Scientists Prove Existence of ‘Magnetic Ropes’ that Cause Solar Storms

FAIRFAX, Va., June 15, 2011—George Mason University scientists discovered recently that a phenomenon called a giant magnetic rope is the cause of solar storms. Confirming the existence of this formation is a key first step in helping to mitigate the adverse effects that solar storm eruptions can have on satellite communications on Earth.

The discovery was made by associate professor Jie Zhang and his graduate student Xin Cheng using images from the NASA Solar Dynamic Observatory (SDO) spacecraft.

Though the magnetic rope was believed to be the cause of these giant eruptions on the Sun, scientists had previously not been able to prove this phenomenon existed because of how quickly the rope moves.

click to enlarge

However, through close examination of images taken by the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) telescope on board the SDO, Zhang was able to pinpoint an area of the sun where a magnetic rope was forming. The AIA telescope suite is able to capture images of the Sun every 10 seconds, 24 hours a day. This unprecedented

cadence in time helped the discovery.

“The magnetic rope triggers a solar eruption. Scientists have been debating whether or not this magnetic rope exists before a solar eruption. I believe that the result of this excellent observation helps finally solve this controversial issue,” says Zhang.

A solar storm is a violent eruption from the Sun, sending billions of tons of charged material, also called plasma, into space at a speed of more than one million miles per hour. The cloud of plasma carries with it a strong magnetic field. When the magnetized cloud reaches Earth one to three days later, a huge amount of energy is deposited into the magnetosphere of the Earth.

Normally the Earth’s magnetosphere shields this harmful solar wind and protects the environment. However, a solar storm has the potential to disrupt the shielding effect and produce severe space weather, which can have harmful effects on a wide array of technological systems, including satellite operation, communication and navigation and electric power grids.

Zhang’s research will help in giving early warning about solar storms and help to minimize the damage done by space weather here on Earth.

“Understanding the eruption process of these storms will definitely help us better predict them,” says Zhang. “We cannot prevent solar storms, just like we cannot prevent earthquakes or volcanoes. But the development of prediction capacity can help mitigate adverse effects. For instance, satellite operators can power-down key systems to prevent the possible damage to the systems.”

It is widely believed that magnetic fields in the Sun play an essential role in storing energy and powering solar storms. However, the exact form that magnetic field lines take prior to the eruption are highly controversial. Most field lines are semi-circular loops with their foot-points rooted on the surface of the Sun. They cannot erupt easily, and in fact, they often play the role of preventing the eruption.

Scientists suspected that the magnetic rope, if it indeed existed, was the phenomenon that powered the eruption. A magnetic rope contains many magnetic field lines wrapping around a center axis and possibly twisting around each other. Because of the twisting, a strong electric current can be carried by the magnetic rope. Theoretically, the electric current could produce a sufficient electro-magnetic force to overcome the overlying constraining force from other field lines and power the magnetic rope to move outward.

AIA images now reveal that, before an eruption, there is a long and low-lying channel running through the entire active region, which heats to a temperature as high as 10 million degrees, and slowly rises. When it reaches a critical point, it starts to erupt quickly. It is a feature distinctly different from the surrounding magnetic field lines. This particular hot channel is now believed to be the magnetic rope that scientists have been looking for.

Zhang is an associate professor in the School of Physics, Astronomy and Computational Sciences and works with the Space Weather Lab at George Mason University. His results were reported at the American Astronomical Society Solar Physics Division Meeting, held in Las Cruces, New Mexico on June 12 – 16, 2011.

Image-1: http://spaceweather.gmu.edu/press/Figure_1_SDO_171_Full_Size.png

Video-1: http://spaceweather.gmu.edu/press/Movie_1_SDO_171_Full_Size.avi  (44 MB)

Image-2:  http://spaceweather.gmu.edu/press/Figure_2_SDO_rope_loop.png

Video-2:  http://spaceweather.gmu.edu/press/Movie_2_SDO_rope_loop.avi (80 MB)

Caption:  http://spaceweather.gmu.edu/press/caption.txt

(Video and images credit: NASA and George Mason University)

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86 Responses to Scientists Prove Existence of ‘Magnetic Ropes’ that Cause Solar Storms

  1. steveta_uk says:

    “We cannot prevent solar storms, just like we cannot prevent earthquakes or volcanoes”

    I’d suggest that we’re a lot closer to preventing earthquakes or volcanoes, simply because we’re a lot closer to earthquakes or volcanoes. Might take a while, tho.

  2. Scott Covert says:

    Very cool!

    Is there a historical database that counts CMEs and direction/ magnitude?

    Fiercely interesting stuff. Thanks.

  3. DJ says:

    Solar activity other than direct watts/sq meter couldn’t possibly effect our climate. That would undermine AGW.

  4. ZT says:

    But aren’t the giant magnetic ropes actually caused by terrestrial CO2? (I believe that this has been conclusively proven by Gavin’s advanced GCMs)

  5. Tom says:

    Sometimes, interesting good science is just interesting good science, and the snark just gets in the way.

  6. Greg, Spokane WA says:

    Very cool stuff. Thanks for posting it.

  7. Truegold says:

    I guess the science involving our understanding of the sun is not “settled”. In fact, is there any area of science where researchers would make such an absurd claim?

  8. kadaka (KD Knoebel) says:

    Editorial note:
    Shouldn’t that be “Seems like GMU doesn’t stop while wating for…”? Seems off as written.

    Otherwise… Another fine addition for “Solar Science admits it didn’t know as much as it thought it did” week. Thanks for posting.

  9. Shevva says:

    I’m a solar scientist and didn’t know it (That image in the post is my wallpaper)

    Get them while there hot, I’ll get my coat – http://sdo.gsfc.nasa.gov/gallery/main.php

  10. Kelvin Vaughan says:

    Can the solar magnetic storms be strong enough to reverse the earths magnetic field?

  11. tallbloke says:

    I found this a rather confusing article to read. They talk about twisted ‘ropes’ with current flow, a classical plasma configuration. But then they seem to equate them with ‘field lines’, which don’t exist in physical reality.

  12. Bill says:

    What is this “magnetic rope?” It is the result of an electric current or stream of charged particles or plasma. You can’t have a magnetic field in space without moving charge. To say that these spiraling magnetic fields MAY have strong electric currents at the center misses the mark.

  13. Katherine says:

    What’s the connection with “copygate”? I read it all the way through and didn’t see anything relevant. That was quite a distraction from an otherwise interesting article. Nice to see this discovery is based on actual observations, rather than “experiments” through modeling.

  14. mkelly says:

    There will be no solar scientist in Italy predicting anything for the forseeable future. Get it wrong go to jail.

  15. Truegold says:
    June 15, 2011 at 11:28 am
    I guess the science involving our understanding of the sun is not “settled”. In fact, is there any area of science where researchers would make such an absurd claim?
    Well, the article says: “Though the magnetic rope was believed to be the cause of these giant eruptions on the Sun, scientists had previously not been able to prove this phenomenon existed because of how quickly the rope moves.” So they just confirm what has been traditional wisdom for many decades.

