do not travel at the speed of light. A few hours or few days warning is a BIG deal. Large flares can knock out (and physically damage) power grids for example.

Warnings can save lives and a LOT of money.

Re:Warning time? (1)

scooter.higher (874622) | more than 7 years ago | (#17202112)

Should we put bags over our heads and lie on the floor?

Quite daily information (1)

Zappa (26961) | more than 7 years ago | (#17196638)

for HAMs...

As the space weather has a very big influence on HF propagation, information services about it have been available for many years.
Maybe thats one of the few groups who really use such information on a day to day basis, but at least we are quite aware of the problems wich can occur during a solar storm ....

73

Re:Quite daily information (1)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 7 years ago | (#17199722)

As the space weather has a very big influence on HF propagation, information services about it have been available for many years.
Maybe thats one of the few groups who really use such information on a day to day basis


If I recall correctly it was RCA's international radio message service (back before transatlantic phone cables) that started space weather prediction. Different space weather means different ionospheric conditions and different bands are open or closed at intercontinental distances. Once they got decent reliability they were able to save a BUNCH of money by scheduling maintainence vs. uptime on their transmitters, rather than building more redundant transmitters, to maintain adequate service during "bad weather".

why this is so hard (0)

ILuvRamen (1026668) | more than 7 years ago | (#17196662)

it's nearly impossible to predict all the stuff mentioned in the article. In fact, you can't even predict it when it already happened because most of what they mentioned travels at the speed of light. Let's say there was a space weatherman near the sun 8 minutes away at light speed. He detects a solar flare or big particle burst thingy or gamma ray burst or whatever coming from the sun and he radios back to Earth to give them a warning. But of course, the tranmission and the particles are traveling at the speed of light so the transmission doesn't get there in time. Better learn how to use subspace if it exists to transmit messages if they really want a nice 8 minute warning gauranteed.

Re:why this is so hard (2, Interesting)

uab21 (951482) | more than 7 years ago | (#17196752)

But of course, the tranmission and the particles are traveling at the speed of light so the transmission doesn't get there in time

Actually the particles are not travelling that fast, see http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/solarstorm_s peed_040614.html [space.com] which states

Potentially disruptive solar storms can't reach Earth in less than half a day, scientists have determined
So there should be time.

Re:why this is so hard (1)

ILuvRamen (1026668) | more than 7 years ago | (#17201598)

ionized particles that cause magnetic disruption and those lovely lights in the northern sky travel a lot slower but bursts of large amounts of gamma radiation and increased light across the whole spectrum travels at the speed of light and that's even more dangerous. Didn't you watch that one MARS movie where they get hit by the gamma ray burst? They get totally trashed then the robot goes psycho and stuff...at least I think that was the same movie. Anyway, gamma rays are scary and they travel fast so you still can't warn about them in time.

Re:why this is so hard (1)

uab21 (951482) | more than 7 years ago | (#17203064)

Yeah, I saw the movie [imdb.com] - rather liked the kinematics on the robot dog, or whatever it was - science sucked somewhat less than usual (somewhat). Gamma will travel at c, but I thought that the point of this particular article was the resoloution of some particle calcs to predict aurorae and such. Probably need an auxilliary study to worry about the c-speed component stuff... baby steps.

Re:why this is so hard (1)

Ajehals (947354) | more than 7 years ago | (#17196844)

I would have thought that predicting events that have not yet occurred would negate the need for FTL communication. Being able to predict future activity based on current activity would be useful, although any predictions would have to be accurate and timely, i.e. time for communication to get back to earth + time required to do something about it.

Re:why this is so hard (2, Informative)

timtwobuck (833954) | more than 7 years ago | (#17196852)

According to wikipedia, solar flares & the solar wind travel at around 1 million km/h.

Just for reference, the speed of light is 1 billion km/h. We may not need to worry about subspace just yet.

