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Space Science

Astronomers Again Baffled by Solar Observations 299

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the back-to-the-drawing-board dept.
SteakNShake writes "Once again professional astronomers are struggling to understand observations of the sun. ScienceDaily reports that a team from Saint Andrew's University announced that the sun's magnetic fields dominate the behavior of the corona via a mechanism dubbed the 'solar skeleton.' Computer models continue to be built to mimic the observed behavior of the sun in terms of magnetic fields but apparently the ball is still being dropped; no mention in the announcement is made of the electric fields that must be the cause of the observed magnetic fields. Also conspicuously absent from the press releases is the conclusion that the sun's corona is so-dominated by electric and magnetic fields because it is a plasma. In light of past and present research revealing the electrical nature of the universe, this kind of crippling ignorance among professional astrophysicists is astonishing."
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Astronomers Again Baffled by Solar Observations

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  • by Caspian (99221) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @05:32AM (#19000203)
    The universe is clearly electrical in nature, which is why every "spacial anomaly" encountered in Star Trek history causes consoles to spark and power systems to fail. :)
  • whaa? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by delong (125205) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @05:32AM (#19000209)
    What kind of horse shit story is this?
    • Re:whaa? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by massivefoot (922746) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @05:36AM (#19000225)
      One that lacks a basic understanding of electromagnetism.
      • Re:whaa? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by niiler (716140) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @08:19AM (#19000809) Journal
        I'm pretty certain that astronomers have a pretty clear notion of what they are up against. You've got a plasma that must be modeled in 3D using Navier-Stokes equations with allowances made for EM coupling. You must also deal with the nuclear reactions occurring inside. The boundary conditions are ill-defined in that we must make certain assumptions about what's at the core of the Sun on one hand and where its boundary is on the other. Add to this the fact that the solar wind accelerates due to a de Laval nozzle effect and the corona seems to be hotter than the Sun's surface and you've got quite a quandry. It's not that the individual principles are not understood; they are. Rather it's how to put all of it together in such a way that it gives us the right answer. This is most certainly NOT the same as not understanding E&M! Sheesh!
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by jcorno (889560)

          It's not that the individual principles are not understood; they are. Rather it's how to put all of it together in such a way that it gives us the right answer. This is most certainly NOT the same as not understanding E&M! Sheesh!

          The corona is a few hundred thousand miles away from any fusion, with dense plasma in between. I think it's safe to model them separately. And the lack of understanding of E&M is in the post. "Also conspicuously absent from the press releases is the conclusion that the

        • Anyone with a STOS, STNG, or perhaps a DS9 certification could have written that.

          In fact I know a B5 scholar who wrote a dissertation on exactly what you wrote last week.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          well said, I came to this forum scratching my head about the "electrical nature of the universe" statement, why on earth was this allowed on ./(????), the internet is full of nuts trying to push their own daft take on reality but as GBS once said, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.
          • Re:whaa? (Score:4, Insightful)

            by Sepodati (746220) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @12:46PM (#19002341) Homepage

            extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence

            Yeah, must better to stick with the "extraordinary evidence" of black holes, dark matter and dark energy (which we can't see or measure) that have to be introduced to make the current theories work...

            ---John Holmes...

        • by drDugan (219551) *

          I'm pretty certain that astronomers have a pretty clear notion of what they are up against.
          sounds a lot like "640K ought to be enough for anybody." misattributed to Gates.

          I think: What we don't know is (at least) several orders of magnitude larger than what we know. Silly science hubris tends to forget this; when you are trained as a scientist, and the equation fits for your WHOLE LIFE - it is very hard to let it go.

    • Welcome to Slashdot!
    • What kind of horse shit story is this?
      Nah, you're thinking of Chariots Of The Gods [wikipedia.org], whereas this is Thunderbolts Of The Gods [bautforum.com]: it's for the more discerning, electric SUV driving deities.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Oh come on, it's filed under "It's Funny, Laugh".

      No wait, hold on.. er... This was evidently meant as a serious scientific story. Okay, now I am officially embarrassed to admit that I read Slashdot.
    • Re:whaa? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by p_trekkie (597206) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @07:18AM (#19000549) Homepage
      DISCLAIMER: I am an astronomy grad student.

      I have repeatedly gotten emails from a similar group of nutjobs linking to a 40 page paper which "proves" the universe is not powered by fusion but by magnetic fields or some such. Their paper contained I think three equations and a whole lot of hooey.