    Kelvin Vaughan says:
    June 15, 2011 at 12:00 pm
    Can the solar magnetic storms be strong enough to reverse the earths magnetic field?
    No, never

    tallbloke says:
    June 15, 2011 at 12:10 pm
    But then they seem to equate them with ‘field lines’, which don’t exist in physical reality.
    Yes they do when you deal with a plasma in this sense: charged particles are bound to gyrate around field lines [apparently the particles know where the lines are :-) so must react to a physical reality] and particles and lines are tightly tied to each other and move together. Only if the magnetic field extends through a non-conductor [e.g. air or a vacuum] do the field lines lose their ‘individuality’. The field lines are an extremely useful concept and scientists prefer usefulness about all.

  16. Dr. John M. Ware says:

    Does this phenomenon have any relation to the reduced solar activity that is said to presage a possible repeat of the Maunder Minimum? Would tracking this thing help in predicting?

  17. vukcevic says:

    Not for the firs time science and so called ‘pseudoscience’ are converging. Read more:
    http://www.vukcevic.talktalk.net/MF.htm

  18. Bill says:
    June 15, 2011 at 12:18 pm
    You can’t have a magnetic field in space without moving charge.
    Of course you can. The magnetic field from a moving charge extends through space infinitely far away from the charge [unless other fields and charges get in the way]. E.g. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/9/91/Electromagnetism.svg/175px-Electromagnetism.svg.png

  19. vukcevic says:
    June 15, 2011 at 12:57 pm
    Not for the first time science and so called ‘pseudoscience’ are converging.
    http://people.psych.cornell.edu/~dunning/publications/pdf/unskilledandunaware.pdf

  20. vukcevic says:

    tallbloke says: June 15, 2011 at 12:10 pm
    ………….
    Hi tb
    Plasma by its nature is highly layered, this to an observer may appear as a configuration of magnetic lines of force , which of course do not exist, but they are useful theoretical abstraction.

  21. John Silver says:

    Heheh, I’m getting the popcorn and the beer.
    It’s going to be a long night.

  22. Mac the Knife says:

    Really, really interesting images and videos!

    A little help with interpretation?
    1. The solar image (Image 1) has a ‘granular’ surface appearance (to my eye). Are these ‘grains’ indicative of convective cells, magnetic cells, or artifacts of the instruments and wavelengths used to acquire the image?
    2. Along the ~ 40 degree north latitude line are a series of looped structures over active surface sites (‘sun spots’?). They appear to have both ends of the loop originating at the visible surface. These are ‘magnetic loops’?
    3. Immediately adjacent to the loops of the larger ‘sunspot’ (just left and above center) are fan -like sprays of luminescent lines. What are these?
    4. The active region highlighted by the white box shows an area without the prominent loops but does show the fainter ‘sprays’ of luminescence. These are referred to as the ‘magnetic ropes’ , in the article. Are these ‘loops’ that have expanded sufficiently that we can no longer see the full loop, giving us the impression of a ‘rope’ with one end detached but really are still part of a continuous loop? I
    5. In Video 1, the highlighted area shows the luminescent loops expanding rapidly, yet the remainder of the solar image remains almost immobile. Why is that? Was a video of the highlighted area superimposed over an otherwise static image of the solar surface or are the relative motions of the ‘normal loops’ vs the ‘magnetic ropes’ operating on very different timescales?

  23. kim says:

    Stroke on EKG?
    Eminent cardio’s words:
    All connects to all.
    ===========

  24. Dizzy Ringo says:

    Sounds like a case for a plasma physicist – and could it be connected to the electric universe?

  25. Tom in Florida says:

    Leif Svalgaard says:
    June 15, 2011 at 1:16 pm
    “http://people.psych.cornell.edu/~dunning/publications/pdf/unskilledandunaware.pdf”

    This article contains a line “But I wore the juice”. With a slight modification to “But he wore the juice” it becomes a perfect way to express how someone doesn’t understand what they are talking about. It could go down along side other great sayings such as “Putting on the foil coach”.

  26. vukcevic says:
    June 15, 2011 at 1:22 pm
    Plasma by its nature is highly layered, this to an observer may appear as a configuration of magnetic lines of force , which of course do not exist, but they are useful theoretical abstraction.
    Vuk, please. Stop the nonsense. Read http://people.psych.cornell.edu/~dunning/publications/pdf/unskilledandunaware.pdf

  27. TimTheToolMan says:

    I admit to knowing very little about this subject at this stage, but nevertheless attribution of *cause* on solar eruptions for the magnetic ropes seems wrong to me. What causes the ropes in the first place and what effect did that process have on the eruption?

  28. Bill says:

    Leif-How ironic that you illustrate your absurd argument with a graphic of the right hand rule. Magnetic fields arise from moving charge. The charged particles come first not the magnetic field. Even at infinite distance, a vanishingly small magnetic field arose from the movement of charge way, way far away.

  29. Eric Barnes says:

    I think Leif and his solar scientist counterparts need to take a good hard look in the mirror.
    Leif Svalgaard says:
    June 15, 2011 at 2:59 pm

    vukcevic says:
    June 15, 2011 at 1:22 pm
    Plasma by its nature is highly layered, this to an observer may appear as a configuration of magnetic lines of force , which of course do not exist, but they are useful theoretical abstraction.
    Vuk, please. Stop the nonsense. Read http://people.psych.cornell.edu/~dunning/publications/pdf/unskilledandunaware.pdf

    REPLY: Yeah, I have to agree, Vuk is becoming troll-like in these responses. His statement above is absurd. Vuk, you have earned yourself troll bin status, which means all your posts go to automatica moderation now.- Anthony

  30. kuhnkat says:

    “George Mason University scientists discovered recently that a phenomenon called a giant magnetic rope is the cause of solar storms.”

    Could they possibly be looking for this term: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Birkeland_current

    Of course they have now found the same types of current around the gas giants and their moons, Venus, Mercury… not just around the earth and its magnetic field and magnetotail. Interestingly they have known about these phenomena for decades and still have not admitted that there are currents travelling through space.

    http://www-spof.gsfc.nasa.gov/Education/wcurrent.html
    http://www.plasma-universe.com/index.php/Birkeland_current

    Leif Svalgaard,

    “Bill says:
    June 15, 2011 at 12:18 pm
    You can’t have a magnetic field in space without moving charge.
    Of course you can. The magnetic field from a moving charge extends through space infinitely far away from the charge [unless other fields and charges get in the way]. E.g. ”

    Why did you bother to respond to Bill when you simply implied that the current was much farther away and really did not disagree with his statement? I’m still waiting for the explanation of magnetic fields frozen in plasma in space as if the plasma were a solid material. Any new data for us??

  31. mrrabbit says:

    Hey um, Leif?

    If you have a point to make, make it. Seriously, I mostly lurk here, rarely ever post but I have noticed one habit on your part: A very quick tendency to ad-hom either directly or by association – as you did in this case by linking to an article that is nothing more than a ” master of the obvious” type of statement. I.e., folks with inflated egos, lacking common sense and having a narcissistic view of themselves are of course going to have a tendency to evaluate themselves at a level higher than that what would actually be measured by a third party.

