Cleverly Named Bunch o’ Links: Science Edition

When People Are Dismissive of Your ADHD. Here’s how to talk to people who have misconceptions about ADHD.

So You Think You’re Smarter Than A CIA Agent. A research group uses statistics and a lot of people to predict world events better than CIA-trained experts.

Dwarf planet stretches Solar System’s edge. Astronomers may have discovered a new dwarf planet.

Scenes from the Postdocalypse. As research funding dries up, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find good jobs with a doctorate.

Ask a designer: why switching fonts won’t save the US government millions. Many people, including me, got excited about a high schooler’s idea for the government to change fonts and save millions on ink costs. But it turns out things aren’t quite that simple.

At 92, I was arrested for protesting against mining. I’m glad I took a stand. If we want to save the climate, we need to do it ourselves.

Mexican indigenous woman who was separated from baby allowed to pursue lawsuit against Mississippi welfare agency. Bout time.

Judge: Probation for du Pont heir in daughter rape because ‘he would not fare well’ in prison. [TW: Classism] Yes, prison is difficult, so it should only be something we inflict on poor people. Or as this judge probably calls them, “takers.”

I used to believe I had the right to be a bigot. But reason prevailed. You mean free speech doesn’t mean people can just say whatever offensive things they want?!

The last word in cool – if you’re a teenager. Apparently if you want to know what teenagers think, you can just, you know, ask them. Revolutionary.

8 Questions About Bisexuality That Are Better Than “Does It Exist”. Directed at the Andrew Sullivans of the world.

Conflicted thoughts about April Fool’s Day

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So now that April Fool’s Day is over and we can stop playing Pokemon and go back to our lives, I thought I would give my thoughts on the holiday. I actually have two conflicting opinions on whether April Fool’s Day is a good thing or not. On the one hand, it’s a useful way to teach the value of skeptical thought. But on the other, playing pranks on other people without their consent is really not cool.

April Fool’s Day is the one day a year where everyone has to be a skeptic. For this one day, everyone approaches every claim with the thought, “is this real?” For one day, everyone is aware that just because you hear something from someone (even a trusted source or a news organization) that doesn’t mean it’s true. For this one day, everyone does a little background research on anything they hear on the internet. And for this one day, everyone appreciates, at least a little, the virtue of being a skeptic.

And I wish people would take this attitude every day. I wish that every day, people would wonder if a dubious story is real before they spread it everywhere. I wish that every day, people would check their sources, question their sources, and apply some basic skepticism before believing things. And April Fool’s Day is a useful way of showing people the benefits of proper skepticism. If people can be convinced that applying skepticism to all claims is a good idea on April Fool’s Day, it probably won’t be very hard to convince them that applying skepticism to all claims is a good idea on every other day.

On the other hand, pranks suck. Pranking people is an exercise in trying to convince someone of something that isn’t true. It’s being deliberately dishonest for laughs. The entire intent of pranking is to get one up on someone who is vulnerable. Pranks, even seemingly harmless pranks, can hurt people. They can also backfire and hurt the pranksters, too.

And for what? A few laughs? Is that really worth the risk that your prank can go disastrously wrong? Even if everyone involves learns to be a little more skeptical in the future? I honestly don’t think so. The internet is full of stories of lives being ruined because of some prank, and I don’t think that’s worth the little bit of extra skepticism. I’m going to come down on the side of April Fool’s Day being a bad idea. We should stop doing it.

Cleverly Named Bunch o’ Links: NSA Edition

Inside the NSA’s Secret Efforts to Hunt and Hack System Administrators. The NSA has been going after sysadmins to try and gain access to their networks.

Obama to Call for End to N.S.A.’s Bulk Data Collection. Conveniently, bulk data collection only became a bad idea once people found out about it.

Beware the surveillance reform Trojan horse: what’s not in the new NSA laws? The new laws meant to curb the NSA don’t go far enough.

Fundraiser and Support for Shanesha Taylor. Shanesha Taylor was arrested for leaving her children in the car for half an hour while she went to a job interview. Now she’s losing custody of her kids. Here’s how you can help.