      The story on the front page of slashdot is complete and utter BUNK (yes, I know not THAT big of a surprise). Editors should remove immediately.
      • Re:whaa? (Score:5, Informative)

        by p_trekkie (597206) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @07:20AM (#19000555) Homepage
        Sorry, too angry reading the latter half to look at the first links. The St. Andrew's stuff is legit. The electric stuff is crap
        • by mdsolar (1045926) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @08:05AM (#19000731) Homepage Journal
          A number of interests feel it is important to undermine confidence in science by teaching bogus controversies. Slashdot gets quite a bit of this in both submissions and comments. This one is so bogus that it is suprising it slipped through but you'll notice its is attracting its share of global warming is non-anthropogenic posts. Unltimately, this kind of thing teaches us to look more closely at the sources of information. The attempts to manipulate us through our skepicism will eventually be recognized as dishonest: http://mdsolar.blogspot.com/2007/01/your-opinion-c ould-be-paid-for-by.html [blogspot.com].
          --
          Real Solar: http://mdsolar.blogspot.com/2007/01/slashdot-users -selling-solar.html [blogspot.com]
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by 1u3hr (530656)
            This one is so bogus that it is suprising it slipped through

            Obligatory: You must be new here.

            There is no quality control on stories. No spellchecks, no dupe check, no URL check, no credibility checks. Obvious hoaxes and twisted interpretations are given full weight. The only questions asked are 1) Can I think of a funny "From-the-XXX-department" line?; 2) Will it stir up discussion?

            • by mdsolar (1045926)
              It did get voted down by at least one reader in the firehose.
              • by 1u3hr (530656) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @11:21AM (#19001727)
                It did get voted down by at least one reader in the firehose.

                Exactly. It was published regardless. So what's the point?

                • by mdsolar (1045926)
                  Just that there are some mechanisms on slashdot. But, as you point out, not so many.
                  • by 1u3hr (530656)
                    Just that there are some mechanisms on slashdot.

                    I've used Slashcode, the backend of the site, elsewhere. It has a spellcheck built in. But they can't even be bothered to use it. So expecting any semblance of professionalism here is futile.

                    • by mdsolar (1045926)
                      I think a spellcheck would be great. I spell poorly and seldom notice an error unless it is someone else who made it. It would increase CPU needs a little. That might be the tradeoff that keeps it out. Blogspot has a spellcheck for posts though not for comments. I notice is can be quite slow while slashdot grinds down only occasionally.
        • Re:whaa? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Phil-14 (1277) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @09:14AM (#19001009)
          The electric universe people use that tactic a lot; quote some real scientists' new discovery of some physics behind space plasmas and say it proves their pet theory about how fusion doesn't really happen... of course, they never seem to say where the energy really does come from if "it's all electric." Maybe the windmill down the road?
          • I notice that they also throw as many obscure terms and concepts as possible into their writing. Then at the very end they ignore everything they'd said and just spew their "electric currents" idea. I assume they do this to bog down critics.
      • Astrophysicist's experience: Decades
        Blurb and last link authors' experience: None

        I wonder which one I should believe?
        • by Sepodati (746220)
          Wow, what a great argument. How many decades of experience were there that the earth was flat and the sun rotated around the earth? I'm not saying you have to believe these guys, but... I'd like to see more experimentation to test if what they say is true or at least plays along with or supports current theory, but since it goes against the accepted theories, who's going to fund that?
    • Re:whaa? (Score:5, Funny)

      by ettlz (639203) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @07:44AM (#19000639) Journal

      What kind of horse shit story is this?
      The really bad variety that's not even good for manure. If you put roses in it, they'd jump straight back out and smack you upside yo' head.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by dirtyforker (844960)
      I read it as astrologers baffled by solar observations and felt my whole world come crumbling down, but it's astronomers, so it's alright.
    • Re:whaa? (Score:5, Informative)

      by sanctimonius hypocrt (235536) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @08:36AM (#19000853) Homepage Journal
      'Astronomers baffled;' yeah, right. This is a fringe 'theory' that was deleted from Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] in January.
      • by drDugan (219551) *
        oh, and a Wikipedia deletion is a reason to think something is bunk? Science is NOT democratic, thank God. :)