    =8-)

  32. kuhnkat says:

    Another item not mentioned in the article is: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Z-pinch

    Z-pinch has been the bane of nuclear fusion experiments since I was in HS and writing a report on the original Tokamak type device.

  33. kuhnkat says:

    So we have people arguing over magnetic lines of force. So the magnetic SHEET that Leif and solar scientists are so proud to have mapped is actually a number of lines of force? Uh, could anyone tell me how many lines there are? Maybe an equation for computing the number of lines of force in the sheet?? Maybe there are an INFINITE number of lines meaning that for practical purposes that the sheet is continuous??

    Seriously, this is a good discussion. Exactly where does one line start and end?? How does the intensity vary over its width?? Do we need a sheet of paper and metal filings to map them??

  34. kuhnkat says:
    June 15, 2011 at 4:11 pm
    I’m still waiting for the explanation of magnetic fields frozen in plasma in space as if the plasma were a solid material. Any new data for us??
    E.g. http://www.leif.org/EOS/yamada10rmp.pdf

    mrrabbit says:
    June 15, 2011 at 4:23 pm
    folks with inflated egos, lacking common sense and having a narcissistic view of themselves are of course going to have a tendency to evaluate themselves at a level higher than that what would actually be measured by a third party
    That is what Vuk qualifies for. Read the Justin and Dunning paper and judge for yourself.

  35. PJA Simoes says:

    Scott Covert says:
    Is there a historical database that counts CMEs and direction/ magnitude?
    There you go: http://cdaw.gsfc.nasa.gov/CME_list/ :)

  36. PJA Simoes says:

    Mac the Knife says:
    Really, really interesting images and videos!
    A little help with interpretation?

    I’ll try some answers, Mac:
    1. I take you mean the “rugged surface”? In a simple description, these “grains” is the density/temperature structure in the corona (and it seems enhanced by a sharpening filter on the image), given by the plasma and magnetic field distribution there.
    2. Yes, you got that right on. The footpoints of those magnetic loops connect down in the sunspots in the photosphere. The magnetic loops are “visible” because of the plasma “trapped” in the field is emitting radiation (it is like using iron powder to see the magnetic field lines of a magnet: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6UrVAgzjHYY
    3. Those are the so called “open field lines”. Of course, they are not “open” (remember: no magnetic monopoles): those field lines must terminate somewhere, like on another active region on the sun, or connect somewhere else in the interplanetary space. The faint smooth brightness indicates a lower density of the emitting plasma (the diverging field cannot “trap” or “concentrate” the plasma).
    4. I haven’t read the paper yet, but from the original post, I think that is the interpretation of that image. We cannot see the full “rope” because it has expanded, having much less plasma inside so that no emission is detected.
    5. I haven’t seen this video yet (bad connection today!), but your second interpretation is correct: there are different timescale at work there. Solar storms, flares, etc. occurs in seconds/minutes timescale, while the magnetic loops in the active regions can “live” for days (in some cases, even a couple of weeks).

    I hope this brief description can help!

  37. PJA Simoes says:

    “these “grains” ARE the density structure[...]” of course. (Mental note: don’t post when you’re sleepy).
    Nevermind other errors and typos, please. ;)

  38. Brian Hall says:

    Katherine;
    The “copygate” crack is unpacked thus: GMU is more concerned with doing real science than with the (idiot) attacks by the two named. It’s a compliment to the university.
    ______
    Next question for intrepid solar scientists: what causes/sustains the ropes?

  39. pete says:

    I hope you guys have not started censoring opinion on this blog ‘just because'; it certainly seems that anyone who disagrees with Leif is on a very short rope (who may do with reading the link he posted, and then thinking about the concept of psychological projection).

    As for the ‘magnetic ropes’, they are Birkelund currents. The description of them by the research team is clear, if only they stop with the focus on “magnetic” and focus on the ‘current’ bit instead they will see they are describing exactly the same thing.

    Alfven made it quite clear that his MHD theory was being abused with regard to frozen-in field lines: http://plasma.colorado.edu/phys7810/articles/Alfven_FieldLines_1976.pdf

    Rather than being a useful concept i’d suggest that the ‘field lines’ are simply confusing issues, ie obscuring a more useful focus on the current which is producing the magnetic ropes they are seeing.

    The big question in my mind is ‘what causes the Birkelund currents?’

  40. Brian Hall says:
    June 15, 2011 at 9:49 pm
    Next question for intrepid solar scientists: what causes/sustains the ropes?
    The ‘ropes’ [called filaments] are cool material condensed out of the hotter corona and ‘hanging’ in magnetic field line loops [those field lines that some people say don't exist]. They are pretty stable [can last weeks] because they are confined by electric currents around them. If the magnetic field topology around the filament changes too much, e.g. by emergence of a new sunspot or by rotation/twisting of the magnetic field lines because of movements of their foot points at the surface, the filament may become unstable. The instability often shows itself by the whole filament starting to wiggle several minutes [or even hours] before the eruption.

  41. pete says:
    June 15, 2011 at 10:02 pm
    As for the ‘magnetic ropes’, they are Birkelund currents.
    They are not Birkeland currents in any shape or form. Perhaps you would care to describe what you think a Birkeland current is…

  42. fabron says:

    Re: http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/06/15/scientists-prove-existence-of-magnetic-ropes-that-cause-solar-storms/#comment-681525

    Vuckevic’s posts are often controversial and doubtful, but this time it appears he was correct.
    NASA in their education page titled ‘ Magnetic Sun’ states:
    Just as lines of latitude and longitude help us visualize positions on the Earth’s globe, so magnetic field lines (originally named by Michael Faraday lines of force) help visualize the distribution of magnetic forces in 3-dimensional space. ……… Magnetic field lines are then imaginary lines which mark the direction in which such a needle would point.
    http://www-istp.gsfc.nasa.gov/stargaze/Sun3mag.htm

    In view of the above, the permanent ban appear to be by far too severe punishment.

  43. Steve C says:

    Having grown up learning my radio with help from little plasma bottles, I love this stuff. Has anyone yet worked out any sort of figure for the magnitude of energy flowing in these “ropes” and megaton plasma streams? Is it enough to add a tad more variability to the energy flow from the Sun to the Earth, should we pass through one of these giant streams of electromagnetic “stuff”?

  44. fabron says:
    June 16, 2011 at 12:27 am
    Magnetic field lines are then imaginary lines which mark the direction in which such a needle would point.
    This is true in a non-conductor like air or a vacuum, but in a plasma things are more complicated. There, the particles are bound to magnetic field lines and spiral around them. The plasma and the field are tied together and move together. In that sense the field lines have individuality and can be said to exist. It is a useful to accept this and that is really what counts. Most scientists don’t give a hoot about what ‘exists’ in ‘reality’ [and what does that actually mean?]. They care about what works and since plasma and field lines go together, if plasma exists it is useful to treat field lines as existing too.