Radford / Stollznow defamation case: What we know and what we can infer or extrapolate reasonably. Here’s the timeline of the defamation lawsuit between Ben Radford and Karen Stollznow.

Give a Voice to Harassment Victims. And here’s a link to Karen Stollznow’s defense fundraiser.

A song of faith and sexual fire: How roleplaying game religions work as moral tools. Contrary to popular opinion, roleplaying games can be a powerful way to teach ethics.

Targeted by Firebombing, Legislation, and Now Vandalism, Montana Abortion Provider Shutters Clinic. Meanwhile, the “pro-life” movement cheers.

This Is Not a Solution; This Is the Problem. Sometimes people will say that nobody helped them obtain their success, when in reality those who never had any help are often the least well-off.

The Myth of Gay Affluence. Surprise! Queer people aren’t filthy rich. Who knew?

Little Girl Taken Out Of Christian School After Told She’s Too Much Like A Boy. Because we can’t have girls defying gender norms, now can we?

Teen to government: Change your typeface, save millions. Using thinner fonts uses less ink, which saves money. It seems so obvious in hindsight.

#rapecultureiswhen we need a hashtag to point out that rape culture is wrong. [TW: Pretty much everything]

In Australia, the word ‘racist’ has lost all its meaning. When people think “racist” they think “KKK and Nazis” instead of all the little ways racism occurs.

Stop Judging Me for Being on Welfare. [TW: Poor Shaming] People on welfare aren’t lazy, moochers, or “takers.” They’re just people trying to make ends meet.

A Town Without Contraception. The Catholic Church decides that contraception makes the baby Jesus cry, so an entire town is almost deprived of it. In other news, fuck the Catholic Church.

What Hemant Wouldn’t Print. Secular Woman’s response to Secular Pro-Life and Hemant Mehta.

Cheerleaders make the NFL’s billions. They deserve to be paid minimum wage. Apparently a company that makes billions of dollars a year can’t afford to pay their cheerleaders a living wage.

Debunking the Electric Sky: Chapter 4 Part 2

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Previously, I introduced a bizarre pseudoscience website that claimed to revolutionize modern astrophysics. It doesn’t actually do that. I thought I would show exactly why, and teach some cool astrophysics at the same time. This is part 4 (still) of the series. You can follow along with what I’m debunking here. Previous installments in this series are here.

This part and the previous part are all about Dr. Scott making things up about the Sun. Last time, we saw Dr. Scott make up a bunch of graphs, along with a large flow of electrons toward the Sun, both of which are bullshit. This time, we’ll see Scott make even more elementary mistakes and ignore reams of important data. We’ll also see how superior real science is.

A note: I’m going to skip a few sections in here, mostly because they’re really boring, even by Scott’s standards. They also have almost nothing of value to cover, although you can still read them if you’re interested. I’ll point out exactly what I’m skipping, when I’m skipping it, just so nobody is caught off guard.

Temperature Minimum

If the standard model were correct, heat and light would simply radiate away from the photosphere as from a hot stove. Temperature measurements would monotonically decrease with distance. But many processes, other than simple radiation of heat, are occurring above the photosphere. A temperature minimum (~4100K) occurs just above the photosphere. The lower regions of the Sun’s corona, at much higher altitude, are millions of degrees hotter than the surface of the Sun itself. How can this be? The standard model has no satisfactory explanation for it. The Electric Sun hypothesis explains it clearly as follows:

