Here, Spot! C’mere, Spot! By Stephanie Osborn

Here, Spot! C’mere, Spot!

By Stephanie Osborn

Written July 4, 2016


A late Happy Independence Day to you all! As I write this, it IS Independence Day. Casa Osborn plans on some good summertime food, and maybe fireworks this evening, if the weather cooperates (storms are expected) and we can fight through the crowds to the display.

So…I’m back, folks. And I’m talking more about the Sun. It’s time for an update, because some slightly unusual stuff has been happening.

According to NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center (and per my own observations), the Sun has been unusually quiet for over a month now. In June, there were two periods of zero observed sunspots — a short one of four days that ran from the 3rd through the 6th, and another that started on the 23rd and is continuing (total of 11 days and counting).

More, though the STEREO spacecraft were lagging badly, there seemed to be no real activity on the solar far side, either. The problem is that the two STEREO craft have to be angled to view the far side, in order to get telemetry from them. So there are periods of time when we simply can’t get data from them because they’re BEHIND the Sun as viewed from Earth, and intervals on either side of THAT when we might get data downloaded once in every week. So for this current batch of spotless days, we had a farside image from June 24th, and one from July 2nd, and that was all we had to work with. But of the 3 spot groups STEREO saw on the 24th, none have rotated around to the near side — and the longest interval expected for that was 11 days. It’s the 11th day, and no spots have rotated around. I think it’s safe to say that we went a good part of those 11 days with no sunspots, anywhere on the solar photosphere.

That does seem to be changing, as of last night…maybe. (For whatever it’s worth, astronomical days are counted as beginning at midnight in Greenwich, England. Except it isn’t actually measured at Greenwich anymore; it uses an atomic clock set to what is now called UTC, or Universal Time Coordinated. At any rate, that places it at around 6pm the evening before in the Central time zone.) As of 1:58am CDT 4 July 2016, there is one sunspot group on the farside, another possibly forming, and a teeny-tiny spot group forming near the equator on the nearside, pushing toward the western limb of the solar disk. Boulder has still not given it an official spot number, however, and the Boulder sunspot number (one of two sunspot counts, and the only one that hasn’t been tweaked to try to eliminate certain “inconvenient” periods) still rests at 0. If it holds up and doesn’t immediately deteriorate again, then it’ll get an official group number, and the Boulder number might just go up.

I am thinking it may well be a done deal, however, that the next solar minimum is gonna come early, and be deep. And possibly longish. Will it go into an extended minimum? Well, it’s not supposed to…not yet. Let’s get back to that shortly.

Many of you may have heard of the relatively new model for solar activity, dubbed the double-dynamo model.[1] Since the Sun is a giant ball of rotating plasma — charged particles — this effectively constitutes a current loop. A coil of electrified wire without the wire, if you will. And those generate magnetic fields. Hey presto, the Sun has a magnetic field, and it is, very loosely, bipolar — a bar magnet. But where it gets complicated is that the Sun IS a big ball of plasma — it isn’t a rigid body. Instead, each individual ion is obeying Kepler’s Laws of orbital motion[2], if we neglect the effects of collisions between ions — of which there are many, so it isn’t negligible by any means. This additional effect would dump us into the realm of magnetohydrodynamics, but is not that pertinent to our current discussion, so I’m not going to unduly complicate the thing and give y’all a headache. Kepler’s Laws are:

  1. The orbit of a planet is an ellipse with the Sun at one of the two foci. (A circle is a special case of an ellipse, where the foci merge.)
  2. A line segment joining a planet and the Sun sweeps out equal areas during equal intervals of time.
  3. The square of the orbital period of an orbiting body is proportional to the cube of the semi-major axis of its orbit.

Now, what that boils down to, for our purposes here, is that the different parts of the Sun do NOT all rotate at the same rate. Unlike Earth, a rigid body all of whose parts sweep out the same angular velocity, the Sun…doesn’t. The volumes around the core rotate at a different speed than the photosphere; the polar regions rotate at a different speed than the equatorial regions. So if we look at the magnetic field lines being generated by that bar magnet, we see a couple things happening. One, that bar magnet can get really, I mean REALLY, distorted. And two, the field lines have a tendency to wrap up and up and up, over and over again, around and around the rotational axis. Over a period of time they can get tightly compressed in some areas, and then magnetic reconnection can occur — the field lines snap and then reattach someplace else. This generates literal but invisible kinks, snarls, and knots in the magnetic field. When these reach the “surface,” or photosphere, they form sunspots. When the reconnects occur in the photosphere, we see flares.

This is a rather complex dynamo model.[3] And it predicted solar activity…to a point. But recently researchers proposed a double dynamo[4] — one dynamo “located” in the lower regions of the convective layer (the Sun’s “mantle”), and another a little way below the photosphere. More, while they have almost exactly the same period of variation, they don’t have QUITE the same period, and this causes them to go “out of phase” periodically. The model predicts extended minima as a result (which the old, single dynamo model did not). There is support for it in the magnetic data obtained from the Sun by the various space-based solar observing platforms.

The data indicate that we may be in a downward swing from an extended maximum. According to Wikipedia (which in this case lists numerous legitimate astronomy technical journals to support the statement, and I am quite familiar with all of said journals), “Sunspot numbers over the past 11,400 years have been reconstructed using Carbon-14-based dendroclimatology. The level of solar activity beginning in the 1940s is exceptional — the last period of similar magnitude occurred around 9,000 years ago (during the warm Boreal period). The Sun was at a similarly high level of magnetic activity for only ~10% of the past 11,400 years. Almost all earlier high-activity periods were shorter than the present episode.”[5]

We’re also currently on the downward swing from Solar Max toward minimum in Solar Cycle 24. “The [double-dynamo] model predicts that the magnetic wave pairs will become increasingly offset during Cycle 25, which peaks in 2022. Then during Cycle 26, which covers the decade from 2030-2040, the two waves will become exactly out of synch, cancelling one another out. This will cause a significant reduction in solar activity. ‘In cycle 26, the two waves exactly mirror each other, peaking at the same time but in opposite hemispheres of the Sun. We predict that this will lead to the properties of a “Maunder minimum”,’ says Zharkova.”[6]

But the current cycle is starting to diverge even from the 97+%-accurate double-dynamo model; though the model indicates a reduced number, it doesn’t predict a minimum until around 2018-19. But we are already dropping well below all predicted values. The 10.7cm radio flux curve is also slightly below predicted, indicating that at least in some frequencies, solar output is below norms.[7] This could mean a much steeper descent to an earlier Solar Min than forecast… or the Sun could hiccup, and spots will appear again. But the fact that the solar nearside was spotless from June 3-6 (4 days) and again from June 23-July 2 (11 days and counting as I annotate this)[8] is certainly significant. It also yields a mean sunspot number for the entire month of June of just over 16.

[Monthly and yearly sunspot averages: “monthly average” is the mean of the daily means; “yearly average” is the mean of the monthly means.[9]]

What all this means is anybody’s guess and probably watching and waiting is the best thing. However, Dr. J. K. Woosley and I are not convinced that the Sun has only two dynamos; this would not completely account for the complexity seen in the extended sunspot/solar activity record, which extends back (one way and another) for nearly 1000 years. Notable are the nearly back-to-back-to-back extended minima of the Wolf, Spörer, Maunder, and Dalton Minima.

There is decent evidence for additional extended or “Grand” minima, going back many millennia,[10] as I already mentioned. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Homeric ~950BC-800BC (possibly continued until as late as 720BC; possibly two overlapping extended minima)
    • delta ~410yr or 330yr
  • Unnamed 1 ~390BC-330BC
    • delta ~980yr
  • Unnamed 2 ~650-720AD
    • delta ~320yr
  • Oort ~1040-1080AD
    • delta ~200yr
  • Wolf ~1280-1350AD
    • delta ~110yr
  • Spörer ~1460-1550AD
    • delta ~95yr
  • Maunder ~1645-1715AD
    • delta ~75yr
  • Dalton ~1790-1830AD
    • delta to present ~186yr
    • delta from Dalton to double-dynamo forecast minimum ~210yr

These “Grand” or extended minima can be traced back past 9100BC using various means, for more than 11,000 years of data.[11]

My consideration, upon studying that list: Shouldn’t only 2 dynamos produce much more regular spacing of extended minima?

I turned to my resident physics expert consultant and sometime beta reader, Dr. J. K. Woosley again. (He and I go all the way back to grad school together, where we worked in the joint Astronomy & Physics Department; we are old and dear friends, adoptive siblings of a sort. And while I do have a degree in physics, sometimes I want a different set of brain cells than mine to corroborate — or disprove — my conclusions. He’s good for that.) So I sent him the double-dynamo paper — not because he hadn’t already read it, but because I suspected he’d need to refresh his memory, and I had it to hand so he didn’t have to hunt for it. And I sent him the papers on the paleoastronomical reconstructions of extended minima…and I asked him for a quick-scan opinion. In other words, “Don’t spend a ton of time running calculations; just give me your educated opinion.” And he replied the next day. (I’m used to most of my replies being the next day; not infrequently I send the queries at 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning! So okay, it’s NOT the next day for the respondent, but it is for me!)

“At the level of a quick skim (all I can afford today), the occurrence of all three extended minima in the last millennium, combined with a current highest-ever solar maximum, do not seem to me to be supported by a two cycle model. I think a three cycle model is the minimum that would be supported, and if I recall correctly, 5 could be supported. Conversely, everything before the Maunder minimum is based on climatological surrogates for sunspot activity (e.g. trapped carbon-14). Determining solar activity trends based on modulation of C-14 production by increased cosmic ray flux during extended minima requires a number of assumptions.[12] Untangling the bias of those assumptions is more than a day’s work for a non-expert.”[13]

Now, all that said, there is evidently no obvious magnetic data to support even one additional dynamo in the model. That doesn’t mean it isn’t there, though — if it has a long enough period, it may be difficult to recognize, for instance. And the current double-dynamo model still misses out on a good 3% of the observations, and doesn’t fully account for the irregularity of the extended minima occurrences.

So my overall conclusion is this: I believe we have not yet managed to fully model the Sun sufficient to accurately predict all of its cyclic behavior. I think that there is at least one additional dynamo hidden in there someplace. And that, in turn, is going to affect the start/stop times of the next extended minimum. To go back to one of the statements I made early in this article, and to which I promised to return: are we about to go into an extended minimum? To this question, I say, “Possibly.” If indeed there are additional dynamos, the onset of the next extended minimum may not wait fifteen more years to start. It is certain that the last three sunspot cycles have been diminishing in intensity; if this trend continues, it may start sooner. If the Sun continues flatlining, as it has in the last month, it may start REALLY soon.