        don't get me wrong, Wikipedia is AWESOME, I love it, and want it to expand, however, it is a strange beast and "Wikipedia deletion" ~== not in line with current "Internet Think"
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          Sure; it's not a fringe theory because it was deleted; it wasn't even deleted for being a fringe theory - Wikipedia has plenty of pages about those. It was deleted for being "notable primarily in the minds of the advocates," among a few other reasons. It's presence on, and removal from, Wikipedia is for comparison to its posting on Slashdot and the recognition by readers that this is an effort at self-promotion. Sorry if that wasn't clear.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Majik Sheff (930627)
      This article reminds me of a famous editorial in the NYT. It took them almost 50 years to print a correction. Excerpted from Wikipedia: On January 13, 1920, a New York Times editorial on page 12 entitled "A Severe Strain on Credulity" ridiculed Robert Goddard and his claim that a rocket would work in space: That Professor Goddard, with his "chair" in Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, and the countenancing of the Smithsonian Institution, does not know the relation of action to reaction, a
    • by AngryNick (891056)
      Someone has to speak for the 20% of the class that got into astrophysics to meet girls and/or drop acid.
    • by ceoyoyo (59147)
      Taco got suckered by a electrical universe pseudoscience story. You'd think the link to thunderbolt would have tipped him off, but I guess you'd have to look at the links for that to happen.

      Either that or he was bored and wanted to read all the crackpot comments.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    It's St Andrews, not "Saint Andrews", this kind of crippling ignorance is astonishing.
  • by rubberpaw (202337) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @05:38AM (#19000233) Homepage Journal
    >>this kind of crippling ignorance among professional astrophysicists is astonishing.

    Isn't it rather an indication that they're doing their job? Data which challenge our current models are the most valuable things scientists can collect, because they give researchers chance to refine their theories.

    If all the astrophysicists and satelite projects were returning information which merely fit their current theories, there would seem to be less need for such research. In scientific research, the known unknowns are difficult challenges, but the discovery of unknown unknowns are the wonderful bits. Definite Ignorance leads to Progress.
    • by Scarblac (122480) <slashdot@gerlich.nl> on Saturday May 05, 2007 @06:02AM (#19000337) Homepage

      Isn't it rather an indication that they're doing their job? Data which challenge our current models are the most valuable things scientists can collect, because they give researchers chance to refine their theories.

      The thing is, the theory the submitter alludes to isn't the "current model", it's extreme fringe theory (I'm tempted to call it crackpot theory but will leave that to an actual physicist), and the submitter managed to get his troll on Slashdot.

      I mean, he's calling the fact that scientists don't agree to a theory on thunderbolts.info as "crippling ignorance".

      I mean, Nature, thunderbolts.info, they're about the same in status, don't you agree?

      • (1) The "electrical universe theory" is indeed crackpot.

        (2) You are misuing the term "troll".

        I find (2) a lot more annoying than (1).
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Frnknstn (663642)
          No, this is a troll. The submitter does not believe the story he submitted. He only submitted it to generate the attention from outraged slashdot readers about the post.
        • by 1u3hr (530656)
          2) You are misuing the term "troll".

          If the submitter actually belived this bullshit, it would just be crackpottery. But more likely it's some bored geek trying to stir up controversy, the language suggests the latter. That's a troll. Of course, the "crippling ignorance" is Cowboy Neal's, for accepting it at face value.

      • by mazarin5 (309432) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @08:55AM (#19000917) Journal
        (I'm tempted to call it crackpot theory but will leave that to an actual physicist)

        It's a crackpot theory.
        -mazarin5, physicist

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Dr. Zowie (109983)
        Electric Universe is so incoherent that it doesn't even qualify as physical theory -- it doesn't make any predictions. I know -- I was in the fray on the Wikipedia page for many months. The page was finally deleted.
      • It is a bogus theory. I mean, look, they didn't even mention UFOs and the Hollow Earth where Hitler lives. Damn poor research if you ask me.
    • by Nutria (679911)
      Isn't it rather an indication that they're doing their job? Data which challenge our current models are the most valuable things scientists can collect, because they give researchers chance to refine their theories.

      If all the astrophysicists and satelite projects were returning information which merely fit their current theories, there would seem to be less need for such research. In scientific research, the known unknowns are difficult challenges, but the discovery of unknown unknowns are the wonderful bit
      • But scientists keep on trying to salvage their accepted doctrine even when observation makes accepted doctrine into a creaking, fragile house of cards.

        The long transit from geocentricism to heliocentrism bears this out.


        Except the evidence does not support this fringe. Science will stick to an idea that has provided value until something comes and provides the same value and more. Value is based on predictive value and ability to explain the observation within the framework of the theory. the "electric unive
  • WTF? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by elvum (9344) * on Saturday May 05, 2007 @05:39AM (#19000237) Journal
    Is Slashdot now a forum for random cranks to publish their personal rants? This isn't a story.
    • Is Slashdot now a forum for random cranks to publish their personal rants? This isn't a story.
      THAT is the story. Ironic isn't it?