  45. fabron says:
    June 16, 2011 at 12:27 am
    Vuckevic’s posts are often controversial and doubtful, but this time it appears he was correct.
    The nonsense was not about magnetic field lines existing or not, but this jewel:
    “Plasma by its nature is highly layered, this to an observer may appear as a configuration of magnetic lines of force”. ‘highly layered’? ‘appear as field lines’? There are just too many such lapses in his posts, and he gets very defensive about them, which is really not of interest.

  46. Steve C says:
    June 16, 2011 at 1:00 am
    Has anyone yet worked out any sort of figure for the magnitude of energy flowing in these “ropes” and megaton plasma streams? Is it enough to add a tad more variability to the energy flow from the Sun to the Earth, should we pass through one of these giant streams of electromagnetic “stuff”?
    Yes it is easy to calculate the energy, and it is tiny, about a millionth of that in the ordinary sunlight that hits the Earth. And they are not really ‘electromagnetic’. The energy is mostly kinetic [and a bit of thermal] energy of the solar wind particles.

  47. tallbloke says:

    Leif Svalgaard says:
    June 16, 2011 at 1:30 am
    Yes it is easy to calculate the energy, and it is tiny, about a millionth of that in the ordinary sunlight that hits the Earth. And they are not really ‘electromagnetic’. The energy is mostly kinetic [and a bit of thermal] energy of the solar wind particles.

    NASA said the equivalent of a 5.5 earthquake didn’t they? Something like 5×10^16J from memory.

  48. fabron says:

    My previous and the current post are meant for Anthony’s attention
    From NASA’s Solar Physics Glossary
    http://hesperia.gsfc.nasa.gov/sftheory/glossary.htm
    Magnetic Field Lines
    Imaginary lines that indicate the strength and direction of a magnetic field.
    ….. Charged particles move freely along magnetic field lines, but are inhibited by the magnetic force from moving across field lines.

  49. tallbloke says:
    June 16, 2011 at 1:53 am
    NASA said the equivalent of a 5.5 earthquake didn’t they? Something like 5×10^16J from memory.
    In the appendix of my NASA report from 1973 http://www.leif.org/research/Geomagnetic-Response-to-Solar-Wind.pdf I calculate the power hitting the magnetosphere [which has a cross section 100 times larger than the earth] to be 1.6E13 W. You can compare that to the solar irradiance of 1361 W/m2 * cross section of Earth = 1.7E17W or 10,000 times larger. If you compensate for the cross section difference you get 100*10,000 or a million. A large auroral substorm I calculated expended 5E14 J or a 6.7 Richter scale earthquake. Tiny…

  50. GabrielHBay says:

    I have no axe to grind, and visit here to learn. But why is it that on a blog frequented by those sceptical of the hubris of researchers in (ahem) certain fields, there seems to be a tolerance of, nay kow-towing to, the hubris of (ahem) other researchers whose science is apparently settled and can therefore not tolerate other contraversial views? I would like to hear the other views, thank you. Even the most authorative views can be overturned and proved wrong. Mirrors are useful implements, and no-one is immune to the pitfalls of overrating ones’ own level of competence or knowledge.

  51. Steve C says:

    Thanks for that, Leif – and btw may I add my personal thanks in appreciation of your knowledgeable presence here on WUWT to enlighten us plain folk. I confess that I do still wonder, though – even if the total quantity of energy is relatively small w.r.t. the total value, if we happen to get in the way of a concentrated “ropey” stream of it then presumably the quantity of any energy transferred would be that much larger, with potentially non-negligible effects. A millionth of a heck of a lot could still be a lot as measured on the scale of our planet’s little energy budget.

    Thanks Tallbloke, too, for that suggested figure – if it’s anywhere near, it certainly sounds like something I wouldn’t want landing in my back yard, at least not all in one lump!

  52. John Marshall says:

    Very interesting. Perhaps another external influence of climate. Their numbers keep stacking up.

  53. tallbloke says:

    Leif Svalgaard says:
    June 16, 2011 at 2:14 am
    A large auroral substorm I calculated expended 5E14 J or a 6.7 Richter scale earthquake. Tiny…

    Yes, I agree that compared to the energy in the sunlight flowing steadily to earth it is a small figure. The ‘lumpiness’ of the flux tube ‘reconnections’ may have an effect disproportionate to the magnitude of the energy involved however.

    I’m sure NASA scientists will continue to study these effects and their effort is not generally thought to be a waste of time and resources.

  54. PJA Simoes says:

    This may help clearing the field line topic:
    We all know that magnetic field *lines* are imaginary, a concept. There are no “strings” of field that we can count, or identify. But this abstraction works pretty well to describe the real magnetic field. That’s not a novel idea.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Field_line
    Look at the images of the Sun in the original post and see the loop-shaped bright features. Our eyes can easily see “lines” there, right? Those “lines” are shaped by the magnetic field there: we see the emission of the plasma there, not the field of course. Because of the Lorentz force, the charged particles of the plasma can only move along the direction of the field. The plasma trace the field direction as it happens with iron powder, a paper sheet and an ordinary magnet.
    Also, we should remember that the magnetic field we see on the solar corona is generated inside the Sun, and not by electric currents in the Sun’s atmosphere (photosphere, chromosphere and corona). The electric currents in the corona cannot compete with the Sun’s dynamo mechanism to generate those large scale magnetic fields.

  55. tallbloke says:
    June 16, 2011 at 5:00 am
    I’m sure NASA scientists will continue to study these effects and their effort is not generally thought to be a waste of time and resources.
    These effects are major up where the density of the atmosphere is millions to trillions times less that at sea level where we are, so, of course, there is no waste of time and resources as we have space assets that are strongly influenced by those effects. I wonder why you even made that remark.

  56. Steve C says:
    June 16, 2011 at 3:09 am
    if we happen to get in the way of a concentrated “ropey” stream of it then presumably the quantity of any energy transferred would be that much larger, with potentially non-negligible effects.
    Such effects do happen from time to time [but very rarely - one per decade or so] and do have dramatic effects [melting of transformers, destroying satellites, etc], but they are rare and short-lived. Fixing the damage may take a long time, though. But these events do not play a significant role in the overall energy budget.

  57. Mac the Knife says:

    PJA Simoes says:
    June 15, 2011 at 7:44 pm

    Mac the Knife says:
    Really, really interesting images and videos!
    A little help with interpretation?

    “I’ll try some answers, Mac:”

    Thanks a Bunch, PJ!
    I’m not a plasma physicist…. (BS/MS Metallurgical Engineering) so I really appreciate a 2nd opinion on my rudimentary interpretations of these images. Such magnificent structure!!!! Magnetic ropes caging plasma rainbows, as vast arches spanning nuclear geysers!!!! Science fiction becomes reality……

    About a 15 years back, I worked a couple of years on materials and structures development for proposed fusion energy reactors (International Tokamak Experimental Reactor – ITER, and Tokamak Physics EXperiment – TPX). It is only now, with the superb images provided by our solar observing satellites, that I can really begin to visualize the intensity of the ‘magnetic toroid’ needed to contain a nuclear fusion generated plasma field and prevent contact with the plasma facing reactor ‘1st wall’ heat exchangers!