Back to the wikipedia with you... (1)

mmell (832646) | more than 7 years ago | (#17197454)

TFA isn't about monitoring the sun and radioing warnings of CME's/flares/etc. TFA is about predicting CME's/flares/etc. and taking appropriate action before it's too late. The fact that the solar wind only moves at something like .001c only buys us eight minutes tops to get a warning out. Predictive science, however, may give us a day, days or even weeks to "batten down the space-hatches".

A minor correction... (1)

mmell (832646) | more than 7 years ago | (#17197692)

it takes eight minutes tops for the warning to get from the Sun to the Earth.

Current situation: monitoring nearer the Sun may get is a day or less warning; new situation: prediction potentially gives us days or even weeks to react.

You avoid lightning by looking at clouds. (2, Interesting)

ScentCone (795499) | more than 7 years ago | (#17196870)

But of course, the tranmission and the particles are traveling at the speed of light so the transmission doesn't get there in time

You can't outrun lightning on the golf course, either. But you can check the radar before you book a tee-time. I suppose the point is that there are some indicators of when we will have some fast-as-light (or very-fast-particles) crap coming our way - based on other behaviors - and that, like predicting earthquakes (another thing you can't outrun), we can still take a few precautions when things look a little dodgy.

Re:why this is so hard (1)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 7 years ago | (#17199760)

The more you know about the mechanisms, the farther back in time you can identify an event that may lead to a problem, and thus the more warning you get.

Tomorrow's weather: (4, Funny)

Tribbles (218927) | more than 7 years ago | (#17196666)

Cold again, with a distinct lack of atmosphere.

X-ray bursts (1)

LM741N (258038) | more than 7 years ago | (#17196676)

For the longest time, when my laptop wasn't being used, I would have it connected via serial port to my Medcom Geiger-Muller counter. I was trying to see if I could detect any spike in background radiation when a solar flare occurred. (the initial event is an X-ray burst that deionizes the ionosphere) I never did have the laptop on when one hit.

Today's weather on the sun (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17196690)

News Anchor: And now for the long-range forcast, take it away Chris.

Chris the weatherman: hot and sunny today, more of the same this week, and no break from the heat for a few million years.

arecibo (2, Insightful)

Speare (84249) | more than 7 years ago | (#17196710)

Sadly, although Arecibo Radio Observatory in Puerto Rico does a lot of "space weather" kinds of analysis, its funding is in danger of being reduced to begin paying for other observational projects that are still in development. I just visited ARO last week, it's mindboggling to look at the spherical primary reflector which covers nearly twenty acres of land, and to think it might be mothballed in the near future, just as people realize the importance of space weather in their daily lives.

Re:arecibo - some links (1)

SpaceLifeForm (228190) | more than 7 years ago | (#17200590)

Link [azcentral.com]

Link [spacedaily.com]

Wouldn't you know it.. (1)

Rob T Firefly (844560) | more than 7 years ago | (#17196780)

You know you're going to get space rain if you've just washed your space car or watered your space lawn.

Space Madness (1)

Five Bucks! (769277) | more than 7 years ago | (#17197302)

Whereas normal Earth weather can produce Seasonal Affective Disorder [wikipedia.org] , can space weather cause Space Madness [wikipedia.org] ?.

Sorry in advance.

Re:Space Madness (1)

toddhisattva (127032) | more than 7 years ago | (#17197678)

Related to madness in space: repeatedly changing course from Altair VI to Vulcan and back can make you spacesick (pronounced "spessik").

Why the detail? (1)

wximagery95 (993253) | more than 7 years ago | (#17197488)

Hopefully this will allow us to predict when and where these extreme forces of magnetic flux occur so that we can prepare to repair satellites or shut them down for safety reasons

About the only thing you can do when the sun burps out a bunch of fast moving particals is fold the satellite up (solar panels) and configure the electronics for minimal use. Then you pray it doesn't get hit or take damage, but you can't shut them down. I'm not sure DirecTV customers, among others, would like this. Other than that, there's not much you can do. You can't move it because 1) where would you move it to? and, 2) that would use too much fuel greatly reducing the satellites life. When they run low on fuel, most super-sync them or rocket them out to space using what little fuel is left. Letting them fall out of orbit or forcing them down to Earth is not an accepted practice anymore (too much liability/risk).

