Thursday Throughput: Solar Cycle Edition

Michael Siegel

Michael Siegel is an astronomer living in Pennsylvania. He blogs at his own site, and has written a novel.

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19 Responses

  1. fillyjonk says:

    ThTh1: We CAN harden the grid, but WILL we?

    Infrastructure maintenance is not “sexy”
    And I am sure there are people out there who refuse to believe solar storms are a thing.Report

    • Oscar Gordon in reply to fillyjonk says:

      We can’t even keep our bridges in good repair and power lines fall down often enough to set California on fire every fall.

      Yeah, the next Carrington event might as well be the SMOD.Report

  2. Oscar Gordon says:

    ThTh6: I loved how in this one, the guys playing with rock candy noticed the formations, thought it was interesting, and decided to go looking to see where this happens in nature. And because one guy on the team was from China…Report

  3. Swami says:

    I believe the best estimates for the numbers of humans ever to have existed is about 100 billion. So, this would imply mosquitoes killed half of all humans. Seems way too high to me.Report

    • Anthony in reply to Swami says:

      ThTh3 = I’m going to vote for humans being the creatures deadliest to humans, though if mosquitos are even 1/5 that number, humans might be in second place.Report

  4. Jaybird says:

    ThTh1: I’m not really worried about stuff like powerlines as much as I’m worried about stuff like “everything”.

    This is going to fry pretty much every single electronic device out there. Like, your old 8-Track Player? Kiss it goodbye. Your smart fridge? Kiss it goodbye. I don’t even want to think about Playstations, Computers, or Televisions.Report

    • fillyjonk in reply to Jaybird says:

      I wonder if making a house-sized tinfoil hat would protect things? I seem to remember there was some kind of “shielding” that could be done to protect sensitive devices.

      That said? Maybe another reason not to join the Internet of Things. I don’t need my washing machine texting me to say its cycle is done.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to fillyjonk says:

        I imagine the simple garbage disposal. It ain’t much, right? A simple engine, some simple gears, plugged into the wall.

        Would a solar event do to the garbage disposal what happened to the telegraph offices?

        I ask because I have a garbage disposal.

        (As for the tin foil hats, studies have shown that those not only don’t work, they might even make things worse.)Report

        • Oscar Gordon in reply to Jaybird says:

          Granted, I’m not an electrical engineer, but IIRC, a solar event won’t kick your disposal on. It’ll fry anything not shielded, and it could induce a current in wires, but the reason it shocked telegram operators is because they were sitting at the end of miles and miles of wire that was exposed to the event, without breakers between them and those wires.Report

    • Michael Cain in reply to Jaybird says:

      Consider a comparison between the effects from a CME and an EMP. (This on the surface; things are different for satellites, particularly those in high orbits.) EMPs fry “everything” because of the short initial very high voltage spike generated. That spike can induce significant voltages even in relatively short lengths of wire. CMEs don’t have that initial spike. CMEs fry things by inducing long duration (days) DC voltages capable of large current flows. Apply that to a transformer and pretty soon it gets hot. Do that to an oil-filled electric grid transformer and Bad Things eventually happen. See, for example, Quebec 1989. PCs and Macs existed in 1989; Quebec’s PCs and Macs didn’t die, but lots of oil-filled transformers did, some spectacularly.Report

  5. Carl Schwent says:

    ThTh2: In college, my roommate was an astronomy major. One night he was observing Jupiter through the student telescope when the field of view was suddenly filled with flashing colored lights. He screamed, jumped back, looked up, and saw the Goodyear blimp floating by.
    He’s probably the only person to have telescopically observed an occultation of Jupiter by the Goodyear blimp. Too bad he didn’t get any pictures.Report

  6. Brandon Berg says:

    ThTh3: To be fair, that’s not adjusted for total encounters. Lions and sharks are much more deadly on a per-encounter basis.Report