    Thanks again, for your kindness PJ !!

  58. feet2thefire says:

    Though this is interesting, it is not persuasive that this is not just a co-equal resultant with the solar storms.

    Two events – Event ‘A’ and Event ‘B’ – occurred together. That does not mean B caused A or vice versa. Did this guy see this once or several times? Event A and B might be resultants of some other cause ‘C.’

    It also sounds to me like the rope is a resultant of the “channel.”

    From what is said, it isn’t clear how vetted this is.

  59. M White says:

    The BBCs Richard Black has written an article on the predictions of a solar minimum and dismissed its influence on the climate

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-13792479

  60. Olavi says:

    M White says:

    June 16, 2011 at 11:26 am

    The BBCs Richard Black has written an article on the predictions of a solar minimum and dismissed its influence on the climate

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-13792479

    When somebody says he knows the truth, be aware of your money. Nobody knows how Sun affects earth’s climate, so i’ts just hope, quess or religion.

  61. Chris Reeve says:

    Re: “Another item not mentioned in the article is: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Z-pinch

    Z-pinch has been the bane of nuclear fusion experiments since I was in HS and writing a report on the original Tokamak type device.”

    What’s rather ironic, actually, is that the Tokamak experiments have led to confirmations of plasma scaling (an important Electric Universe claim), as well as the observation of “skeletal” structures within dusty plasmas that (AI-based) probabilistic reasoning algorithms have also noticed within interstellar space (another important EU claim, which is further bolstered by the work of Gerrit Verschuur, one of the world’s most famous radio astronomers).

    The Bayesian probabilistic reasoning algorithms offer a startlingly unbiased perspective on the existence of complex plasma structures in space, as they are impervious to the ideological pull towards conventional theory which humans are susceptible to. What the computers are telling us is that the Faraday motor and filamentary structures common to the plasma laboratory are “very likely” there within interstellar space as well. Moving forward, artificial intelligence algorithms offer a promising new technique for challenging the objections of plasma universe skeptics.

    See any of the various papers by A.B. Kukushkin, V.A. Rantsev-Kartinov:

    “Wild Cables in Tokamak Plasmas (Experiment)”

    “Similarity of Skeletal Structures in Laboratory and Space and the Probable Role of Self-Assembling of a Fractal Dust in Fusion Devices”

    “Evidences for and the Models of Self-Similar Skeletal Structures in Fusion Devices, Severe Weather Phenomena and Space”

    “Large-Scale Self-Similar Skeletal Structure of the Universe”

    “Skeletal Structures in the Images of Cosmic Dust Clouds and Solar System Planets”

    ““Waterspout” as a Special Type of Atmospheric Aerosol Dusty Plasma”

    These are very important considerations because we know that the Earth is immersed within the electrical environment of the heliosphere. The largely non-electrical space which we occupy is in fact a very thin shell immersed within this immense electrical environment. Furthermore, we see “flows” all over the surface of this “non-electrical” environment, similar to the Sun. We even see flows of “underwater rivers” in the oceans.

    To automatically rule out the possibility that these flows are perhaps electrical connections to the electrical universe which surrounds our thin non-electrical shell of existence should not be heresy on a forum which appears to pride itself so much on individual thought. If we constrain the questions we ask — like, do the underwater rivers rotate? — then we artificially support our pre-existing conventional views of the universe through a process of financially starving the competing claims.

  62. Chris Reeve says:
    June 16, 2011 at 12:57 pm
    These are very important considerations because we know that the Earth is immersed within the electrical environment of the heliosphere.
    We are immersed in the magnetic environment of the heliosphere.

    To automatically rule out the possibility that these flows
    Nobody is ‘automatically’ ruling out this. Sound physics shows us that the magnetic field is the important element. Plasma moving across magnetic fields and magnetic fields changing create electric currents locally.

  63. PJA Simoes says:

    Mac the Knife says:
    Thanks again, for your kindness PJ !!

    Hey, not a problem! Glad to help! :) I’ve been learning so much since I started reading WUWT (from Anthony, guest authors and commenters) that I can only try to give my best back to this community.

  64. John Day says:

    @pete
    > As for the ‘magnetic ropes’, they are Birkelund currents.

    @Leif
    >They are not Birkeland currents in any shape or form.
    >Perhaps you would care to describe what you think a Birkeland current is …

    Since ‘pete’ hasn’t responded I’ll offer this insight: the term “Birkeland current” seems to have been expanded or generalized (“hijacked”?) in recent years to include any “magnetic field aligned current”, departing from the old definition specifying auroral-related electrojets around the Earth.

    For example, from the Wikipedia article on this topic:
    “Birkeland currents are also one of a class of plasma phenomena called a z-pinch, so named because the azimuthal magnetic fields produced by the current pinches the current into a filamentary cable. This can also twist, producing a helical pinch that spirals like a twisted or braided rope, and this most closely corresponds to a Birkeland current. ”

    Seems reasonable to me, because it was Kristian Birkeland himself who first surmised (back in 1903!) that auroras were caused by magnetic effects from charged particles streaming from the Sun, many decades before the existence of solar wind plasmas were confirmed by the rest of the world.

  65. Chris Reeve says:

    Re: “Sound physics shows us that the magnetic field is the important element. Plasma moving across magnetic fields and magnetic fields changing create electric currents locally.”

    Yes, the key word here is “locally.” There is very strong historical precedent for man assuming the local nature of electricity (Birkeland vs. Chapman, for instance), even as the most fundamental fact of electricity is that it flows from one place to another. At what scale of existence does electricity transition from that of flowing, to not? I desperately want to understand the answer to that question.

  66. John Day says:
    June 16, 2011 at 1:27 pm
    the term “Birkeland current” seems to have been expanded or generalized (“hijacked”?) in recent years to include any “magnetic field aligned current”
    Except in a z-pinch, the current is not along the field lines: http://wwwppd.nrl.navy.mil/branches/6720/gif/pinch.GIF

    Chris Reeve says:
    June 16, 2011 at 1:30 pm
    At what scale of existence does electricity transition from that of flowing, to not? I desperately want to understand the answer to that question.
    For ‘electricity’ to flow there must be an electromotive force, e.g. an imbalance of charges of opposite signs. If you have a more of one sign at point A than at point B a current will flow from A to B neutralizing the difference. A plasma has high conductivity so the neutralization happens very quickly, unless you continuously regenerate the charge imbalance. The way Nature does that is to move a plasma a magnetic field, that separates the two charges, positive is deflected one way, negative the other way. So, in general, move a conductor relative to a magnetic field and you get a current, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dynamo

  67. Chris Reeve says:
    June 16, 2011 at 1:30 pm
    There is very strong historical precedent for man assuming the local nature of electricity
    As in this hilarious paper:
    http://www.scribd.com/doc/14145750/Anthony-Peratt-Characteristics-for-the-Occurrence-of-a-HighCurrent-ZPinch-Aurora-as-Recorded-in-Antiquity

  68. Chris Reeve says:

    Re: “As in this hilarious paper:
    http://www.scribd.com/doc/14145750/Anthony-Peratt-Characteristics-for-the-Occurrence-of-a-HighCurrent-ZPinch-Aurora-as-Recorded-in-Antiquity

    What’s hilarious about trying to make sense of 5,000 years of written human record? Peratt is a former adviser to the Department of Energy, a reviewer for IEEE (the world’s largest scientific institution), and he works on the world’s largest plasma experiment (which gives him a unique view of how high-intensity plasma discharges look). His plasma structures corroborate the Tokamak structures I just posted by A.B. Kukushkin and V.A. Rantsev-Kartinov, which in turn corroborate Verschuur’s finding that interstellar space is permeated by incredibly long filaments — an observation which was predicted by Hannes Alfven himself when he learned that plasma was the universe’s preferred state of matter.

