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Ms. Ouellette, I sincerely hope you are being paid for this blog.

If, not let me commend you for one of the better book flogging blogs on the 'net.

I completely tracked with your chain of thought here, right through to thinking of the UCLA announcement when you used the phrase "tabletop physics".

On second thought, should I be worried?


Sadly, I do not get paid for this blog. If you know of anyone out there who would like to pay me to write it, by all means send them my way. :) Far be it from me to reject the prospect of filthy lucre...

It's early to be worried just yet, but when expensive designer jeans start calling to mind wearable computers, THEN there's cause for concern...

Being a relatively normal healthy male, I can say that if I do have cause to notice expensive designer jeans, wearable computers are not the first thing on my mind. Or the second.

Ever considered selling sponsorships, ma'am?

For the blog, I mean, not your jeans.

I'll stop now, before I sully my reputation further.


Yes, I'm going to be that person who nit-picks an otherwise very interesting post. I apologize in advance.

"Among other things, such studies may help solve the mystery of why the temperature of the sun's corona is so much hotter than the core."

The corona is cooler than the core by an order of magnitude (10^6 K v. 10^7 K, roughly). The corona is, however, significantly hotter than the photosphere, and yes, magnetic reconnection is probably the key to that.

Really no need to apologize -- one of the advantages of a blog post is that corrections CAN be made to these sorts of minor errors. Clearly my notes (not to mention a press release) on the subject were in error.

And I have no idea why Typepad mysteriously published this and one other post when I posted the latest entry... Typepad works in mysterious ways.

Unpopular though it may be with today's astrophysicists, the ideas surrounding the electric model of the universe and the related physics of the plasma universe (the title of a really hard-to-get textbook from Springer-Verlag, by Anthony Peratt at Los Alamos National Laboratory), the IEEE (Institute of Electric and Electronic Engineers) recognizes that over 99% of the observable universe consists of the plasma state, and has a separate plasma physics group and a journal.

Somewhere in the early 20th Century, much of astronomical physics lost a lot of its connections with the electric researchers, and went off on a theoretical, mathematically biased methodology, ending up with unobservable entities such as dark metter, black holes, dark energy, and rotating neutron pulsars as explanations of the almost exclusively gravity-driven model.

When plasma physics in space IS invoked, the magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) equations originally devised by Nobel Laureate Hannes Alfven are used in the modeling. -notwithstanding the fact that this same Professor Alfven advised astrophysicists, in his acceptance speech for that award, that MHD was NOT the way to go because cosmic plasma phenomena are different from normal condensed matter MHD dynamics. They are much more complex, being electrodynamically driven, and huge (Birkeland) currents can exist and propagate in it over stellar and inter-galactic distances.

NASA has posted (in its World Book section on The Sun) that plasma is a special and very different form of matter, but "because it is usual scientific practice" they call it "gas". Hot gas, ionized gas, and fluid terms like "winds", "outflows", "currents" (not electric!) and so on. Describing a state of matter which is influenced far more by electromagnetic fores (which according to Wikipedia are 10^39 more powerful than the force of gravity) as "hot gas" intentionally hides the plasma universe from the lay public. Radio astronomers and solar physicists seem to be more aware of the presence of electric currents in space than most observational astronomers, and theoreticians won't even use the "E" word in the context of cosmological explanations for stellar and galactic phenomena. There is growing awareness that using the electric model of the universe seems to offer better and simpler explanations of a lot of stuff without the need to invoke the hypothesized "dark" stuff.

Good physics should be open to the evaluation of different ideas. How else is progress ever made, and better explanations sought? The electric universe model is cast by many in mainstream astrophysics as being the same as being in the same camp as witchcraft and superstition, despite what Maxwell, Faraday, Gauss, Langmuir, Birkeland and many other early electromagnetic researchers have brought to the table, with real lab experiments and real observations and measurements on real, scalable phenomena.

Despite their dismissive tactics, I suspect that electrodynamic and plasma interpretations will find a real place in the world of astronomy and cosmology, from explaining the filamentary nature of the universe and its structures, why galaxies have a "flat" or solid disk rotation curve, to what supernovas really are and how stars work, down to the interactions among our star, its heliosheath and our magnetosphere, cosmic rays and our weather and climate.

There's lots to read on this on the Web, and in available books, e-books, and papers.

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    Physics Cocktails

    • Heavy G
      The perfect pick-me-up when gravity gets you down.
      2 oz Tequila
      2 oz Triple sec
      2 oz Rose's sweetened lime juice
      7-Up or Sprite
      Mix tequila, triple sec and lime juice in a shaker and pour into a margarita glass. (Salted rim and ice are optional.) Top off with 7-Up/Sprite and let the weight of the world lift off your shoulders.
    • Listening to the Drums of Feynman
      The perfect nightcap after a long day struggling with QED equations.
      1 oz dark rum
      1/2 oz light rum
      1 oz Tia Maria
      2 oz light cream
      Crushed ice
      1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
      In a shaker half-filled with ice, combine the dark and light rum, Tia Maria, and cream. Shake well. Strain into an old fashioned glass almost filled with crushed ice. Dust with the nutmeg, and serve. Bongos optional.
    • Combustible Edison
      Electrify your friends with amazing pyrotechnics!
      2 oz brandy
      1 oz Campari
      1 oz fresh lemon juice
      Combine Campari and lemon juice in shaker filled with cracked ice. Shake and strain into chilled cocktail glass. Heat brandy in chafing dish, then ignite and pour into glass. Cocktail Go BOOM! Plus, Fire = Pretty!
    • Hiroshima Bomber
      Dr. Strangelove's drink of choice.
      3/4 Triple sec
      1/4 oz Bailey's Irish Cream
      2-3 drops Grenadine
      Fill shot glass 3/4 with Triple Sec. Layer Bailey's on top. Drop Grenadine in center of shot; it should billow up like a mushroom cloud. Remember to "duck and cover."
    • Mad Scientist
      Any mad scientist will tell you that flames make drinking more fun. What good is science if no one gets hurt?
      1 oz Midori melon liqueur
      1-1/2 oz sour mix
      1 splash soda water
      151 proof rum
      Mix melon liqueur, sour mix and soda water with ice in shaker. Shake and strain into martini glass. Top with rum and ignite. Try to take over the world.
    • Laser Beam
      Warning: may result in amplified stimulated emission.
      1 oz Southern Comfort
      1/2 oz Amaretto
      1/2 oz sloe gin
      1/2 oz vodka
      1/2 oz Triple sec
      7 oz orange juice
      Combine all liquor in a full glass of ice. Shake well. Garnish with orange and cherry. Serve to attractive target of choice.
    • Quantum Theory
      Guaranteed to collapse your wave function:
      3/4 oz Rum
      1/2 oz Strega
      1/4 oz Grand Marnier
      2 oz Pineapple juice
      Fill with Sweet and sour
      Pour rum, strega and Grand Marnier into a collins glass. Add pineapple and fill with sweet and sour. Sip until all the day's super-positioned states disappear.
    • The Black Hole
      So called because after one of these, you have already passed the event horizon of inebriation.
      1 oz. Kahlua
      1 oz. vodka
      .5 oz. Cointreau or Triple Sec
      .5 oz. dark rum
      .5 oz. Amaretto
      Pour into an old-fashioned glass over (scant) ice. Stir gently. Watch time slow.