      In other news, [professional] non-astrophysicists call [professional] astrophysicists ignorant about astrophysics. OK, now that is ironic.
  • Crank crackpottery (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 05, 2007 @05:41AM (#19000249)
    Er. Can we have less of the "electric universe" guy? Geez. Next you'll be posting Bearden rants.
    • by fbjon (692006)
      Maybe he meant to write "eclectic universe".
    • by DrJay (102053) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @07:49AM (#19000655) Homepage
      Did you see the electric universe team? One retired professor of engineering. One guy who claims "university training" in astronomy. A "physicist" who dropped out of grad school because "the lack of curiosity and the frequent hostility toward this challenge to mainstream science convinced Thornhill to pursue an independent path outside academia." The rest appear to be comparative mythologists.

      This is the crew that's calling modern astronomers crippled by ignorance? Excuse me while i die laughing...
  • by ebcdic (39948) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @05:44AM (#19000257)
    It seems that any fringe theorist can now post an apparently topical article to Slashdot as a way of getting hits on their Velikovski-style planetary catastrophe web site.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Threni (635302)
      If he'd put "Astronomer baffled by solar observations" then I doubt anyone here would have had a problem with it!
    • by pipingguy (566974) *
      If death by a thousand cuts (AKA global warming) vs. the sun exploding or something, I think I'd prefer the latter.

      The fact remains that everyone reading this will eventually die.

      It always amuses me to read/hear people that think "we have to get off this rock" in order to "preserve" the human race.

      Every time I hear that view expressed my mind wanders to people that read too much science fiction and do not have children.
      • by Jesus_666 (702802)
        It always amuses me to read/hear people that think "we have to get off this rock" in order to "preserve" the human race.



        T-Minus 15.193792102158E+9 years until the universe closes!

        Think about it.
  • by adnonsense (826530) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @05:57AM (#19000309) Homepage Journal

    Codswallop. Everybody knows the universe is powered by good old steam. I'd post a link to the official research site on the prestigious geocities.com server, but space aliens running on diesel stole my bookmarks.

    • Codswallop. Everybody knows the universe is powered by good old steam

      Oooh Codswallop. Now there's a dirty word! (being a student of word origins, I belive it's pretty aweful). But I think he's right. For a given value of steam. Everyone knows steam is a gift from His Noodly Appendage for the use of inspiring poets, like Kipling (and I do kipple occasionaly, thank you, so should you).

      "LORD, Thou hast made this world below the shadow of a dream,

      An', taught by time, I tak' it so--exceptin' always Steam."

  • by SplatMan_DK (1035528) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @05:57AM (#19000315) Homepage Journal
    I find it unfortunate that SlashDot accepts an article with words such as:

    this kind of crippling ignorance among professional astrophysicists is astonishing.
    The writer displays a very poor understanding of the scientifical methods used in professional science. And SlashDot should have "filtered" this story.

    I am tempted to write: This kind of crippling ignorance among article writers is astonishing.
    But I would rather not spoil my positive Karma ...

    ;-)
  • by florescent_beige (608235) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @05:59AM (#19000319) Journal

    The Yin: genius multiple-PhD types figure out something about the sun. Good for them.

    The Yang: irrelevant mention of a cabal of self-referential mouth breathers who don't know energy is not a discrete thing but is a property of other things.

    Maybe Slashdot posts articles like this to give us a poke and see what our reaction will be. That reminds me of a certain thing I can't quite remember, I think it starts with a "t".

    One thing I noticed about Slashdot's feigned ignorance as humour (if that's what it is), it's always about things other than IT. For example, let's see an article asserting that integrated circuits are actually an alien technology harvested from flying saucers the US Government has hidden away. Not funny because it's too ridiculous?

  • by Anonymous Coward
    A bunch of crazy crank muthas want to shift some copies of their crappy book. Strange that /. wants to help them in that. Note to author: Yes, you did go for too big a print run. How about tearing the pages from each copy and using to wipe your ass? They'll obviously already be covered in shit so it'll make little difference to the strength of your arguments.
    Take this down. Do it now.
  • Hooooooooooooo!