    To bolster the case even further, Verschuur even confirms Alfven’s prediction that critical ionization velocities will be observed in interstellar space at 50 km/s, 35 km/s, 13 km/s and 6 km/s. He notes that the 35 km/s signal is particularly widespread. It should be noted that the “anomalous high-velocity clouds” are labeled “anomalous” specifically because of their redshift of 35 km/s — which is thought to be impossible amongst astronomers, given the inferred location of these “clouds”. Thus far, you have two options for the high-velocity clouds: Either accept the enigma without explanation, or accept that it’s a critical ionization velocity — the result of slamming charged particles at enormous speeds into neutral clouds of gas, in the process ionizing the neutral gas. Conventional scientists still dismiss Verschuur’s findings, even though the CIV’s can be easily created in the laboratory with the same exact values.

    Are you doubting that Peratt can make the plasma structures in the laboratory? Or, are you suggesting that it must be a coincidence that the same drawings appear all over the world? You seem to not be very familiar or concerned with the enigmatic similarities in the creation myths of the world. But, I also sense that you’ve not really read enough about it to grasp the enigma. Even if you think that ancient man was too ignorant to pay attention to their stories, the enigma of the *similarities* in both drawings and mythological stories over the entire world nevertheless demand explanation. By ignoring 5,000 years of written record, conventional thinkers like to imagine that they are not bound to explaining its inherent enigmas.

    Others who took the mythology problem seriously — like Campbell and Jung — were not ridiculed for doing so, but only because they came to uniformitarian conclusions. What’s become clear to those who take the stories seriously enough to compare them against one another is that “creation” does not refer to the origin of the universe. It’s an ancient reference to an Earth which was dramatically transformed by violent catastrophe. Adam and Eve weren’t the first humans; they were some of the only survivors. The Tree of Life is the Birkeland Current. It’s really quite silly that the structures which we now see in heliospheric space regularly connecting the Sun to the Earth every few minutes are somehow thought to never be capable of touching down to the Earth’s surface. The atmosphere is an incredibly thin shell. Is it really that preposterous to imagine that man drew these symbols all over the world because he saw these things in the sky? No, not really.

    The ridicule only begins at the point of questioning the uniformitarian assumptions. But, the point of assumptions is that we are supposed to question them. Upon what basis can man claim that the Earth went through a simplistic, strictly linear sequence of events which is luckily easy for us to rewind backwards like a movie? Does that not sound rather convenient for the study of the Earth? Is that truly the undeniable foundation for building entire disciplines of science that we are told it is?

    No, it’s sloppy, self-serving science. History is not like a movie with a plot. It’s chaotic, and we should expect it to be more complicated than the uniformitarian assumption.

  69. Tom in Florida says:

    Leif Svalgaard says:
    June 16, 2011 at 2:04 pm
    “As in this hilarious paper:
    http://www.scribd.com/doc/14145750/Anthony-Peratt-Characteristics-for-the-Occurrence-of-a-HighCurrent-ZPinch-Aurora-as-Recorded-in-Antiquity

    This article says in 1962 a thermo nuclear device was detonated in the atmosphere at an altitude of 400 km. Seems kinda of high to me as the shuttle orbits at about 330 km. Has this been verified?

  70. Chris Reeve says:
    June 16, 2011 at 3:32 pm
    What’s hilarious about trying to make sense of 5,000 years of written human record?
    Because there is no sense in thinking those represent plasma structures, anymore than Elvis on Mars and the Virgin Mary in a hamburger.

    that interstellar space is permeated by incredibly long filaments
    Gravity does that easily.

    because of their redshift of 35 km/s — which is thought to be impossible amongst astronomers
    Lots of stars have redshift of 35 km/s. E.g. the stars
    104 GJ 1014
    276 Gl 57.1B
    645 LP413-18A
    in the Reid, Hawley & Gizis 1995 Catalog.

    you have two options for the high-velocity clouds:
    35 km/s is not particularly high velocity. Actually extremely low.

    Are you doubting that Peratt can make the plasma structures in the laboratory?
    lots of physicists can make plasma structure. It takes a genius like Peratt to make one that looks just like Kokopelli [complete with flute and erect penis]

    enigmatic similarities in the creation myths of the world.
    Yeah, aliens from outer space are responsible.

    Jung
    Thought such images were innate to the human mind. As the collective consciousness, http://www.nndb.com/people/910/000031817/

    Adam and Eve weren’t the first humans; they were some of the only survivors. The Tree of Life is the Birkeland Current.
    Now you are getting somewhere. But most people won’t be able to follow you there.

    It’s chaotic, and we should expect it to be more complicated than the uniformitarian assumption.
    It is indeed much more contingent and beset with various disasters that have to be overcome, but we made it.

    Tom in Florida says:
    June 16, 2011 at 4:03 pm
    This article says in 1962 a thermo nuclear device was detonated in the atmosphere at an altitude of 400 km. Seems kinda of high to me as the shuttle orbits at about 330 km. Has this been verified?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Starfish_Prime

  71. Chris Reeve says:

    For the sake of clarity …

    Re: “Because there is no sense in thinking those represent plasma structures, anymore than Elvis on Mars and the Virgin Mary in a hamburger.”

    Plasmas can take on a very wide range of appearances. Compare the auroras to terrestrial lightning to upper-atmospheric lightning to a flame. They are all matter in the plasma state. The key components of the twisting and the synchrotron are present in the ancient squatter man drawings. And man’s tendency to anthropomorphize things seen in the sky should be completely beyond reproach.

    Re: “that interstellar space is permeated by incredibly long filaments
    Gravity does that easily.”

    That is misleading. Gravity is a radial force. Within the conventional view, interstellar filaments are presumed to be caused by stellar explosions. They are supposed to be shock waves which have been lucky enough to hold together since the original explosion. But, the problem is the twisting. How does a shock wave both prevent dispersion of the matter into space, and simultaneously twist into a perfectly braided rope? There is nothing “easy” about this for gravity to be the cause. The perfect twists of the Cygnus Loop:

    http://fuse.pha.jhu.edu/~wpb/cygloop/cloop_bw_lin.gif

    In laboratory plasma physics, separate plasma filaments carrying current will possess both long-range attraction and short-range repulsion with the strength of the electric force with one another. The long range attraction is a result of parallel axial currents, while the circular (or helical) currents within the filaments (as the electrons gyrate along the axial magnetic field) contribute to the short-range repulsion. This combination causes the filaments to twist around one another, but it’s the double layer which acts to prevent these filaments from combining, and which insulates the moving charges from dispersing into space. All of the elements are there, based upon laboratory experimentation, to explain the morphology.

