Unexpected Results

Bikinis and stuff you might find in, otherwise, empty space are our themes for today.
Bikinis and stuff you might find in, otherwise, empty space are our themes for today.
A new family has moved in a couple of blocks away from me. I see them every day when I go for smokes in the afternoon. Mom, dad and a couple of kids, they always wave and seem friendly. Well, yesterday, emboldened by the presence of a couple of large family members, in case I turned out to be a beserker, they asked me into their yard as they were barbecuing. I had some time to kill and am not completely anti-social, so I agreed. I walked into their back yard, introduced myself to everyone, was handed the official beer of Mexico and was given a plate of baby back ribs covered with a jalapeno / honey sauce. They were delicious. After a bit the family pet, a 90lb pit bull, came out to play. It had its favorite ball but everyone was too busy eating to entertain the puppy. So I took the ball from his mouth, tossed it and he fetched it. We repeated this procedure multiple times. On one toss the ball scooted over the small hedge that separates them from their next door neighbors. The pit leapt over the hedge and then returned.

With the neighbor’s chihuahua, cradled gently, in its mouth. That was, to be polite, unexpected.

The pit placed the chihuahua right at my feet, completely unharmed, and I picked it up to return it to its owners. They, however, arrived first, screaming and crying and not speaking any English. A few minutes later we had everyone calmed down so I set the chihuahua down on the grass and helped my new friends pass out some food to their new friends. Then the weird turned pro. The chihuahua ran around the yard yipping and yapping until the pit opened its mouth and allowed the tiny dog to hop back in. At which point the pit brought the dog over to me and released it. This became the new game for the dogs.

And, now that everyone was off the proverbial ledge, fun for us as well.

Some people claim that this, and other, behavior is an example of innate canine telepathy. However, if you read the whole article by Jennifer Viegas you’ll quickly realize that dogs, like any intelligent but non-sapient animals, simply respond to cues. Cats do it, dolphins do it, bears – if you start them young enough so they don’t eat you – do it and so on. No surprise there.

Nick Halverson, in an article that will entrance many of our regular readers, reports that bikinis made from form fitting materials and based on accurate 3D models fit better than those which are not. Nope, no surprises there either.

So what is the surprise today? Ian O’Neill tells us that our solar system is, and I quote, “bubbly and frothy.”

Much like a friend of mine’s favorite drinks.

A pair of NASA probes wandering in deep space discovered that the outer edge of the solar system contains curious magnetic bubbles and is not smooth as previously thought, astronomers said Thursday.

The NASA Voyager twin spacecraft, which launched in 1977, are currently exploring the furthest outlays of the heliosphere, where solar wind is slowed and warped by pressure from other forces in the galaxy, the US space agency said.

“Because the sun spins, its magnetic field becomes twisted and wrinkled, a bit like a ballerina’s skirt,” said astronomer Merav Opher of Boston University.

“Far, far away from the sun, where the Voyagers are, the folds of the skirt bunch up.”

The Voyagers are almost 10 billion miles (16 billion kilometers) from Earth in a little known boundary region where solar wind and magnetic field are influenced by “material expelled from other stars in our corner of the Milky Way galaxy,” NASA said.

This “turbulent sea of magnetic bubbles” occurs when parts of the sun’s distant magnetic field break up and reorganize under pressure.

The bubbles are giant — about 100 million miles wide (160 million kilometers) — meaning the Voyager probes could take multiple weeks to cross a single one of them.

Scientists have previously theorized that the sun’s distant magnetic field curved in “relatively graceful arc, eventually folding back to rejoin the sun,” NASA said.

But images of a smooth outer heliosheath have now been discarded as scientists begin to realize that the region is actually bubbly and “frothy.”

“The actual bubbles appear to be self-contained and substantially disconnected from the broader solar magnetic field.”

The findings were made using a new computer model to analyze data from the Voyager craft, and are published in the June 9 edition of the Astrophysical Journal.