What does that mean for us on Earth? Well, historically and prehistorically, there is a correlation between solar activity and worldwide climate. Solar activity goes up, worldwide temps tend to go up. Solar activity goes down, worldwide temps tend to go down. Slap multiple minima running for half a millennium only a century or less apart, worldwide temps tend to go down a lot. Now, correlation does not necessarily imply causation. But it doesn’t disprove it, either. As I pointed out the last time I visited Sarah’s blog, there are a LOT of very interesting coupling mechanisms between our atmosphere and what’s going on in space, attached to a lot of very complex equilibrium cycles, and we are nowhere close to having modeled all of that yet.

So let me end by saying that I’m not the only astronomer to be thinking about this. One popular science blog specifically asked one of the double-dynamo researchers her opinion on the hyperbolic statements made by the media upon the news release of the model.

“‘We didn’t mention anything about the weather change, but I would have to agree that possibly you can expect it,’ she informed IFLScience…Zharkova compared the Maunder Minimum with the one that her team predicted to occur around 15 years into the future. The next minimum will likely be a little bit shorter than the one in the 17th century, only lasting a maximum of three solar cycles (around 30 years).

“The conditions during this next predicted minimum will still be chilly: ‘It will be cold, but it will not be this ice age when everything is freezing like in the Hollywood films,’ Zharkova chuckled.”[14]

My recommendation? Maybe start stocking up on firewood and long underwear.

It can’t hurt.

~Stephanie Osborn



[2] See for more information.


[4] ApJ:;


[5] ; you can go to Wikipedia to obtain the nearly-half-dozen technical article links upon which this statement was based.





[10] A&Ap:


[12] (Sorry for the bitly link, guys; the original wrapped through four full lines!)

[13] Dr. J. K. Woosley, personal communiqué


308 thoughts on “Here, Spot! C’mere, Spot! By Stephanie Osborn

  1. Stephanie, do you have any thoughts on how a solar minimum will affect maned space travel?
    It seems that flares are the worst event for astronauts, and how are they impacted by weaker solar activity? Also, since the Sun’s magnetic field becomes weaker, it allows more cosmic radiation to reach interplanetary space.
    Can we expect a ‘golden age’ for space exploration, or a ‘dark age’ where both manned and unmanned are constantly being impacted by increased radiation, or (since unlike Obama, life has more than two choices) are these impacts all a wash and it will be business as usual?

    1. Raises hand:

      Wouldn’t that be more dependent on available thrust? If thrust is plentiful and cheap, spacecraft could be flying water tanks in crew quarters in the center, Another option would be to capture comets or asteroids, put a base deep beneath the surface, and set them on an orbit that brings it past Earth and the solar system object of interest on a regular basis, and use smaller ships as transports.

      1. All good mitigation strategies. But still, consider the matter as a statistical inference; lower overall radiation means fewer cancers, less instrument damage, less shielding means even faster thrust.
        Personally, I’m all for nuclear powered reaction-less thrusters, but I’ll take whatever I can get.

        1. Unfortunately, lower sunspot activity means lower solar wind. That might sound like a good thing, but (and I just double-checked here) the solar wind doesn’t have much penetration inside the spacecraft.

          But (as I was just reminded by Stephanie last weekend) the solar wind does something else – it partially blocks cosmic rays, which are far more dangerous. So, on the whole, it’s probably a less healthy time to be in space during low activity periods on the sun.

          1. This. Because cosmic rays (which aren’t really rays, they’re ionized particles) are much MUCH more energetic than the solar wind. They penetrate, and then they interact and produce showers of ionized particles in our atmosphere. They’ll do the same thing in a spacecraft, regardless of what you have wrapped around you. You’d have to have some seriously thick shielding around you to block it.

            More, Dr. Woosley pointed out to me, after I wrote this article, that the cosmic ray flux levels are indeed increasing. This indicates a decreasing solar wind effect, which is additional evidence for a drop into an extended minimum.

            1. It is also well worth realizing that we KNOW that cosmic rays produce condensation nuclei in our atmosphere. What we do NOT know is how this actually affects global cloud cover. It is a very complex feedback mechanism that no one has yet modeled, let alone modeled adequately.

              And yet it is directly driven by solar activity.

              So right there is proof positive that “the Sun does not drive climate” is hogwash.

              1. I understand that CERN demonstrated the condensation activity with high energy particles. As for cloud cover, I read that 9/11/01 provided demonstration of the temperature impact of contrails, as the first few days, little or no aircraft flew over the United States. I understand that was a wash, without contrails there was more heat gain in the day and more heat loss in the night. Other than trends, no quantitative measures were determined.
                Thanks to you and Dr. Woosley for the info. I was aware that there were changes, but not the direction they would take (better or worse).

                1. Oh, you cannot compare the clouds produced from contrails to the clouds produced by cosmic rays. They do not even occur in the same levels of the atmosphere. That’s part of the problem. Think possibly noctilucent clouds, etc.

                  Lookit here and you’ll see what I mean. This photo was taken by the ISS, and you can see the normal weather clouds in the orange & white layers, down low…and the noctilucent clouds, very high, almost in the black layers. And this is not false-color imagery.

          2. Just in case, it would probably be best to send out astronauts in teams of four, with a ratio of three males to one female.

            Wouldn’t want anything fantastic happening.

              1. Yeah, just my luck — I had higher aspirations, but instead I got bitten by a radioactive wallaby and now my brain bounces about all over the place.

                  1. Hem. Please. ONLY my close personal friends know my gender.

                    I go by The Wallaby.

                    (Tsk – I really must learn how to HTML tag for quavery letters — not that WP would support it. WP Delenda Est, and Posner is still a moron.)

                    1. If Posner moonlights for WP, it would explain a great deal about both. “Hey, I have a great idea! Let’s get rid of this thing that no one [every blog commenter and blogger except that guy in the corner over there] is using and change this around and call it an improvement!”

  2. Firewood and long underwear are good.

    Burning Greens on that firewood to keep the rest of us warm and them out of positions of power that cause us to try to use solar power to get through a minimum: Better Thing.

    We can’t afford their nonsense.

        1. Like all good science/musicians, this has been updated for additional data and later developments in theory.

          Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

          1. What do you do when the known facts change…? Yes.

            So much for those who want to argue ‘The Science Is Settled.’ I guess this is why they are fighting so hard to keep the science they are attached to unquestioned.

    1. Aren’t they awfully wet? Perhaps we need to cut them up and let them cure outside for a year or so before burning them…

      1. The bodies perhaps, but their heads are so full of fat that they should burn quite nicely as is.

  3. Interesting. I have found Svalgaard’s holding forth about climate not being affected by sun amusing considering how little we know and how poor our records really are. Of course, I suspect everything is far more complicated than we realise with a lot feedback loops – or the happy ‘accident’ of a livable planet would simply not be.

    1. If you think it amusing, you must suffer fools more gladly than I am willing. It is, after all, the ultimate source of climate, and at least when I was little it was classed as a ‘variable’ star.

        1. I find amusing the greenies who run about thinking they can “save the world”, when the climate is going to do whatever it’s going to do with massive indifference to our feel-good programs.

          Mind you, whatever the effects of a serious minima, a weak economy will cope more poorly than a robust one. Which is true even if they were correct about AGW. But hey, if they’re that impractical, they’ll freeze in the dark, for lack of ability to collect data and interpret it without bias, and make the best decisions on a personal basis.

          1. I find those greenies more sadly pathetic than amusing. I find not at all amusing the people exploiting their ignorance to terrorize them into letting watermelons control the world.

            I do find it convenient that they have enabled us to identify people lacking any concept of science’s working by their cries that “The science is settled!”

                  1. You might not be interested in political debates, but political debates are interested in you. For one side of the debate, science is only useful as a means to power and those who do not conform must be silenced.

                    1. Oh, don’t make the mistake of thinking I don’t know what’s going on, or that I don’t take action, simply because I choose not to PARTICIPATE IN public discussion of same. I research my politics just as much and just as thoroughly as I research my science. I know what all the big hot button issues are, just as much as you do. And I take action as I see fit. I simply choose to keep my personal politics private.

                    2. Don’t forget the hysteria over the Asian square watermelons. Clearly a sign of GMO according to Greens. Clearly a sign of a watermelon grown in a box according to the farmers.

              1. Green on the outside, Red on the inside.

                IE People claiming to want to “Protect the Environment” but are more interested in “Leftish Governmental Power”.

              2. Green on the outside, Red on the inside. I think that the watermelons are just after personal political power, not true believers in Marxism. Some might just be brainwashed idiots.

          2. And I’d be happy to let them, if they were the only ones doing the freezing.

      1. Donald ‘amusing’ in the sense that I could see the man riding for a fall. He is the antithesis of ‘good science’ in that he was attempting to change facts to suit his narrative, and insisting absolutely that everything was now known and beyond question. I actually told him that was poor science.

        1. *snortsnort*
          This. So much this.

          Which is really why most of the astronomers and space scientists haven’t gotten that bent out of shape by it. Periodic events have a way of coming back around in their cycles, and we noes, yes we noes, when that happens, some folks are gonna be scramblin’…

          Just gotta wait long enough. That’s all.

          1. Plus Freeman Dyson determining that an increase of .01 inch per year of soil from the sand/clay into rich dark soil would offset the entire Man induced CO2.
            Then there is the natural winter-summer cycle, about 7ppm vs 2ppm/year of human additions.
            Then when heat transfers from the air (specific heat 1kJ/kg*K) and water (s.h. 4kJ/kg*K) and mass of air 5*10^18 kg and mass of water 1*10^21 kg, there is an awful lot of ‘sink’ in the oceans for excess heat.

            Of course, since ‘climate scientists’ can’t model these, they ignore them.

            1. Yes, and that’s why I always try to consider a reasonable lag for the solar effects to work themselves through the coupling mechanisms of multiple layers of equilibrium cycles.

              But the equilibrium cycles are far bigger in effect than the anthropic effects. The only thing they can’t adequately compensate are cosmic effects.

              It is, IMHO, really a very egocentric view, revealing a total lack of understanding of scale on a cosmic level…

              1. It is, IMHO, really a very egocentric view, revealing a total lack of understanding of scale on a cosmic level

                What else can you expect from malignant narcissists?

              2. Were the greenies but yapping gadflies one could legitimately ignore them.
                But their incessant ranting on AGW with their carbon credits, war on coal, antipathy for all fossil fuels, is not only damaging our economy, but it diverts attention and resources to serious study of real climate change.
                And make no mistake, climate change is real just ask the next woolly mammoth you meet. And it is very much in our best interest to study and understand the manifold causes, their effects, and what mitigations we might want to consider. But a certain segment of society has seized the issue as a way to manipulate people and gain power. And when their high blown theories based on flawed models come crashing down they will simply move on to the next crackpot cause du jour while the common people are left to pay the butcher’s bill.