So I'm not sure we need fancy weather reports on space weather.

Re:Why the detail? (1)

MurphyZero (717692) | more than 7 years ago | (#17203704)

Bringing them back in is the best method for LEO satellites. Super sync is the best for geo and semi-synch as it takes too much fuel to bring them back in, fuel that could extend life for months and probably years. The risk is small, particularly if 1) enough fuel is budgeted to easily target an ocean impact and 2) if the vehicle is composed of ablatable materials (aluminum for example instead of titanium). MIR was the biggest concern due to its size. The Shuttle debris, also large in mass, was a somewhat lucky event (check the CAIB report for estimates). Part of its survival was the aerodynamic surfaces. The typical LEO satellite will ablate quite a bit. Still a risk, but less than the initial launch was.

There are some things a satellite can do during a space weather event, but luck and prayer is involved. Safe modes for example. The key there is to avoid some action that starts irrevocable actions from beginning automatically (for example, the on board computer having memory changes due to high energy events, think it is a high spin and start thrusting to control it.

It's been a while since I had my course on this stuff, but the semi synch and polar satellites are among the most disadvantaged (GPS and regular weather satellites)

Now having said all that, space weather reports are more useful terrestrially than for on orbit satellites. Communications can be highly dependent on space weather as hams have known for a long time. Google search on "GPS degradation due to space weather" shows numerous hits. AF regularly reports on expected GPS accuracy around the world, and space weather is just one consideration.

This is nice but (1)

sharkey (16670) | more than 7 years ago | (#17198130)

I'm less concerned about space weather, than I am about SPACE MADNESS.



Oh, my beloved Ice Cream Bar...

maybe interesting, hardly revolutionary (1)

obaloney (1038568) | more than 7 years ago | (#17198648)

While I'm happy to see a /. posting on space weather, the linked article at space.com is more of an exercise in the perils of science writing than anything else. So don't stop the presses, don't phone your mom... What makes science writing tough is that normal-sounding words have precise meanings to those who are familiar with a field. These precise meanings aren't conveyed by normal-sounding synonyms. The first clue that this article has more enthusiasm than technical accuracy is the phrase "magnetic charge". Ain't no such thing. "Magnetic polarity" is better. "Magnetic fields that are aligned or anti-aligned with the Earth's dipole field" is better still, for the purposes of the article. Similarly, the article talks about the "merging" of magnetic fields, which is fine. But "reconnection" is the term routinely used by space-science types. It conveys the extra meaning that terrestrial magnetic field lines change topology when they interact with the solar wind: from dipole-like (both ends connected to Earth) to solar-wind-like ("open", or closed at very large distances). Such field lines reconnect again in the magnetotail, on the far side from the Sun. And what's all this about "the solar wind's electric field?" The solar wind's conductivity is far too high to support any appreciable electric field (in a co-moving frame). Rather, the observed near-Earth currents are generated via a dynamo process, which occurs as the solar wind plasma moves across and through the Earth's dipole-like magnetic field. The article makes it sound as though the Earth's dipole field changes as much as the solar wind. This is just plain wrong. The only variations of the Earth's field that matter much are the daily spin of the dipole around the Earth's rotational axis, and its yearly trip around the Sun. In intrinsic strength, Earth's magnetic field changes slowly over centuries. By contrast, the solar wind plasma can jump in speed, density, and and magnetic field intensity by an order of magnitude or more, over a time scale measured in minutes. Gusts in the solar wind can and do displace the boundary between Earth-dominated space and solar-wind-dominated space, sometimes by a large margin, but such movement is not caused by anything the Earth is doing. Finally, the article commits the cardinal sin of omitting any reference or link to a publication to get the full story. My guess is that if one were able to look up such a reference, it would turn out that the authors have simply cooked up some new empirical formula to guesstimate the reconnection rate from various input parameters. If so, this would be a useful advance to space physics, but it wouldn't represent a revolution in our understanding, as suggested by the sensational headline. This shows another peril of science writing: if a writer isn't a quick study, or lacks sufficient background, it's hard for that person to make a proper assessment of the importance of the work being covered. Still... I'd rather see spotty coverage than no coverage. Just wanted to set the record straight on things that I found misleading in the article.