    Re: “because of their redshift of 35 km/s — which is thought to be impossible amongst astronomers
    Lots of stars have redshift of 35 km/s. E.g. the stars
    104 GJ 1014
    276 Gl 57.1B
    645 LP413-18A
    in the Reid, Hawley & Gizis 1995 Catalog.”

    Verschuur is a radio astronomer who observes interstellar matter at the 21-cm wavelength (aka “HI hydrogen”). He states:

    “Not all is understood about the distribution of HI in the Milky Way. For example, large areas of sky are found to contain HI [hydrogen] moving at velocities that are not expected if the gas is confined to the plane of the Galaxy. In particular, when a radio telescope is pointed above or below the galactic plane, only relatively local gas traveling at velocities between +-20 km/s with respect to zero, defined in terms of the average random motion of stars near the sun, should be observed. However, HI at very high negative velocities, which indicates motion toward us, is found at high galactic latitudes. These structures are known as high-velocity clouds, although detailed maps of such features show them to be filamentary instead of cloud-like. Their distance and origin continue to be the subject of controversy. The bulk of these HI structures in the northern sky follow an arc defined by a weak radio shell found in radio surveys …” (The Invisible Universe: The Story of Radio Astronomy, Gerrit L. Verschuur, p55)

    The conventional explanation for the HI signal, for those who are wondering, is as follows:

    “The neutral hydrogen atom consists of a proton with an electron in an orbit about it. Both the proton and the electron have a property called spin, which can be in the same direction (called parallel spin) or in opposite directions (antiparallel) relative to one another. The total energy contained by the atom in these two conditions is different. When the spin state flips from the parallel condition to the antiparallel, which contains less energy, the atom gets rid of the excess energy by radiating a spectral line at a frequency of 1420.405 MHz, generally known as the 21-cm line referring to its wavelength in the radio band. The 21-cm line is the signature of HI and makes the gas observable to astronomers on earth.” (The Invisible Universe: The Story of Radio Astronomy, Gerrit L. Verschuur, p52)

  72. Chris Reeve says:
    June 16, 2011 at 7:08 pm
    And man’s tendency to anthropomorphize things seen in the sky should be completely beyond reproach.
    Man will do that with anything, in the sky or not, e.g. http://www.budoniambiente.org/053/02.jpg

    That is misleading. Gravity is a radial force.
    so is an electric field.

    Within the conventional view, interstellar filaments are presumed to be caused by stellar explosions. They are supposed to be shock waves which have been lucky enough to hold together since the original explosion.
    They are not ‘lucky enough’, they are compression fronts. The shock waves are so thin, less than one part in 50,000 of the radius that the waves are visible only when viewed edge-on, giving the appearance of a filament. Undulations in the surface of the shock front lead to multiple filamentary images, which appear to be intertwined.

    For example, large areas of sky are found to contain HI [hydrogen] moving at velocities that are not expected if the gas is confined to the plane of the Galaxy.
    So, simply shows that the gas is not so confined.

    You have been taken in by the Electric/Plasma Universe cult. This is pseudo-science of high caliber. You should make an effort to free yourself from this nonsense. Coming to WUWT willing to learn about this wonderful universe of ours should be a help in this regard.

  73. tallbloke says:

    Leif Svalgaard says:
    June 16, 2011 at 2:14 am
    A large auroral substorm I calculated expended 5E14 J or a 6.7 Richter scale earthquake. Tiny…

    Starfish Prime caused an electromagnetic pulse which was far larger than expected, so much larger that it drove much of the instrumentation off scale, causing great difficulty in getting accurate measurements. The Starfish Prime electromagnetic pulse also made those effects known to the public by causing electrical damage in Hawaii, about 1,445 kilometres (898 mi) away from the detonation point, knocking out about 300 streetlights, setting off numerous burglar alarms and damaging a telephone company microwave link. The EMP-damaged microwave link shut down telephone calls from Kauai to the other Hawaiian islands.[4]

    Seems that electromagnetic effects constantly surprise each new generation of physicists by being much bigger than theory says they should be.

  74. Legatus says:

    There may acutally be some filiments out there, based on actual observation.
    This doesn’e mean that they dominate the universe with electricity. If they have some charges (this article doesn’t mention anything about intertwining or such) they are probably not enough to have any effect such as in a Electrical/plasma Universe. However, they may have charge or magnetism or such, it may only be enough to effect the plasma itself (which is thin and pretty much uneffected by much else in the dark between the galaxies), but there may be some.
    Like Leif said, it just shows that there is some non confined gas out there.

    http://www.monash.edu.au/news/show/monash-student-finds-universes-missing-mass
    “It was thought from a theoretical viewpoint that there should be about double the amount of matter in the local Universe compared to what was observed. It was predicted that the majority of this missing mass should be located in large-scale cosmic structures called filaments – a bit like thick shoelaces,” said Dr Pimbblet.

    Astrophysicists also predicted that the mass would be low in density, but high in temperature – approximately one million degrees Celsius. This meant that, in theory, the matter should have been observable at X-ray wavelengths. Amelia Fraser-McKelvie’s discovery has proved that prediction correct.

    Ms Fraser-McKelvie said the ‘Eureka moment’ came when Dr Lazendic-Galloway closely examined the data they had collected.

    “Using her expert knowledge in the X-ray astronomy field, Jasmina reanalysed our results to find that we had in fact detected the filaments in our data, where previously we believed we had not.”

  75. tallbloke says:
    June 16, 2011 at 11:27 pm
    Seems that electromagnetic effects constantly surprise each new generation of physicists by being much bigger than theory says they should be.
    You cannot judge from that case. One of the reasons for the test was to see how big the EMP was. The theory is Maxwell’s equations, and if the effects is much bigger than they should be as calculated from Maxwell, then there is something seriously wrong. And there is nothing wrong with those equations.

  76. tallbloke says:

    Leif Svalgaard says:
    June 17, 2011 at 5:55 am
    tallbloke says:
    June 16, 2011 at 11:27 pm
    Seems that electromagnetic effects constantly surprise each new generation of physicists by being much bigger than theory says they should be.

    You cannot judge from that case.

    Yes I can. The explosion was 400km up, In that rarified part of the Earth’s environment which you say shouldn’t affect us down here at sea level.

    How many joules in that explosion Leif? More or less than a 6.5 earthquake?

  77. Ryan says:

    I can’t believe the argument over whether magnetic field lines exist actually happened. Everyone agreed they are useful abstractions but then proceeded to beat their heads against a semantic wall over whether that means they “exist” or not. On a more general note, interesting to see big bang denial crop up in a global warming denial forum. I’ve always thought the two were incredibly similar when conducted by non-creationists.