                1. We need to boost the interest i phrenology — there are so many heads deserving of extra lumps.

                2. There are two great delusions about AGW that annoy me greatly: the outspoken one that we perfectly understand the climate, and can change it at our collective will, if only we can get all the governments on board; and the hidden one, where we understand the economies of all those countries, separately and combined, to the point that we can control people just as certainly as we can control the climate.

                  The problem with both is that both are chaotic system; indeed, the entire basis of the concerns about climate rest on the belief that, as a chaotic system, we can make a little change, and the system will explode in our faces. Neither climate nor societies are easily manipulated in a predictable way…yet AGW alarmists insist that we can make a few simple changes in societies, and fix the climate, without causing disastrous effects in one or both.

                  I think this could be best described as a “butterfly-squared” delusion.

      2. After seeing the above explanation of dynamos, why they exist, and how they create sunspots, I am hard-pressed to imagine a star that would NOT be at least borderline variable…

        Well, I can imagine one condition: that the star not rotate. I’m not sure why stars rotate (other than the stars that are the remains of supernovae–I would imagine most stars and planets to be eddies from the remains of the explosions) but I think the only way to prevent variability would be to eliminate rotation.

          1. *SNORT*

            You would think, wouldn’t you? But no, there are stars that have virtually NO spots. And yes, we’re still trying to figure those out, too.

            We really don’t have nearly as good a feel for how all that stuff works as you might think. Part of the problem involves: How do you find out what’s going on inside a celestial body that you can’t even get close to, because it’ll simply vaporize anything you send closer than a certain distance? It gets complicated, and mostly we have to look for things occurring that we can SEE, and then try to extrapolate from that. For instance, “starquakes” — seismic waves in stellar objects — can help us remotely, indirectly determine different layers in the Sun/a star, and approximately how far down they are. Things like that.

            What we CAN say is that these specific things happen, and it does these other things as a result. E.g. extended solar minima happen, and consequent to those, we have decreased energies going out into the solar system. Consequent to THAT, we have less solar energy being pumped into the outermost layers of our atmosphere, and into our magnetosphere. Consequent to THAT, we have INCREASED cosmic ray intrusion into the solar system. Consequent to THAT, we have increased cascading in our atmosphere, and consequent to that (although we don’t understand exactly how, or the precise outcome), we have affected cloud development.

    2. Formulated a different way: If it is so fragile and unstable that small variations must perturb things to inevitably approach dangerous conditions, why hasn’t it happened yet? We aren’t presuming a seven thousand year old young earth, that 4.5 billion year model contains a very large number of variations.

      Just occurred aside: Under the old earth model, we have a long term cooling trend mitigated by radioactive decay. If this trend is continuing for the interior, the crust may be thickening. The crust tends to be loaded near failure. Heat transfer from interior to exterior probably isn’t uniform. Thickening, especially irregular thickening, could change stress concentrations, which could change the location of failure, which could explain unusual changes in earthquake activity.

  4. Excellent post. But I can’t help but be reminded of that brilliant comment someone made over at Ace’s:

    “If only there were some… natural explanation for falling and rising temperatures.

    Such a hypothetical source of warming would have to be massive, however. On the order of magnitude of our own Sun.”

  5. I better get busy chopping down all the ash trees the emerald ash borer has killed on my property to run the wood burning furnace I have for supplemental heat in the basement…..

  6. But Stephanie!

    Where are the “evil humans” in this?

    Surely the “evil humans” are causing this? [Very Very Big Kidding Grin]

    Seriously, nice article. 😀

    1. We aren’t murdering enough Greens. Greens disorder the natural forces. If we murdered more Greens, natural forces would cause less problems.

      1. And hey, if we borrow from Mad Mike’s playbook, after being run through the chipper they can be used for fertilizer.

        Which is about the only time I imagine they’d be useful, and even then I’d be hesitant about using the resultant slurry for fertilizing food plants.

    2. Oh, that’s easy: humans fluoridate their water, and that causes sun-spots.

      (I had a series of experiences that cause me do believe I’m sensitive to fluoride; in the process of coming to this conclusion, though, I had to wade through a lot of anti-fluoride material, which unfortunately borderlines on FLUORIDE CAUSES EVERYTHING…which means that I’ve actually had the thought pop into my head that fluoridated water causes sunspots….

      tl;dr: Don’t question the logic. It HAS to be true!)

  7. like the paper by the Canadian scientist that said Canada may not have a long enough growing season to feed itself by 2040?

  8. I wonder how many people (like, oh, Greens) have really looked at what happened during the Maunder and Dalton minima? The Wolf wasn’t great, but we have much better records for Maunder and Dalton, and what they show isn’t really nice. Galloping Alpine glaciers, killing frost as far south as the southern border of modern China, drought in the High Plains that made the bison look around, say “Screw this” and head for places with water . . .

    But then hard Green environmentalism is the same philosophy that can simultaneously 1) blame everything on humans while 2) proclaiming that humans are no better or different than any other animal or even microbe.

    1. Indeed. I have to wonder if it was the combination of the Wolf and volcanic activity that led to the abandonment of the ancestral Puebloan settlements in the southwest.

      1. The arrival of the Athabaskan people probably had a little to do with it as well, although they may have been the final straw as opposed to a major cause.

    2. If you sit down and really look at the cold period during the late Middle Ages, what you find is that the cold period lasted from about the middle to late 1200s all the way to the middle to late 1800s. Then, if you overlay the extended minima and solar activity in general, you have the following:

      ~1200-1230AD Solar activity begins to drop off
      ~1250AD Start of Medieval Cool Period (aka Little Ice Age)
      ~1280-1350AD Wolf Minimum
      ~110yr delta
      ~1460-1550AD Spörer Minimum
      ~95yr delta
      ~1645-1715AD Maunder Minimum
      ~75yr delta
      ~1790-1830AD Dalton Minimum
      ~70yr delta
      ~1900AD End of “Little Ice Age”; Solar activity begins to climb ABOVE that during Early Medieval Warm Period.

      It’s my contention that, overall, this extended decrease in solar activity — because solar activity did not rebound that much in between the extended minima proper, certainly not back to the Medieval Maximum — combined with a time delay for the effects to work through the various coupling mechanisms, makes for a very nice modeling mirror to the overall climate variability for that same time period. Factor in a few other influencing factors such as unfortuitous volcanic eruptions, etc., and I think you have a very plausible model for connecting solar activity to climate.

      1. … you have a very plausible model for connecting solar activity to climate.

        Come clean: how much is Exxon paying you? Or is it the Koch Brothers? Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Competitive Enterprise Institute? When were you last in the Bohemian Grove?

        State attorneys-general want to know. They have declared the science settled, so you must be proven demonstrated shown accused of engaging in chicanery.

        1. *sigh*
          (Yes, I know YOU are joking, RES, but somebody out there is thinking that exact same thing.)

          I could almost — ALMOST — wish it were true. Because then I wouldn’t have to worry about hospital bills and medical bills and my husband overworking his bad heart working 2.5 jobs while I struggle to make a go of my writing career, and wondering what happens when he’s not here any longer to pay the bills.

          1. …Because I’m not working the space job any more, people. I finally got enough of the politics and stuff in the wake of the Columbia disaster, which had a friend of mine aboard, and left the whole thing behind over ten years ago now, to write. This is what I do, sports fans. I write. It is all I do currently, aside from the occasional and infrequent consulting job — which latter is nice work, WHEN you can get it.

            Nope, this is it. Writing books, occasionally guest-blogging for other authors, promoting at cons.

            Read my books, leave a nice review on Amazon if you liked ’em (all you gotta say is, “I really liked this book,”), and tell your friends. And tell them to tell THEIR friends. This will ensure I can keep feeding the cat, no matter what happens.

                1. Well, not that very precise expression, no. But I could show you a couple if I could figure out how to upload an image into comments, without already having it online first…

          2. I am glad you recognize my mockery of the Climatistas, who surely must be perpetrating one of the most vicious cons in History, at least since they invented the concept of Divine Right of Kings.

            I wish I could reassure you that Obamadon’tCare would handle your medical concerns, but we both that is the ranking contender for most vicious con since DRoK.

            I can assure everybody that my Beloved Spouse, who has been a serious fan of Holmes since [possessive pronoun] age was counted in single digits was thoroughly and completely delighted in your Displaced Detective series, encourages ALL Holmes fans to read them and eagerly hopes you will write more. A hope I share, as gifts increasingly are difficult to buy for those of us measuring our ages in cube primes of square prime numbers (okay – that’s contorted; call it two squared cubed … or two cubed squared, whichever.)

            1. Well, Book 6 of the series, Fear in the French Quarter, will come out this fall, probably around October or November, just in time for holiday gift-giving. I’m working on book 7, A Little Matter of Earthquakes. Book 8, The Adventure of Shining Mountain Lodge, is written, but needs character and event development found in 6 & 7 to occur first. I have a concept for Book 9, tentatively titled A Bundle of Swords, and am brainstorming past that.

              Then there is the prequel series, Gentleman Aegis, starring “my” version of Holmes in his original continuum, as a young Victorian gentleman alongside Watson, both just starting their careers. Book 1 of THAT series, Sherlock Holmes and the Mummy’s Curse, came out last November. I have at least two more planned in that series: Sherlock Holmes in the Wild Hunt, and Sherlock Holmes and the Tournament of Shadows.

              Will that do?

              1. Hmmmmmm … the Birthday is near the end of September, but we’ve long been … flexible about such things. Amazon isn’t listing it yet, so we will see what we will see.

                Mummy’s Curse was received with great joy and hosannas more suited to receiving a bit of stale cracker blessed sacrament; subsequent volumes will be, I am confident, similarly received. I hope you can continue to publish these in dead tree form, as lining up a row of [Generic E-Readers] on the shelf would get expensive.

                I regret that [Person To Be Left Unnamed] has not found time to post Certified Purchaser reviews and shall engage in mild nagging on the topic forthwith. As the purchased copies were gifts and the account is mine, some minor shuffling of bodies is required. (I have the volumes in my TBR stack but the heat death of the universe is likely to arrive before I’ve completed that pile — like the Marching Chinese* it is growing faster than it is shrinking, and I eschew reviewing books I’ve yet to consume.)

                For those who lack my household’s aversion to e-reading, I note the first four books in The Displaced Detective Series series are available in Omnibus e-form at a ridiculously low price — 4 MMPB for the price of 1, with the bonus of far easier storage.

                *If we are still permitted such references in the SJWverse.

                1. My publisher(s) seldom has/have things for presale, so it won’t be listed on Amazon until release day. And they will always be published in print as well as ebook, because a substantial number of my fans prefer print. I’m glad the spouse is enjoying; please do nag for spouse to post reviews, and meanwhile I’ll nag YOU to read and review!