Space, who the smeg cares?! (1)

Micklewhite (1031232) | more than 7 years ago | (#17198906)

'Oh what's it doing out in space today Roy?'
'What besides just sitting there?'
'Yes, what's it like out there?'
'Well since I'm a scientist by trade I don't actually have the poetic capacity to put that god forsaken abyss into any sort of abstract meteorological context.. So I'm gonna have to say.. Today the forecast looks like... Horrifying abyss with lethal radiation, with a chance of being winged by a screwdriver that we left out there from the last mission.'
'I see, and what would you reccomend'
'For what?'
'Going outside'
'Wear a Space Suit'
'Well thanks for the heads up. I was thinking of going out there in my bathing suit!'
'Hey, you were the one who asked me! As I recall you're the one who's got the degrees in astronomy and astrophysics! I'm just a bloody Mathematician, if you don't have the common sense to wear a bloody space suit when you go out then you deserve what you get!'
'Oh ho ho, good comeback! I deserve what I get. What's that now? A three variable co-efficiant. Don't make me laugh!'
'What? You asked me a stupid question! What the hell did you expect?! I'm trying to record data on the eradiation limits of subspace particles and you just float up and start yammering away like I don't have anything better to do!'
'You know what your problem is?! You just can't handle the idea of being on the same mission as a woman! That's you're problem! You're intimidated by me!'
'Intimi-what? You've got some gall. Why don't you just put on the bloody space suit and go fix the god damned space telescope! I'm tired of putting up with this crap!'
'You know what?! Maybe I will!'
'GOOD THEN GO!'
'I'M GOING!!'
'GOOD!'
'GOOD!'
'I HATE YOU!'
'I HATE YOU TOO!!'
*SLAM*

That's how the tell the weather up in space.

Summary a little misleading (2, Informative)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 7 years ago | (#17199376)


The merging occurs way out in space, at a spot between the Earth and Sun, roughly 40,000 miles above our planet's surface.

40,000 miles isn't really that far, relative to what we consider "home". Geosynchronous satellites orbit at roughly 26,000 miles, and the moon orbits at more than 200,000 miles above earths surface.

In comparison to the average Sun-Earth distance is 93 million miles, so 40,000 miles is .04% of the distance. If your neighborhood grocery store is 3 miles away, .04% of the distance would be 6 feet.

The Space Weather forecast for next week. (3, Funny)

autophile (640621) | more than 7 years ago | (#17201076)

Space Weather advisory week 2006.49:

Sunday: Highs in the upper -270K, dark. Chance of atmospheric distrubance: 0%

Monday: Highs in the upper -270K, dark. Chance of atmospheric distrubance: 0%

Tuesday: Highs in the upper -270K, dark. Chance of atmospheric distrubance: 0%

Wednesday: Highs in the upper -270K, dark. Chance of atmospheric distrubance: 0%

Thursday: Highs in the upper -270K, dark. Chance of atmospheric distrubance: 0%

Friday: Highs in the upper -270K, dark. Chance of atmospheric distrubance: 0%. Occasional space probe passing through.

Saturday: Highs in the upper -270K, dark. Chance of atmospheric distrubance: 0%.

NASA style? (1)

QuantumFTL (197300) | more than 7 years ago | (#17219988)

Highs in the upper -270K
What is this, NASA style units? 0K = absolute zero, so I think you meant C :)
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