“The magnetic bubbles appear to be our first line of defense against cosmic rays,” said Opher. “We haven’t figured out yet if this is a good thing or not.”

First off, for those of you who slept through sixth grade, click here to brush up your knowledge of what the heliosphere actually is. If you just know that helio is a derivative of “helios” which is Greek for “sun” you can probably guess the rest.

What you may not have guessed is that, between the bubbles, there exists a ribbon of particles that thumbs its nose at known physics and says neener neener neener to everything we thought we knew about solar mechanics. Irene Klotz has the whole story.

The bubble of gas enveloping Earth and the rest of the solar system has some seriously weird formations where it abuts interstellar space, a region expected to show only smooth uniformity.

“This is a shocking new result for us and one that is not entirely understood,” said David McComas, the lead scientist on a NASA mission called IBEX to map the heliosphere, a region of space dominated by boil-off of the sun’s corona into what is known as the solar wind.

The sun pumps out streams of ionized particles that blast out into space in all directions at about 1 million miles per hour, forming a protective bubble and defining edge to the solar system. But the rivers of gas face pressure — and some unknown physics — when and where they encounter charged particles and magnetic fields emanating from interstellar space.

The solar system is currently traveling through a rather wispy interstellar cloud in the Milky Way galaxy, which gives the heliosphere plenty of breathing room. But the outside world apparently has some sharp elbows.

In their first big-picture view of the heliosphere, scientists discovered a well-defined ribbon of neutrally charged particles, precisely tailored — process unknown — by magnetic fields in the interstellar sea.

“This ribbon is organized around this magnetic field,” said Rosine Lallement, senior scientist at the French National Center for Scientific Research in Paris. “It is truly new physics.”

The ribbon snakes right between two NASA Voyager spacecraft, which reached the boundary zone between the heliosphere and interstellar space in 2004 and 2007.

The Voyager twins were launched in 1977 to explore the outer planets of the solar system. They took different paths toward the edge of the solar system and continue to radio data back to Earth about their local environments.

“Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 are like weather stations, but can you imagine trying to determine the weather on the entire Earth from two weather stations?” said Eric Christian, IBEX deputy mission scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

“They were both out there making these local observation and had no idea that the main ‘storm’ so to speak was running right down between them,” added McComas, a senior executive director with the San Antonio, Texas-based Southwest Research Institute.

From a long, looping orbit around Earth, IBEX — an acronym for Interstellar Boundary Explorer — scans the whole sky for electrically neutral atoms coming in from the very edge of the heliosphere roughly 10 billion miles away.

“Sometimes a particle can come close to another particle and steal an electron. They then go zipping off in whatever direction they were going and some of them go right back in toward us and go right into the aperture of the IBEX spacecraft,” McComas said.

Scientists had expected slight variations in the numbers of these energetic neutral atoms across the heliosphere, but IBEX found concentrations of up to about 300 percent.

“It shows that what we thought we understood about this interaction is definitely not right,” McComas said. “We kind of have to go back and start over.”

The discovery, reported in this week’s Science, was verified by secondary measurements made by the IBEX instruments and also by a similar instrument on the Saturn-orbiting Cassini spacecraft.

The IBEX team is beginning to piece together a second all-sky map and already has gotten hints that the ribbon is changing.

“It’s really going to be fascinating to watch this feature potentially change over years,” McComas said.

By “fascinating to watch” Dr. McComas means “as long as it doesn’t whip through the solar system, saw our planet in half and kill us all.” Which it shows no signs of doing, but who am I to deny you decades worth of nightmares?

Anyway I give it about two nanoseconds, after they have someone read them the big words and slowly explain what they mean, for Scientologists to claim this is proof that Thetan Ghosts are protecting our world.

Yes, you can laugh at them. Everyone else does and should.

Listen to Bill McCormick on WBIG AM 1280, every Thursday morning around 9:10!

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