                  Also thank you for the purchase link for the Omnibus. I have hopes that, as additional books in the series are released, my publisher will continue to combine them into subsequent omnibuses. I need a couple more before she can do that again, though. I’m pleased and proud to say that her first-ever foray into creating an omnibus edition was this one, which she surprised me with.

                  The reason reviews are so important, particularly on Amazon, is because Amazon has an algorithm that, when 50 reviews are reached on a given title, the title is bumped up a notch in automated promotions, and starts going out as part of those mass “here are some books we thought you’d like” emails — which is a separate thing from the ones you get that are similar to what you’ve just browsed. These place the title in front of lots of new potential readers, and if they also read and review, the effect can be exponential.

                  Unfortunately, sometimes convincing fans to review your books can be like pulling hen’s teeth. But it’s as simple as logging in to Amazon, going to the reviews for that book, and posting, “I really liked this book.” That’s about all you really need.

                  1. Sigh — many of us were traumatized by grade school tyrants demanding we write and submit reviews as academic exercises (and evidence we actually had read the work in question.)

                    Writing an Amazon review isn’t at all hard, even if the ratings skew; few people appreciate that three stars is a very strong review, just as few appreciate that five stars ought be reserved for only the highest quality works (my preference is a logarithmic scale, but when in Rome … The goal of communication is to communicate, regardless of whether the audience is comprised of utter Posners.

                    Please make sure the forthcoming books are included in Sarah’s (sorta) weekly promotional posts once they become available. (That wouldn’t be a bad time to remind readers of earlier works in a series, either.)

                    And while I have long ago tired of attempting novel ways of encouraging Huns & Hoydens to repay promo kindness with furshlugginer reviews (it drives me Mad) I will take advantage of this digression to digress into the ditch by reminding people: R-E-V-I-E-W, find out what it means to you!

                    (oo) What you want
                    (oo) Baby, I got
                    (oo) What you need
                    (oo) Do you know I got it?
                    (oo) All I’m askin’
                    (oo) Is for a little review when you finish reading (just a little bit)
                    Hey baby (just a little bit) when you finish reading
                    (just a little bit) mister (just a little bit)

                    Oh (sock it to me, sock it to me,
                    sock it to me, sock it to me)
                    A little review (sock it to me, sock it to me,
                    sock it to me, sock it to me)
                    Whoa, babe (just a little bit)
                    A little review (just a little bit)
                    I get tired (just a little bit)
                    Keep on tryin’ (just a little bit)
                    You’re runnin’ out of foolin’ (just a little bit)
                    And I ain’t lyin’ (just a little bit)
                    (re, re, re, re) ‘view
                    When you finish reading (re, re, re ,re)
                    Or you might walk in (review, just a little bit)
                    And find out I’m gone (just a little bit)
                    I got to have (just a little bit)
                    A little review (just a little bit)

                    1. ROFL I see I’m not the only one who reworks lyrics to suit…

                      I will do my best to see that Sarah gets a note to post about my new releases. If I don’t, “Uncle Lar” has offered to help me out with such notifications, and he WILL. In some ways he’s better about getting it done than I am, and they’re my books! So he’s a huge help.

                      Also I have a promo short story in work for the Division One series, called A Short Medium At Large, and Larry and I will talk to Sarah about the possibility of posting that either here or on MGC. And it’ll also probably go up at Azounding.

                      Which makes me think, I do need to update my pages at Azounding.

                    2. RES, I just wrote 5 5-star reviews for the Displaced Detective series, it takes a mere 15 minutes, and Amazon gets them posted in about the same time.
                      And I purchased (and read) them less than a month ago. No more excuses!!!

                    3. 1. Bought as gifts, read by recipient who must take control of my computer to post reviews. Nagging has commenced, but I nag in very low key to avoid counter-productivity.

                      2. I am not myself a particular Holmes fan and thus these take lower priority than the many other things I read. I will read and review as other reading permits.

                      3. I have no doubt they will be excellent, but I do not review on expectations.

                    4. Stephanie; Yes, and I typically do not like mysteries.
                      RES: These are not you Father’s Sherlock Holmes stories. They are good Science Fiction novels that happen to have Holmes as a character.
                      (I especially love the first time someone started “NO sh*t Sher…” then realized who they were speaking to.)

                    5. Yes, ’tis true, ’tis true, this is NOT your father’s Sherlock Holmes. The series has been described as, “Sherlock Holmes meets The X-Files,” and that is a very good tag line, because all of the mysteries/puzzles are such as would be right at home on that show. Spy rings with rather unusual goals, UFO sightings, mass spontaneous combustion, a sudden rash of hauntings in New Orleans, and more planned.

                2. I have all of the Displaced Detective Series, and like it immensely. I think I put up reviews, but I’ll have to check. I bought Mummy’s Curse, but haven’t gotten to it yet.

                1. The first book in the series was written by Doc Travis. Stephanie and Darrell Bain picked it up and wrote books two and three. Unfortunately, as will happen with collaborations (coff prince roger coff) both authors have been pulled in different directions. From conversations we’ve had it may not be dead, but definitely on life support.

                2. Slowly but surely — shhh — as soon as we both dig out a little, Steph and I will try to do an sf series together. I suspect it will involve cats and humans as never seen outside Cordwainer Smith.

                  1. Yes yes, that is the plan. We are digging. I’m just not sure we’re digging the right way! LOL

                    And no, the Cresperian Saga is not dead. But the previous two authors, Travis Taylor and Darrell Bain, have bowed out, leaving me with the series they started. I have brought in one of my “proteges,” to help me work on it. I fully intended on having a new manuscript to the publisher by the end of last year. Unfortunately said protege had no less than THREE deaths in his family, I lost my mother in law, and a brother in law AND my husband had heart attacks — all last year.

                    So sometimes the best laid plans gang aft agley.

                    1. Sorry to hear of all the bad fortune. Rest assured it will be well received no matter the wait.

                    2. Thanks, hon. It was a rough year and I was REALLY glad to see the end of it. Fortunately, so far 2016 is being as good to us as 2015 was bad.

                      We will do our best to live up to expectations on the 4th Cresperian book, which we’re calling Heritage.

      2. The real problem, of course, is that it’s much harder to enslave, extort money from, and generally impose a system for graft and corruption on the Sun than it is on ones’ fellow humans.

        I treat eco-loons just like the Nazis should have been treated: I believe them when they say they want to kill me and mine, and I really see no need to let them get in the first shot.

  9. I think I have spotted the error in your calculations: you have failed to process the data through the Mann Massager™, which guarantees greater homogenization of data to enable easier digestion by the press and politicians.

  10. (A circle is a special case of an ellipse, where the foci merge.)

    I must be a geek who should probably have taken more math — I thought: ‘Oh so a circle is to an ellipse as a square is to a rectangle…neato!’

    1. “That’s not a pentagram, that’s a circle!”

      “A pentagram *is* a circle, for high values of five.”

      – Rick Cook, “Wizard’s Bane”

  11. Since she is far too modest to toot her own horn, I feel compelled to mention that in addition to being a crackerjack graduate level astrophysicist Ms. Osborn also writes some very well done hard science fiction stories. Her Displaced Detective series which deals with an alternate reality Sherlock Holmes brought forward to the 21st century is a compelling read and book six is due for release in October. She’s also working on two new action adventure series, one set in the Victorian era, the other modern day and very loosely based on a concept reminiscent of Men in Black.

    1. Thank you, Larry. As for the Division One series, I think it is more along the lines of, “These are the people that the movies, and The X-Files, etc. were based on — this is the true source of the urban legend.” I’ve been having an immensely good time playing in that universe. I’m nearing completion of book 2 in the series, and I need to figure out what I’m going to do with ’em.

      I used a twist on M Theory to yank a version of Holmes from an alternate universe and plunk him down in “our” 21st century. This universe is also a fun one for me to play in.

      I also have quite a few other books that might intrigue readers, including Burnout: The mystery of Space Shuttle STS-281, which more or less predicted what happened to Shuttle Columbia; a couple books co-authored with Travis Taylor, fiction and nonfiction; and an ebook about solar activity called The Weather Out There Is Frightful, which those who are interested in this article might find interesting.

      You can find information about all my books, as well as purchase links, on my website,

      1. Have any of the Division One stories got out in the “wild” yet?

        1. No, not yet. Still working on ’em, and trying to figure out whether to shop ’em around, or throw ’em up myself. May soon have a short story to use as a teaser, though.

            1. No, no. Larry and I go back a ways — he and I worked more Shuttle missions together than I care to count, usually on night shift, since we’re both night owls, if memory serves. Anyway, he’s a dear friend, one of my beta readers, and a staunch supporter. Not to mention a danged good copy editor. He’s seen the ms for the first book of the series and really liked it.

              1. The first Div One book is just good old fun and games. Reminds me of some of Keith Laumer’s Retief work ages ago.
                I does love me the Skye and Sherlock Displaced Detective books. French Quarter was a hoot. Y’all will love it, but do read the first five first. The series has a deep context of back story. As does any decent series naturally.
                First in a new series I’m extremely fond of is The Adventures of Aemeilia Gearheart. A tense dramatic rollicking action adventure set in a somewhat alternate Victorian world. Full of real allusions to historical events, and countless Easter eggs for the knowledgeable reader.

                1. Larry, my intent is for all the Division One books to be like that. There will be angst, there will be laughter, there will be nail-biting. And as the series progresses, things ramp up in overall intensity for the central characters. Right now I have, by my estimate, at least 6-7 books lined up for it, possibly more.

                  Yes, the Displaced Detective series has a very rich context in the back stories, and it probably IS better to start at the beginning and read through, for a new reader. But that’s always been the way I like my series — they build.

                  The Aemelia Gearheart books — there’s just one so far, and it isn’t in print yet — that first one is gonna take some more polish before I’ll be happy with it, I think. But yes, it is definitely action adventure of an alt-hist variety.

                  And MOST of my books have Easter eggs. My regular editor for the Displaced Detective series has been known to state that she loves reading each new manuscript, so she can look for the Easter eggs. Some are very subtle; some are in-your-face. To this day, there is an Easter egg in Burnout that no one has ever caught…

        2. Also, while I don’t wholesale throw away my science background, the Division One stories are a little bit more lighthearted, and you’re apt to LYBO at parts, while tensing up at others. Think Star Trek‘s throwaway tech references, and you’ll get what I mean. There’s a lot less exposition in these, and a lot more action, of various types.

    2. Through book promo on this blog, I picked up the Sherlock Holmes (prequel and Displaced Detective). I enjoyed the read! I had to buy the omnibus to see how the story continued.

      1. YAY! I’m so glad you enjoyed it! Just remember, this is 1) a different version of Holmes than the one Doyle chronicled, 2) a Holmes that is being forced to stretch and grow and consider things he never would, in his original continuum. Don’t be surprised at anything.