    I need less whitespace and/or less repetition.. as badly as the story needs less 'crackpot'.
  • pseudoscience (Score:5, Insightful)

    by king-manic (409855) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @06:28AM (#19000409)
    Can we tag this pseudoscience.
    • by starwed (735423)
      Hmm, I tagged it pseduo-science before I saw this post. Is the tag system smart enough to recognize that these are the same?
    • by 1u3hr (530656)
      I tagged it: pseudoscience bullshit.

      If enough people do that it should show up.

  • Crippling Ignorance (Score:3, Informative)

    by dreamchaser (49529) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @07:27AM (#19000573) Homepage Journal
    I submit that this kind of crippling ignorance in a story submission is...well not astonishing. What was he smoking???

  • by hardgeus (6813) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @07:41AM (#19000627)
    Shame on you Slashdot for even letting this touch the front page. I read "this kind of crippling ignorance among professional astrophysicists is astonishing," and wondered who in the hell was who had the balls to say something like that...Is "SteakNShake" a famous physicist I haven't heard of?

    Then I clicked that last link. Ooooh. This guy is nuts. Still doesn't explain why he got his rant accepted on Slashdot.
  • by Geirzinho (1068316) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @07:55AM (#19000675)
    Please Mr. Slashdot, stick to the computer stuff! There is nothing wrong (or even inaccurate) in the cited articles. The structure of the solar magnetic field is complex, and these simulations are probably going to help a lot in understanding them. Personally, I'm looking forward to reading their article ( http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2007astro.ph..2604H [harvard.edu] ).
  • by p3d0 (42270) * on Saturday May 05, 2007 @08:00AM (#19000703)
    I'm not exactly the most savvy Slashdot reader around, and even I know this "electric universe" theory is about as credible as the time cube [timecube.com].
  • by maynard (3337) <[j.maynard.gelinas] [at] [gmail.com]> on Saturday May 05, 2007 @08:37AM (#19000865) Journal
    I'm sorry, but any pseudoscientific theory of physics that omits Time Cube [timecube.com] is one bound to fail peer review at the Journal of Irreproducible Results [jir.com]. Please, slashdot editors! Do your due diligence for once!
  • I have worked with scientists for a number of years from a variety of fields (I am a writer and interviewer). I have witnessed the gamut between arrogance and humility, as one would expect in any profession. Yet, I have never spoken to a single scientist or someone who works extensively with scientists who has said science knows everything there is to know. The very questions raised by the process of science is what drives some of the most dedicated individuals I have met. The idea that some level of "ignorance" on the part of science exists and is "astonishing" is merely indicative of someone who is inherently ignorant OF science. No scientist has all the answers nor, I would guess, does any scientist WANT to know all the answers. When there are no more questions, there is no reason to continue searching. The person who posted this story has, in my opinion, an axe to grind with science as a whole for what has probably been a demolition of some silly superstition or mythology, clung to so desperately by those who still need magic as an explanation for the world instead of the inherent splendor of how things really work.

    Whatever questions there are regarding the sun and its structure will most likely be resolved someday, if the past is any indication. So too, will new questions arise and the quest will continue. "CowboyNeal" would do well to educate him/herself on this very basic aspect of human nature instead of issuing the tacit implication that because science hasn't answered some current question or another, its past answers must now be considered suspect.
  • is how the spaghetti loops interact with the magnetic fields and is electricity stored in the meatballs or WHAT?!?!?!!?!!!!?!???!
  • The universe does revolve around the earth.

    Proving its a POV thing...

    So someone needs to go and stand inside the sun.

    Anyone?
  • by Ralph Spoilsport (673134) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @01:51PM (#19002873) Journal
    For those too young to remember, Archi was the bane of early newsgroups with his endless rants about how the universe is a giant Plutonium Atom. His ideas are as useful as the "Electric Universe". So if we're going to let the Electric Universe cranks have objective status, then we should invite Archimedes Plutonium to come and bark at us. I should not have had to type this - this story never should have seen the light of day - it should have been filtered by our fearless Slashdot Editorial staff. Undoubtedly, they were out in the parking lot doing bong hits when they should have been reading the submissions...

    RS

  • For those people who want alternative explanations, (like that this world is not real - we're living in a simulation [simulation-argument.com]), then the "Electric Universe" idea that there are "circuits" behind the nature of the universe is probably very comforting. I'd like more predictive ability, less descriptive pseudo-science before we take it seriously.

  • In light of past and present research revealing the electrical nature of the universe, this kind of crippling ignorance among professional astrophysicists is astonishing."


    In light of past and present criticism of the bogus nature of many science articles on Slashdot, this kind of chronic ineptitude among so-called editors is to be expected.

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