  78. tallbloke says:
    June 17, 2011 at 11:33 am
    “You cannot judge from that case.”
    Yes I can. The explosion was 400km up, In that rarified part of the Earth’s environment which you say shouldn’t affect us down here at sea level. How many joules in that explosion Leif? More or less than a 6.5 earthquake?

    No, you can’t unless you know what you talking about, which you obviously don’t. The way a nuclear EMP works is that gamma rays from the explosion penetrate to ~30 km altitude and there where the air is dense enough knocks electrons out of the atoms. The electrons spiral along the magnetic field lines. This is the Compton effect; the resulting electrons produce an electric current called the Compton current. The energy of the gamma rays was about 1/1000 of the nuclear blast [which was a modest 1.4 MegaTon TNT equivalent], or 6E12 Joule. The 6.5 earthquake is about 5E14 J.
    Physiscs had calculated the effect of the EMP, but were not sure how efficient the process would be at great altitudes. The StarFish explosion was partly to calibrate that calculation. Your silly surmission that each new generation is stumped by this, is just that: untrue and silly.

  79. Ryan says:
    June 17, 2011 at 12:31 pm
    I can’t believe the argument over whether magnetic field lines exist actually happened. Everyone agreed they are useful abstractions but then proceeded to beat their heads against a semantic wall over whether that means they “exist” or not.
    It crops up regularly and the purpose of pushing it is basically to say that modern science [which uses that very sensible and useful device] is fundamentally wrong, because ‘field lines don’t exist’. This is not a science argument, but an attempt of credibility assassination.

  80. tallbloke says:

    Leif Svalgaard says:
    June 17, 2011 at 1:09 pm
    Physiscs had calculated the effect of the EMP, but were not sure how efficient the process would be at great altitudes. The StarFish explosion was partly to calibrate that calculation. Your silly surmission that each new generation is stumped by this, is just that: untrue and silly.

    You’ve misunderstood me. I’m not saying that particular effect is incorrectly estimated by successive generations of physicists, I’m saying that analogous problems in differing environments have been underestimated since, and that this is a consistent pattern. So for example, not very long ago, in the experiment where a probe threw a projectile at a passing comet with the intention of measuring the size of the resulting pock mark, the scientists expressed surprise at the much bigger flash and resulting crater that occurred than was expected.

  81. TimTheToolMan says:

    Leif writes : “This is true in a non-conductor like air or a vacuum, but in a plasma things are more complicated. There, the particles are bound to magnetic field lines and spiral around them. The plasma and the field are tied together and move together. In that sense the field lines have individuality and can be said to exist. It is a useful to accept this and that is really what counts. Most scientists don’t give a hoot about what ‘exists’ in ‘reality’ [and what does that actually mean?]. They care about what works and since plasma and field lines go together, if plasma exists it is useful to treat field lines as existing too.”

    It is useful to use analogies to understand physical behaviour but potentially wrong when the analogous properties are explored further. So in this case any expectation of “lines” that goes beyond the observed fact that the particles line up along them is very possibly going to be misleading. Considering things like “line density” could be a non effect that might lead to further misunderstandings for example.

  82. tallbloke says:
    June 17, 2011 at 2:37 pm
    I’m saying that analogous problems in differing environments have been underestimated since, and that this is a consistent pattern.
    Not at all, only if you have that attitude and look for confirmation bias. Some counterexamples: recent solar cycle predictions, global warming, Obama’s approval rating, etc, etc

    TimTheToolMan says:
    June 17, 2011 at 5:41 pm
    It is useful to use analogies to understand physical behaviour but potentially wrong when the analogous properties are explored further.
    Physicists know when to use it and when not go any further, so no understandings among us. The problem comes when laymen try to use the ‘non-existence’ of field lines as an indication that physicists don’t know what they are talking about.

  83. PJA Simoes says:

    Asking questions to improve one’s knowledge about a subject is one thing; questioning every little concept that is used to describe/explain a physical scenario is taking an excessive denialist attitude (pun intended).
    Solar physicists’ knowledge of the Sun is based on some decades of observations (centuries, if we include sunspot counts) and analysis, based by solid physics (electromagnetism, plasma physics, quantum physics, etc), and not on closed-code computer model predictions (again, pun intended)… There are, of course, still more question than answers, but no one is sitting on ether here.
    So, my point, a little bit of Google+Wikipedia would have avoided some friction in this thread. No one likes a comment section in flames, right?

  84. tallbloke says:

    Leif Svalgaard says:
    June 17, 2011 at 9:31 pm

    Leif, a simple dipole magnet has the ‘field lines’ going from one pole to the other, but the Sun has a lot of plasma shooting out sideways from the equatorial region, and a ‘current sheet’ which is of opposite sign above and below. It’s almost as if the sun contains two dipole magnets one above the other, which don’t ‘join’ in the middle.
    I’m supposing the ‘field lines’ associated with the sideways radiating plasma above and below the current sheet eventually recirculate to their respective poles, as they can’t just ‘peter out’ or flap around in free space.

    What is the solar physicists conceptual model which explains this apparent paradox?

  85. tallbloke says:
    June 18, 2011 at 1:10 am
    a simple dipole magnet has the ‘field lines’ going from one pole to the other, but the Sun has a lot of plasma shooting out sideways from the equatorial region, and a ‘current sheet’ which is of opposite sign above and below. It’s almost as if the sun contains two dipole magnets one above the other, which don’t ‘join’ in the middle. What is the solar physicists conceptual model which explains this apparent paradox?
    The plasma ‘shoots’ out everywhere [called the solar wind], not just at the equator. And the Sun is [to first approximation] a dipole, too. In the Northern Hemisphere the field lines go out [say, but changes every 11 years at solar maximum] while in the Southern Hemisphere the field lines go in [opposite of Northern]. So, a nice dipole. If there were no solar wind, the field lines from that dipole would cross the equator from North to South and be perpendicular to the equatorial plane. But the solar wind plasma drags that field line out radially away from the Sun, so that the field line will have two ‘legs’ that are still connected to the Sun, but stretching out to infinity [this resolves the paradox: the field line turns around at infinity]. In the Northern leg the field points out, and in the Southern leg it points in. Because charged particles gyrate around field lines [ http://www.leif.org/research/Current-Sheet-Cartoon.png ] a current develops between the oppositely directed field lines. Now, this is the picture to first approximation [that has no paradox]. But the situation is not so as simple as that. The solar field is not a pure dipole, but has many higher order multipoles. These deform and warp the magnetic field in the Heliosphere. Those warps can be very large and can extend all the way to the poles, especially at solar maximum where the polar fields disappear [but still no paradox]. See http://www.leif.org/research/3D-solar-Wind.pdf that describes the current paradigm, now some 35 years old, but still valid]. Second point: the solar wind does not extend to infinity, but meets the interstellar medium some 100 AU from the Sun. There the wind gets all tangled up, but eventually the field lines connect with the interstellar magnetic field, which connects with the intergalactic magnetic field, so we can continue to follow the field line on its way to infinity and there is still no paradox.

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