  12. I wonder if it’s even worthwhile to speak of the sun having any set number of dynamos overtime. If each of these “dynamos” is basically a whirl of fluid ions, & the sun is just a giant ball of churning fluid, then we’d expect all sorts of whirls, gyres & eddies in all levels of strength & size to emerge & dissipate over time, what with all the differential rotation layers & convection currents powering it all.
    Which then means that in the very long run, the sun’s activity levels are going to be pretty much chaotic & unpredictable, in that we won’t know in advance when or where the next big dynamo will emerge to dampen or amplify solar activity.

    1. Well, for short-long periods of time, which may be all that we care about, a few big trends may dominate. (Long-long term the fusion reaction will be changing on us.)

    2. And it is these trends which will dominate. If they did not, we would not have predictability at all. But we do.

      More, my graduate work was in spotted variable stars. Our experience with the data from other stars shows us that periodicity with these types of stars seems to be the rule, not the exception.

      Now, I could have gone into those smaller-scale (and that’s probably the operative phrase) inhomogeneities, but I didn’t think most of the readers really wanted a primer on magnetohydrodynamics.

      I think it’s safe to say that we do have periodicities, and we do have regular, long-term dynamos in there.

      1. “I didn’t think most of the readers really wanted a primer on magnetohydrodynamics.”

        Ahem. Have you *met* us?

        1. Yeah, actually. I’m at LibertyCon every year.

          So let me rephrase: had you rather I spend a whole lotta time brushing up my magnetohydrodynamics, breaking it down to a lay level, and writing up a VERY long article…

          …Or had you rather I spend my limited number of spoons writing new books?

          1. What I want is to have my cake and eat it. Hillary Clinton tells me that it’s possible, and Hillary is an honorable woman.

            1. I didn’t say anything about cake, nor did I say anything about politicians.

              I asked if you want me to use my limited time and even more limited energy to tech a class in magnetohydrodynamics, or write more new books. I cannot do both.

              Don’t make me swipe Wayne’s ballpeen hammer and come over there.

              1. I’m sure you have only to ask, and Wayne, being a gentleman, will loan you the hammer for as long as you need it. 😉

                1. Oh, I’ve no doubt — Wayne and I know each other. Actually, probably got a suitable hammer around here myself. The rock pick geological hammer might do nicely…

              1. I think Sarah forgot to give SOMEONE the combination before she left town. Something about getting the cats’ feeding schedule in synch with the transit of Jupiter first, or some other distraction came up.

                1. Oh, being a full supporter of the Right To Keep And Bear, I have my own I constructed . . . somewhere ***looks behind monitor***. Soon I will be in one place, and can sort out what’s where, and where’s what. Meanwhile the Carpbuchet is in multiple pieces and the ‘pult is AWOL.
                  Meanwhile, I might have to resort to this:

        2. Do you know of a good introduction to engineering book? EE to be specific. I want to learn about the US Electrical Grid.

          1. And you just hit on one subject in which I don’t have a degree, hon. I have degrees in astronomy, physics, chemistry, and mathematics, but I’m not an engineer. So no, I don’t have a clue about a good EE textbook.

          2. Electrical Engineering is a huge field, and an EE that works with an electric utility will do different things than one that works with an electronics company.

            What you need to read depends on what aspect you want to learn about the grid. Think of it as looking at it as an aerial view and zooming in. The basics are that things are broken down into generation, transmission – getting electricity from generation to distribution substations – and distribution – getting electricity from distribution substation to factories, homes, and businesses. For large factories this can blur, but that’s the basics.

            The problem is that I don’t know of an overview book. There’s plenty of minutia you can get into, most available online these days, from utility training guides to Rural Electrification Administration/Rural Utilities Service Bulletins. While some of it covers EE aspects, the EE aspects may not be what you really want. If you want to get into things like calculating fault currents and timing curves on protection devices, then yes. But how it all works is more of a macro-thing.

            1. What do you know of Mark Fennel? I’ve bought two of his e-bks.:
              1.Coal Power explained simply
              2.Transmission of Electrical Power explained simply

  13. Convection makes me think of a pot or lava lamps, but a star has magnetic fields that likely shape flow, and a star’s so big I’m wondering if there’s relativistic effects due to gravity within the star and that leads to the tangent of the classic gravitational force within a sphere problem. Then you have that whole whorls and lesser whorls thing of fluids, but that’s usually not a magnetic fluid and the sun is, but I still wonder if it’s possible to have mini-dynamos centered on whorls, sort of like Jupiter’s Great Red Spot. That would make the whole thing more chaotic and maybe with changing cycles other than “fixed” dynamos. Then I wonder about the effect of magnetic fields on fusion, like it was a great big Tokamak, and whether there was more going on than fusion from compression.

    Sigh. I’m more confused than usual.

    1. I’ve been trying to wrap my head around the paper at 4, and Stephanie’s summary. I am very confused.

      1. Well, that’s why I summarized it. It’s a complex situation. Frankly, whenever I read stuff from the Astrophysical Journal (or the ApJ, as it’s affectionately nicknamed in the biz), I know I have to be on my game mentally, to absorb and process it adequately, if I have any hope of understanding it. And that’s my field. I don’t expect anyone else, outside the field, to be able to do so, at least not at the level that I can, simply because I’ve had training specific TO understanding it.

        I know that sounds suspiciously like saying, “Trust me, I’m the expert,” And I don’t mean it that way, and that’s not what I’ saying. DO try to read it. But don’t be surprised if you get a headache, because I do, and I’ve got the specific background to understand it.

        It is a VERY complex subject, and it DOES, perforce, go into very complex scientific branches such as the several-times-aforementioned magnetohydrodynamics and other things. So unless you’ve actually studied all that stuff, frankly it isn’t likely to make much sense to you.

        1. I kept trying to formulate a question, then being forced to step back, take another look, and realize how lazy and superficial I’d been.

          ‘But recently researchers proposed a double dynamo[4] — one dynamo “located” in the lower regions of the convective layer (the Sun’s “mantle”), and another a little way below the photosphere.’

          I haven’t been able to find where ‘PREDICTION OF SOLAR ACTIVITY FROM SOLAR BACKGROUND MAGNETIC FIELD VARIATIONS IN CYCLES 21–23 Shepherd, Zharkov, and Zharkova, 2014 October 13’ specifies which layer is the physical location for the ‘dynamos’. I assume that the photosphere and convective layer are conclusions from other research. The two signal sources in the paper are described as moving around within whatever layer they are in, but I do not see where multiple layers are specified.

          If they have isolated two sources that are nearly in tune, and are in the same spherical shell, it may be possible that there are another two sources located in an inner shell. If the inner sources are very nearly matched to the outer sources, they might be mostly electrically shielded from outside inspection while still able to cause irregularity. I am not an electricity guy, so may be misremembering or entirely crazy on the shielding end. If the two known sources are definitely in different layers, it would seem to easily show that this line of thinking is false.

          1. Okay, I just went back and reread the article, and the trick is that I am reading the article with a background knowledge that you might not have: I know the current theories modeling the interior structure of the Sun, which layers do what, and how we believe sunspots form and migrate up to the photosphere from deeper layers in the Sun.

            For me, the key quotations are:

            “These waves were linked to solar dynamo waves assumed to form in different layers of the solar interior.”

            Introduction, para 7
            “With such an approach, the magnetic field of sunspots formed during the dynamo process and delivered from the bottom of the convective zone to the solar surface is assumed to be linked with sunspots numbers Rz, which in fact, can be different due to the sunspot’s magnetic field (associated with the toroidal magnetic field), which is jointly defined by a sunspot’s area and its magnetic field strength.”

            para 12
            “The variations in time and in latitudes of the waves in the SBMF (solar background magnetic field) discovered with PC (principal component) analysis allowed authors to search for the first interpretation of waves derived with a modified two-layer Parker’s dynamo model with meridional circulation.”

            And what I take away from that is that there is a shift…okay, don’t laugh, I’m going to try to take this down to a lay level…there’s a kind of shift in polarity (north/south, hence the meridional reference) between the lower layers (the convective layer) and the upper layers (just below the photosphere, or visible surface) and this shift in polarity denotes the individual dynamos. And when you combine the magnetic field from one with the magnetic field from the other, the results mimic the actual historical data to 97% or slightly greater. Since they don’t have quite the same period, over time they get out of phase and shut down the overall photospheric/chromospheric activity, and we get an extended minimum.

            That’s the best I can do for explaining the article right now, short of taking you through my graduate work with me. Does it help at all?

            1. That explains it. Someone with the area background knowledge would understand the implication that it crosses between the layers. I definitely did not have the knowledge.

              What I’d read of the sun’s structure on one of the websites you linked doesn’t make it sound like additional essentially identical dynamos could be functioning deeper into the sun.


              1. Okay, good. I’m glad it explains things for you a bit. In general I’ve found that technical journals like the ApJ tend to assume they are talking to colleagues and that there is a certain level of background knowledge that doesn’t need explaining. That’s why it’s so hard for someone who is not in that particular field to step in and just read an article and get all the nuances. And that’s true across the board for most technical journals. I am as lost, reading certain biological/medical journals, as you just were in trying to tease out the background info from the ApJ. Oh, we can get the gist of it, but some of the basic details may be missing.

                1. There are some history journals that are just as bad about “everyone knows all the background and previous discussions so we’ll just launch from here.” Usually the sub-sub-subfield specialty publications.

                2. I’ve been looking at the 20 g/cm^3 and 150 g/cm^3 numbers for density of the core. Can helioseismology identify phases in the core?

                  If the core is rotating faster (perhaps from conservation of angular momentum), and the denser material has different electrical properties… I apparently have a solar dynamo fixation at the moment.

                  1. It’s plasma, dear. It’s it’s own phase. There are no phase changes as such in plasma. It can change state under extreme gravitational collapse (electron-degenerate matter, nucleon-degenerate matter), but that’s about it.

                    1. Plasma, one of the five states of matter: solid, liquid, gas, plasma, energy.

                      Only said this so I could justify posting that.

    2. Think of it as a giant H bomb exploding out, while gravity tries to hold it all in. Now you can add all the internal cycles, the speed of orbiting ‘stuff’, the magnetic fields, the relativistic effects, other things no one has probably thought of/discovered (like the wormhole tramlines to nearby stars).
      Stephanie’s description is more appropriate than big ball of burning gas, but I’m sure the devil is in the many details.

      1. The only relativistic effect I had in mind was that time for the part of the sun toward the core should be slightly slower compared to the part near the photosphere, and wonder what effect, if any, that would have on things.

        All this prompted some digging. Knew that plasma was conductive because it’s charged, and that’s a factor in self-sustaining arcs and, in turn, Jacob’s Ladders. Learning that granularity was due to convection was a “Doh!” moment. That the magnetic field is generated by turbulent flow was surprising; that the Coriolis effect is involved wasn’t; that there doesn’t seem to be the equivalent of earth’s Trade Winds and Horse Latitudes and such was a surprise.

        From that it wasn’t surprising that two dynamos would require two different layers, and I assume five dynamos would require five layers.

  14. Dr. Woosley just sent me a pertinent article yesterday, which has been excerpted in the critical parts at a particular website he frequents. I wanted to post that here, for you to read. It is:

    One of the key factors here is that this is from a group that is well outside the rest of the Western climate cult. Note that that this particular group is a Russian/Ukranian space science research group.

    The people who study the same things I do are finally coming out of the woodwork and presenting the information they have and saying the same things I’ve been saying.

    And if the double-dynamo solar cycle model is anything like as right at predicting what’s coming as it has been at giving a fit to the historical data (97-98% fit), then we have a very interesting next fifty years coming up.

    1. After reading about Zika virus in some detail today, I have to say that fifty years of cold sounds like a *really good idea*. I already had plenty of reasons to hate mosquitoes.

    2. As Dr. Pournelle has said re climate change (paraphrasing due to Friday), Heat would be a challege, but Cold kills.

      From a CA perspective, I hope PG&E doesn’t expedite shutting down Diablo Canyon, and that the drillers keep on fracking everywhere else so CA can buy the Natural Gas.

      1. As I’ve said many times before: there’s no place on Earth too hot to kill an unprotected human. But that same human will freeze to death on half the planet.

        “Mother Earth hates your guts.”

        1. Because it lets our agents get close enough to scout where we’ll drill the wells to tap the seeps off Santa Barbara After the Revolution Comes. Unless Sweet Saint San Andreas strikes first.

          1. Because the last socialist will purchase the rope he’s hung with, as a jobs program for the poor of course.

  15. Oooh! I get to put on my “Make Astronomy Great” hat today…

    Was just running down the paper on habitable planets around M-class dwarfs, and had to double-check that I had changed sites… Now I have Stephanie’s to dig through too.

    No, I am NOT complaining, Sarah! I love these! More raw material for the world-building.

    1. Glad you’re enjoying it! And yes, that’s kinda how I do it, too. I’ll get a paper in from a friend or colleague, and I may bookmark it in one of my science folders, but I’ll also bookmark it in my “writing references” folder, too, if it gives me ideas. That way I can more easily find it when I clear enough off my plate to start working on said new idea.

    2. Grumble Grumble

      Now you got me thinking about a Star System that I was playing with.

      The Earth-like planet (Homeworld) orbits a Sol-like star (Light-Bearer) in about 1.09 Earth years.

      At the same time, there’s this Astronomical body that apparently “meets up” with Light-Bearer every Eleven Homeworld years.

      Call the body God-Home as it was said to be the Home of the King of the Gods, later the Throne of the One God.

      I’m not sure what type of body God-Home is because it is noticeable in the Homeworld sky as it meets up with Light-Bearer.

      I suspect that it has to be much larger than Jupiter but I’m not sure if it could be a Super-Planet, a Red Dwarf star or even a Red Giant.

      Any Thoughts?

      1. Okay, I started a great long analysis post, based on thinking it was a near pass with Homeworld, until I reread and saw it was the star instead. So let me ask for some clarification. Define what you mean when you say “God-Home meets up with Light-Bearer.” Do you mean a simple conjunction, or do you mean an actual near pass?

        1. A simple conjunction as It is always visible to a viewer on Homeworld and every eleven Homeworld years it passes behind Light-Bearer.

          It’s a large enough event that every culture on Homeworld knew about it long before astronomy was invented.

          1. OK what you’re going to want will depend on what you’re going to do with it. First off, remember inverse square law applies to apparent luminosity.

            So you can have a gas giant as part of the system, or you can have a dwarf star in a more distant binary, orbiting slightly beyond the planetary system, or you can have a red giant in a way the hell distant binary. (Think Proxima Centauri. ~1/10 LY away from the central system.)

            If it’s a star, then what you really have is a stellar eclipse by the near star.

            Just realize also that you will have “epicyclic” motion — periods of time, as Homeworld “catches up to” God-Home in their respective orbits, when God-Home will appear to have retrograde motion, relative to the background starfield. And that’s going to be true regardless of whether it’s a planet or a star.

            1. Well, what I “really wanted” was to have an excuse for a “eleven day week” and a “eleven year time period”.

              I thought a very noticeable astronomical event happening every eleven Homeworld years might do the trick. 😀

                1. the week is derived from lunar periodicities

                  I thought the week was derived from “seven planets” counting the Sun & Moon as planets?

                  I’ll have to see what I can find on that. 😀

                  1. Nope-nope. If you find it, it’ll be wrong, I can tell you that right now.

                    No, we start out with a month. A month is, simply, the period of time it takes for the Moon to go through a complete cycle of phases. (Never mind our current calendar, which is a multi-millennial mishmash of solar, lunar, and a few other sorts of calendars.)

                    Now, it turns out that this period is roughly 28 days. (Not perfectly, as we know now; it’s more like 29.5 days. But to the ancients, it was close enough as no matter.) And during that time, the Moon goes through four distinct geometric phases: new, first quarter, full, last quarter, then back to new. And it moves through those phases regularly and linearly.

                    Therefore, if today the Moon is new, in roughly 28 days we can expect it to be new again. One-quarter of the way into that 28 days, we can expect first quarter. Another one-quarter, we get full. A third one-quarter, we get last quarter. And another quarter, we’re back to new.

                    So it turns out that 28 divided by 4 phases yields 7 days. One week.

                    Note that in the Victorian era and earlier, they also had a unit of time called a fortnight. It’s two weeks long, and the word derives from a contraction of “fourteen nights,” or as it was spelled in Middle English, “fourtenight.”

                    1. Very very brief checking shows that you’re correct.

                      I was confused by the origins of the names for the days of the week. :embarrassed:

                      On the other hand, Homeworld has a large Moon that takes around 63 Homeworld days to go from Full Moon to Full Moon.

                      So a fifteen day “week” might be better than an eleven day week. 😉

                      On the other hand, this is simple. Making the characters real is hard. :Very Embarrassed Grin:

                    2. Making the characters real is hard.

                      I am reliably advised that if you get the world construction right and the diversity correct your chances of winning a Hugo are great no matter how two-dimensional the characters. (They merely need to not be straight and white and male.)

                    3. One notes that many cultures did not, in fact, use the week as a unit. . . .

                      I recommend Waiting for the Weekend by Witold Rybczynski

                    4. Also, Wayne, if your ratio of moon/planet exceeds the ratio of Luna/Earth, then I hope you have it set back a good piece in its orbit, or you gonna have some hellacious tides, son…

      2. This reminded me of an exotic system that I’ve been toying with for use in a SciFi RPG setting.

        A planet with an eccentric orbit which over the course of that planet’s year takes it from the inside boundary of the Goldilocks Zone to the outside boundary; and if that movement over the course of the year, combined with axial tilt, give one hemisphere milder winters and summers while the opposite hemisphere had harsher winters and summers?

        1. Well, it depends on the degree of the eccentricity of the orbit, and the breadth of the Goldilocks zone.

          Earth’s orbit is elliptical, though not heavily-eccentrically so, and our perihelion (point of closest approach to the Sun, for those unversed in astronomical technobabble) actually occurs January 3rd each year, and conversely aphelion occurs on the USA’s Independence Day, July 4th. (Yes, something else to celebrate, folks — shoot those fireworks!) It doesn’t really produce a huge difference. Yes, there’s some, and yes, it’s measurable. But it isn’t enough for the average person to notice.

          HOWEVER — If you have a broad Goldilocks zone, and a highly eccentric orbit, then yes, there’s going to be a fairly large skew. There are also gonna be some hellacious winds, resulting from the extremes produced by this.

          1. Hadn’t even considered the wind issue. That’s what I get for failing Physics…

                1. True, Steph emails me with the most intriguing questions. For example:
                  What are five feasible ways to utterly destroy the ISS? A bit scary that I was able to do so off the top of my head.
                  Could Aemelia Gearheart upgrade her airship with an aluminum structure? Depends entirely on what date in history we’re at. Prior to the development of the Bayer extraction and Hall-Heroult refinement processes around 1888 aluminum was actually rarer and more expensive than gold. Once those processes were industrialized along with the ability to produce the massive amounts of electrical power they need, aluminum became cheap enough for structural use.

                    1. Sounds about right. On that first one, when does the anthology with your short story come out?

                    2. I honestly don’t know. Springer Publishing is making their first foray into fiction publishing with this anthology, Science Fiction By Scientists, and while I’ve gotten the contract and sent it back, I have not been given any info as to when it would be released — except that it would be this year.

                      I just pinged the anthology’s editor. I doubt he knows anything, but we’ll see.

                    3. :I just pinged the anthology’s editor. I doubt he knows anything, but we’ll see.

                      I was under the impression that it is a given in the publishing world that editors know nothing. Or is it just that the amount and accuracy of their knowledge varies as the square of their distance from the author at the cocktail party?

                    4. Well, RES, the editor for an anthology is usually one of the writers IN the anthology, and helps put it together. Then there’s someone else that actually makes the corrections and stuff.

                      Larry, I just got a reply back from the anthology editor. He says, “I’m on the road now so just a quick reply….

                      “Book will be out in November. Expect to see proofs soon — within weeks, probably. I’ll circulate cover and ToC to all involved soon too.”

                      So once I get the cover and such, we can start promoting it, too.

                      Looks like I’mma have a slew of releases this fall.

  16. When I took a course in Space Environment the Professor was quite clear about the primary role of the sun in space and the upper Atmoshere.

      1. At UofA the Space Sciences department has gotten caught with the AGW bug. When I took the (non-major) planetary sciences course about a decade ago the professor noted that we were measuring increasing temperatures on Mars, Jupiter, and even Pluto; but an increase in Earth temperatures was due to man.

        1. Yup. It depends on just how much of the department monies are coming from gov’t grants as to how deep the rabbit hole goes.

          But you do see exactly what I mean — if the temp increases on the various planets fit the appropriate curves relative to the average distance of their orbits, such that the deviation is linear, then there is no room for anthropogenic anything. And, while I have not myself done that particular statistical analysis, it’s my understanding that it DOES fit.

            1. One of the coolest things about that class was the not-quite-live feed from the HiRise mission just outside the classroom.

          1. It’s the University of Arizona, between direct grants and secondary funding the place is awash in government money.

          2. But you do see exactly what I mean — if the temp increases on the various planets fit the appropriate curves relative to the average distance of their orbits, such that the deviation is linear, then there is no room for anthropogenic anything. And, while I have not myself done that particular statistical analysis, it’s my understanding that it DOES fit.

            This is a huge reason I’m an AGW skeptic. No, I haven’t done any sort of statistical analysis, and that would be above my head, anyway. But if the other planets display warming at the same time, then the cause is likely about 93 million miles thataway.

          3. “Yup. It depends on just how much of the department monies are coming from gov’t grants as to how deep the rabbit hole goes.”

            This is why they accuse those who dispute the AGW cause of being on the take from someone else. If they are getting money for saying one thing, then obviously those arguing the point MUST be getting paid by someone else.

            1. Yeah, I realized the potential confusion; which is why I spelled out Arizona later.

              (When I first read the Green Arrow: Longbow Hunters series and they mentioned victims having gone to WSU I had to reread a couple of times before I realized they meant Washington State rather than Wichita State…)

          1. Snark aside; we can see the expansion of the atmosphere resulting from the Extraterrestrial Global Warming.

            1. While I made it snarky for the dual purpose of being funny and showing that I didn’t believe it, i have actually been told that by an AGW True Believer.

            1. A Mark II? Those get twitchy if they get any dirt in them, that’s why the Airship Corps adopted the Colt-Westinghouse.

              1. You’re neglecting the inherent superiority of the Mosin-Dobrovolsk, standard issue ranged weapon of the Zaporochian Air-Cossacks.

                  1. Now I also have to find a way to Steampunk up my SCA Cossack gear, and find a Mosin-Nagant carcass to modify.

                    1. Sadly airsoft Mosins cost about the same as real Mosins (unless you’re talking Finnish Mosins, they’re on the expensive side.)

                    2. yes, but an airsoft mosin is not now and never was a firearm.

                      (unlike, say, Adam Savage’s blade runner pistol which is still legally a firearm… I’d hate to get stopped with that at a con in CA…)

                  1. Yeah, and most of what little you can find is corrosive. Really very highly corrosive. Extremely.
                    The Tsar’s troop protection ideas are not the sae as anyone else’s.

                    1. Troop protection? Piffle, Cossacks consider armor unmanly to the point their sabres don’t have any hand protection.

            2. (Raises hands in air) I jes’ reports ’em like I hears ’em, Ma’am. They wants ta say dumb things, I’ll let ’em. Don’t mean I gotta believe ’em.


        2. At UofA the Space Sciences department has gotten caught with the AGW bug.

          At UofA the Space Sciences department has gotten caught with the grant-receiving bug.

          Fixed it for you. No charge.

          1. B-b-but only grants from Reich-Wing Death Merchants like Exxon and the Koch Brothers hiiisssss are corrupting! AlGore says!!!

            And this level of pathological dishonesty is why I contend that you can either have a civil society, or you can have Leftists living on the same planet. Pick one.

            1. I think a small percentage of Leftists can be tolerated and may even be beneficial, as deactivated viruses are beneficial, in detecting systemic weaknesses and vulnerabilities. The trick is to properly isolate them from significant cultural transmission vectors, such as schools and universities.

              As Mark Steyn has noted with Muslims, after a certain critical mass has been reached they overwhelm a society’s natural defenses. As yet there has been no determined acceptable level of Leftists infestation, but if restricted to political magazines and blogs they can generally be safely endured.

              But Posner remains a moron.

      1. Oh — no, Emily, that was kinda Chuck’s point. If you study solar activity and the upper layers of the atmosphere, you know that, for instance, if there’s been a coronal mass ejection that hits Earth, the outer layers of the atmosphere will heat up, expand, and increase drag on any craft in low Earth orbit. We had to deal with that all the time in the Shuttle program.

        1. Wasn’t that what got Skylab, too? (Well, coupled with the delay in having the shuttle ready on time, which prevented execution of the boost mission it was supposed to perform.)

          1. It’s those damned drones we’ve been sending to the other planets, disrupting their environments.

              1. Stephanie, I still remember some twit putting out an article in the 90s that moon mining should be forbidden because removing material from the moon would unbalance it’s orbit and cause tidal waves.

                Where do these people come from? head desk

                1. Oh, holy cats! I dunno. You wouldn’t believe the stuff I get when I am invited on a radio show for an interview or something. Some of the hosts seem surprised to discover I actually have a brain, and know how to use it.

                  And then there are the other guests.

                  See, since I write about conspiracies and UFOs and stuff, then either I must believe all the conspiracies, or I MUST BE PART OF THEM. Or at least know the inside scoop.

                  I’ve been accused of being part of the conspiracy, I’ve been told that we never went to the Moon, yada yada. There’s even folks out there who manage to combine several diametrically-opposed theories at once, such as that the Apollo moon landings never happened…but we still have a manned outpost on the lunar farside.

                  Think about THAT one for a minute, sports fans…

                  Nobody’s ever yet dared try to accuse me of writing “what REALLY happened to Columbia,” in my novel Burnout…not after finding out I had a friend aboard her. A couple have come close, though. One host actually had part of the question out of his mouth, when he thought better of it and shifted to a different line of questioning.

                  To actually do so would result in a very unpleasant next five minutes for the host…and to PRESS the issue would likely result in said host suddenly discovering s/he needed a backup guest to interview for the rest of the show. I do my best to honor my friend KC, and that, IMHO, would NOT be honoring her.

                  1. One of the stranger notions out there is the whole “hollow Earth” mess. I really don’t get that. If the Earth is hollow…
                    1) How do we manage to do the calculations to safely put a satellite into a stable orbit?
                    2) What’s with volcanoes?
                    3) How is it that earthquakes don’t collapse the whole Earth, especially when they cause measurable large vibrations such as the Boxing Day/Banda Aceh quake?
                    4) What about caves and sinkholes?

                    And then there’s the guy who thought the Earth was both flat AND hollow…truth, folks, he did…

                    1. Both Flat and Hollow.

                      Obviously, he likely meant Basement Earth. [Very Big Kidding Grin]

                    2. And then there’s the folks who think the earth is flat, hollow, disk-shaped, and resting on the backs of elephants who themselves are standing on a turtle, as it swims through the cosmos….

                    3. Re: 1. I understand that a spherical shell with the same mass and outer diameter as a sphere cannot be externally distinguished from the sphere by gravity.

                    4. There’s a “crunchy on the outside” joke to be found here, but the more I grope for it the more I want to go eat M&Ms.

                      Or Lindor balls.

                  2. I actually wrote a filk about it…

                    Hope’s Weary
                    TTTO: Hope Eyrie, by Leslie Fish

                    Kids grow old
                    And brains grow cold
                    And dumb we never can doubt.
                    Hard cold facts
                    just won’t go away.
                    No matter how much we hope and pray,
                    All too soon, the truth comes out!

                    And the lumber has landed!
                    Tell these idiots that
                    We’re going to smack them with a baseball bat!

                    For Moons are large,
                    And men are small,
                    And even our largest machines
                    Can’t move enough Lunar rocks and soil
                    To shift the Moon in its’ orbital coil
                    And cause the tides to change.


                    But we who know
                    the weight of the throw,
                    the mass that our rockets can hurl
                    Can only smile and roll our eyes
                    at the babbling oddballs who theorize
                    and keep us chained to our world!


                    We know well what the old owl tells,
                    If you can’t talk sense then hush,
                    But those who deal in newsprint and ink
                    So very rarely stop to think,
                    “Does the smell test pass this slush?”


                    For we who try to turn idiocy’s tide,
                    There’s just one thing to thank,
                    The clue by four is but metaphor,
                    and no new trees have to die therefore,
                    Just our hair pulled with a yank!

                    Let the lumber keep landing
                    until these idiots see
                    We’re going to space because it’s the place to be!

                2. Oh, that’s not bad. I found a site the other day that had most of the denialist-type conspiracy theories in the known world on it.

                  – There is no space travel, because it’s impossible
                  – nuclear bombs are impossible
                  – Nuclear fusion is a lie (Not fusion power, not fusion bombs, but fusion itself!) and that is not what powers the Sun (I didn’t read to find out what DID power the Sun)

                  There were more, but I don’t remember them.

  17. I think I made this point the last time we had a guest post from Doc Osborne, and certainly given her experience in the space business she knows all about this stuff, but for those who, lacking her expertise and my time spent in the thrall cubes of the semiconductor biz, perhaps don’t:

    Charged particle flux from high energy events like cosmic rays increases as you increase altitude. This is due to the Earth’s atmosphere attenuating the effect of incoming cosmic rays by getting in the way, spawning cascades of charged particles at decreasing energy levels. Flux also increases with latitude, an effect of the deflector shields of Earth’s magnetic field sort of pushing incoming particles towards the poles. This means the lowest flux you would see is at sea level at the equator (until you go underwater), and generally high altitude over the poles is the worst, until you get up into space. Note high altitude over the poles is where transcontinental airliners fly, but any high altitude flight, even near the equator, sees a lot higher flux than at sea level.

    One of the side effects of increased charges particle flux due to cosmic rays is reduced reliability of semiconductor devices – semiconductors really really don’t get along with charged particle events, and as the semiconductor feature size gets smaller the sensitivity and severity of the effects of a charged particle single-event-upset event gets worse. This means newer (smaller, faster, lower power) chips will be more prone to failure from single event upset.

    So as the Sun quiets, look for more problems on everything from your cell phone, to all the computers in your car, to the routers and servers that make up all these interconnected tubes of the internet, to airliners control system computers – basically anything that does not incorporate rad-hard (or at least rad-tolerant) milspec semiconductors will see more failures.

    Military aircraft are generally designed to keep working in a radiation enhanced environment so they are generally safer from this type of thing, but those airliners I mentioned have already been seeing some odd flight control system effects in the past few years, with autopilots on highly automated airliners (oddly, mostly this happens on planes from brand-A) at cruise suddenly commanding extreme maneuvers such that the pilots have to disconnect the thing and fly the rest of the flight by hand. Many civil airliner electronics use commercial grade devices, so any increase in flux density will likely cause more and more of these in-flight excursions from controlled flight while on autopilot.

    1. Very well said, sir. I thank you. I have a tendency to try to limit my technical blogs, because I’m quite sure Sarah (or for that matter, anyone for whom I guest-blog) would not like a hundred-page technical tome. You pointed out the dangers there quite well.

      And you’ve also made me wonder about the real nature of those Malaysia Air disappearances. I’d casually assumed it was something like hijacking/terror/nameyourpoison. But it’s entirely possible the autopilot took a cosmic ray cascade hit and went so bonkers that the flight crew couldn’t pull it out in time to stop from augering in…

      1. Particularly since they were Airbus aircraft; where the autopilot trumps input from the pilot.

        This is what brought down the Airbus A/C flying from Brazil to Europe a few years back: when the pitot tube froze over and stopped giving acurate airspeed information the autopilot threw the a/c into a dive to recover airspeed and prevent a stall. The pilots saw the a/c was in a terminal dive and tried to recover, but the aircraft said “F-U, the autopilot knows what it’s doing!”

        I don’t know if Airbus has changed that aspect of the autopilot behavior or not.

        On Boeing aircraft conflicts between the pilot and autopilot go to the human.

          1. Given the increase in Fly-by-Wire systems, the cosmic ray issue adds another wrinkle, what if you end up with a cascading failure in the flight control system itself?

              1. This is why my evil overlord hidden mountain redoubt lair will have charged particle cannon as its final layer of antiair defense.

            1. Another example of why thinking about “fly by wire” makes my hair stand on end… *shudder*

            2. For that matter, *drive* by wire (which is pretty common now, right? I’m not sure if steering wheels are still connected directly anymore…is it just wires now? Or is that just certain cars?) makes me nervous.

              1. Last fall there was an article about recent Tesla vehicles getting an over the air firmware update that gave them partial self driving capability.

                Recently there was some talk on the internet about who would be selling a modern consumer vehicle branded as the Edison. My thought was ‘whoever buys up the Tesla rubble’. But then perhaps I am just not an innovator.

                1. Well, a Tesla has more than enough CPU/GPU power… NVidia has put alot of time and energy into it just not with as much publicity as google.

                  1. Consider the architecture it implies from a security perspective. Consider that the architecture will likely be kept the same if it spreads out into general use. A walled garden isn’t so bad for the market Tesla is currently serving, but will not work so well should every consumer vehicle in use have the same self driving system installed.

                    1. The people doing all the big brother fear mongering about self driving cars are not anticipating how badly liability could wreck the implementation.
                    2. I think the reason more such hacking murder mysteries haven’t been written with such a premise is that authors who can execute them quietly say ‘no one would be that stupid’ and put better safeguards in their world building.

        1. > I don’t know if Airbus has changed that
          > aspect of the autopilot behavior or not.

          Nope. Some anonymous French programmers are *much* smarter than the pilot, and have forseen every possible eventuality. The Computer Is Always Right.

          A friend of mine has been doing flight software for more than 30 years; he works with the FAA sometimes in crash reconstruction.

          He won’t fly on an Airbus…

          In the mad dash to self-driving cars few people seem to have considered the liability aspect. When your car runs over a crosswalk full of schoolchildren, who is going to be at fault? You? The manufacturer? The programming consultancy they used?

          All it will take is for the insurance industry to decide the risks are unacceptable, and that’ll be the end of the self-driving car, at least in America.

          [“self-driving car” is a pretty stupid idea anyway; this is one of the few times where it would make sense for centralized control. A city government could make use of street cameras and sensors and know where vehicles, pedestrians, and hazards are that aren’t visible to a single vehicle and plan accordingly. All the “self driver” can do is react to situations; it can’t avoid what it can’t see. And the liability question vanishes into the governmental fog; your chance of suing the city over a malfunctioning red light is practically zero; it’d be the same with their vehicle control system.]

            1. I flew United over Christmas and they stuffed me in an Airbus. But I’ve also been on United 767s.

              1. Carp.

                From Airbus’ own website:

                “Among the largest Airbus airline customers in the U.S. are American Airlines, US Airways, United Airlines and >b>Delta Air Lines. Airbus’ highly reliable and efficient A320 Family is America’s bestseller, flying with carriers such as Allegiant Air, Frontier Airlines, Spirit, jetBlue, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, US Airways and Virgin America. The all-new A350 XWB is already a success in the U.S. with orders from Air Lease Corporation, CIT, Delta Air Lines, GECAS, Hawaiian Airlines, United Airlines and US Airways. Air Lease Corporation, CIT, Delta Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines have also placed orders for Airbus’ highly-efficient A330neo (new engine option) jetliner.”

                1. Boeing and Lockheed better get their sales teams in gear.

                  (Does Lockheed/Martin even do civil aviation anymore?)

      2. if by Brand A you are referring to a certain large French aerospace company… as I recall, they also lost a large plane full of passengers because of excessive automation and reliance on same. Chain of events went something like ice-clogged air temperature tube->lack of awareness of true airspeed->stall alert->copilot doing exactly the wrong thing to recover since not aware of true airspeed.

        Back in my research days I used to detect cosmic rays by accident. I would be Sitting In Laboratory Minding Own Business (doing photoelectric effect experiments) and there would be a *single* datapoint about 200-300x stronger than anything else on the scan. Cosmic ray causing an electron cascade in the detector… usually at least one a day, sometimes more. I can see it futzing up sensitive electronics at high altitudes.

        1. Thay are already getting these cascade effect events in the big internet router racks, which are absolutely stuffed with SRAM-based reprogrammable semiconductor devices, chockablock front and back on every blade in the rack. And when an SRAM FPGA gets zapped, the circuitry randomly changes to something else, so you definitley know something just happened.

          If you wanted to design a solid-state charged particle event detector, you’d probably come up with a similar design – lots of lots of silicon substrate, with circuitry that will make it highly obvious when it experiences a single event upset.

          1. Historically, it hasn’t been (though one method was a bit similar) because the tech is only now getting to the point where we could. But there is a current proposal for using smartphone CMOS distributed networks to do so, yes.

              1. I’m convinced all writers have those stories. Some are lucky, and after they’ve passed, no one comes along and brings them to light so as to soak some extra monies from folk.

          2. Back years ago it was claimed that cosmic rays were at fault for the failure of EPROMs in old computer terminals. At least, that was Wyse’ official story…

      3. And as for the Malaysia Air – not the one that the Russians shot down, the other one: I’m not saying it was awiens, but:

            1. I really need to get an image of Londo Mollari and add text saying “AH, THAT’S MY NEPHEW!” but I don’t have one handy and Fallout 4 beckons.

        1. It is — but in general they are not hardened (except for those with military applications), so if the cosmic ray flux is up by a significant amount… well, you do the math.

          1. In a digital system you could have different effects from a charged particle hit, depending on what it hit.

            If it hit a power controller device, the power controller might die and go to zero output, or it might die and go to full output. Hopefully other circuitry woud catch this, especially if you designed it with some form of voting architechture with the control gizmos (technical term) physically separated enough so that one hit would not likely impact more than one of them. Note this required discipline on the board designers, who love to put like divices close to one another since it makes their lives easier routing the interconnections.

            If it hits a comm channel bit on any device (think ethernet controller), that would likely just get overloaded and die. You just need redundant comm stuff on each chip, or entirely redundant sets of functionality so when one stops talking, you just switch to another one.

            If it hits memory, whatever is stored in that chunk of memory will be corrupted, now having a wrong value. This is actually the easiest to dedect and fix, becasuse there are lots of error detection methods already worked out, and some of them are even self correcting (the memory system knows what the value should have been at that address through some flavor of technical cleverness, so as soon as it sees the wrong value it just overwrites it).

            If the particle hits a processor, it could corrupt registers or commands in progress, resulting in a bad processor cycle. Correcting that is as simple as applying System Admin Procedure Number 1 (Turn it off and then back on again). If it was a bad enough zap or in a particularly sensitive place, the processor could be permanently damaged so it won’t come up – and you switch to another processor.

            The worst is if you are using FPGA-type reconfigurable devices, (perhaps ina sofetware-defined radio, or in some sensor gizmo where you want to be able to change the band you are sensing) where the circuitry itself is programmed into the device on the fly, and can be changed at will. A SEU event on one of those could rearrange the circuitry, and it’s possible, if unlikely, that the new circuitry could connect properly yet do something completely different than the designers intended. Again the fix there is some form of three (or four) way voting designed into that system as a whole so that the bad part could get voted out of the circuit, get reset while offline, and then brought back into the voting panel what it’s proven itself “sane” again.

            All of that duplcation and voting (and tallying of the votes, and removing circuits that vote “bad”, etc.), along with more robust physical packaging for space stuff, is why space systems are so darned expensive.

    2. Brand A has had planes that require a reboot nearly every time they land, for years, I think they used Windows ME as a base for their software.
      I hates brand A. (former aircraft fueler here)

  18. I’d like to extend my deepest thanks to Sarah for hosting me on her blog; to those of you who are already fans, following my books, because y’all are the folks that help me provide a way to help my hubby pay bills; to those of you who have actively reviewed and shared news about my books; and to those of you who, as a result of reading this today, have made purchases so that you CAN check out my books! Thank you all, very much. I’ve had a lot of fun today.

    I’m not going off and leaving now, don’t get me wrong. I’ll follow comments to this for a couple days, at least. But I wanted to extend my gratitude while I was thinking about it, ’cause I am your stereotypical absent-minded scientist, and I will forget if I don’t do it right away!

  19. I just love this blog/clubhouse/group! I learn something just about every time I visit, and I never fail to find myself intellectually (and sometimes even spiritually…because I’m an odd kind of person, heh) stimulated and energized. It’s just wonderful, from the posts and the comments, to the company. The same goes for MGC, of course. You folks rock. And Mz. Osborne, this is an absolutely fascinating post. I’m pretty sure I’m going to need to reread it a couple times to make sure I understood it all correctly, but I look forward to doing so, because I suspect it will only be *more* fascinating on the second reading. 🙂

    1. You’re very welcome, hon, and I’m glad you enjoyed it so. Like I said, I’ll be answering comments as long as I keep getting notified of them, so if you have questions, ask away. If I don’t know the answer, I’m not afraid to say so, but I also know where to go look to find if ANYBODY knows the answer.

  20. One of the alternate theories of the source of “funny” stuff in the sun, is the effect of planetary gravity. Since the dynamos forming the magnetic fields are plasma, one would think that gravity would alter their flow and thus alter the produced magnetism. “They” publish charts showing correlations between sunpots and planetary orbits (I think primarily Jupiter and Saturn). These ideas don’t sound contradictory but …

    1. Do you have a link for that? I’d like to read it.

      However, I’ll say I’m pretty skeptical, since the distance between the Sun and even Jupiter makes the the angle that the Sun’s disk covers with respect to Jupiter is awfully small, greatly limiting the strength of the “squeezing” effect that causes tides on Earth, and the differential in distance from the near side to the far side doesn’t seem like it would be enough to influence things, either.

      On the other hand, IIRC, Jupiter IS the only planet with a center of gravity outside the Sun’s surface, so maybe I’m wrong.

      1. Nope nope nope. Sorry, guys, this has all the veracity of a “Grand Alignment” causing catastrophes on Earth, or the “legitimizing” of astrology because of planetary gravitation.

        I actually sat down once and calculated the effects on Earth inhabitants of each planet in a “Grand Alignment.” I used up all the zeroes I was allotted for the entire year. And that was just on the fractions of a percent relative to the Earth itself.

        I don’t think people realize just how very little Solar System mass is contained OUTSIDE the Sun. Some ~99.85% of the ENTIRE mass of the Solar System is contained within the Sun. Everything else is distributed among the various planets, the asteroid belt, the Kuiper belt, the Oort cloud…

  21. And here’s comment 300! I’m really happy that my post has engendered so much discussion, and I’m REALLY pleased that it has all been so very civil and polite and FUN!

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