Charged particles do not experience external electrostatic forces when they are in the range b to c - within the photosphere.  Only random thermal movement occurs due to diffusion. (Temperature is simply the measurement of the violence of such random movement.)  This is where the ~ 6,000 K photospheric temperature is measured.  Positive ions have their maximum electrical potential energy when they are in this photospheric granule plasma. But their mechanical kinetic energy is relatively low.  At a point just to the left of point c, any random movement toward the right (radially outward – upward) that carries a + ion even slightly beyond point c will result in it’s being swept away, down the energy hill, out of the Sun (toward the right in figure 1).  Such movement of charged particles due to an E-field is called a ‘drift current’.  This drift current of accelerating positive ions is a constituent of the solar ‘wind’ (which is a serious misnomer). As positive ions begin to accelerate down the potential energy drop from point c through e, they convert the high (electrical) potential energy they had in the photosphere into kinetic energy – they gain extremely high outward radial velocity and lose side-to-side random motion.  Thus, they become ‘de-thermalized’.  In this region, in the upper photosphere and the chromosphere, the movement of these ions becomes extremely organized (parallel). Therefore an observed temperature minimum occurs here.

So here Dr. Scott points out a known problem in solar physics: the corona (the outermost part of the Sun) is hotter than some of the other parts. If the Sun just heats things like a stove heats things (to use Scott’s analogy) then we would expect to see the temperature decrease as we get farther from the core. Of course, the Sun doesn’t heat things the way a stove heats things. The Sun is far more complex than a stove, and there is far more going on.

This also illustrates an important failing of pseudoscience. Dr. Scott is correct in that scientists didn’t have an explanation for this when he wrote this section. But when you base your arguments on the bits science can’t explain yet, you risk scientists discovering the true explanation some time in the near future and making you look like a fool. And when all your arguments are like that, it means your pseudoscience has an expiration date.

I’m skipping the next section (called “The Transition Zone”) because it’s just a rephrasing of his previous paragraph.

Acceleration of the Solar ‘Wind’

The energy plot (to the right of point e) actually trails off, with slightly negative slope, toward the negative voltage of deep space (our arm of the Milky Way galaxy).  A relatively low density plasma can support a weak E-field. Consistent with this, a low amplitude (positive) E-field extends indefinitely to the right from point e. This is the effect of the Sun being at a higher voltage level than is distant space just beyond the heliopause. The outward force on positive ions due to this E-field causes the observed acceleration of +ions in the solar wind. See “On the Sun’s Electric-Field”.

So here’s another problem for solar physics. The solar wind, as discussed last time, is a bunch of mainly hydrogen ions that are forced away from the Sun at high speeds. They’re the cause of the auroras (the Northern and Southern Lights), and a few other phenomena, such as solar storms. One interesting property of the solar wind is that it accelerates as it gets further from the Sun. Common sense would say that as the solar wind particles travel further from the Sun, they slow down, but that’s not what happens. Dr. Scott proposes that because the solar wind is positively charged, it’s pushed away from the (also positively charged) Sun and pulled toward the negatively charged extrasolar space. Of course, as we saw last time, the solar wind is not positively charged, so Scott’s argument falls flat on its face.

But that’s not the only problem with his argument. It turns out that the solar wind is not just hydrogen ions, but is also made up of other, heavier elements. We would expect that these heavier elements would travel slower than the lighter hydrogen, but that’s not what happens. The heavier elements actually travel faster. Dr. Scott’s theory can’t even begin to explain this. Of course, he doesn’t even mention it, either because he knows it poses a huge problem for his theory or because he isn’t even aware of it.

I wonder if, since Dr. Scott wrote this section, actual scientists have discovered a possible explanation for the acceleration of the solar wind that has nothing to do with the pseudoscience Scott is peddling. That would be interesting.

Cosmic Rays

The particles in our solar wind eventually join with the spent solar winds of all the other stars in our galaxy to make up the total cosmic ray flux in our arm of our galaxy. [Ralph] Juergens points out that the Sun is a rather mediocre star as far as radiating energy goes.  If it is electrically powered, perhaps its mediocrity is attributable to a relatively unimpressive driving potential. This would mean that hotter, more luminous stars should have driving potentials greater than that of the Sun and should consequently expel cosmic rays of greater energies than solar cosmic rays.  A star with a driving potential of 20 billion volts would expel protons energetic enough to reach the Sun’s surface, arriving with 10 billion electron volts of energy to spare.  Such cosmic ions, when they collide with Earth’s upper atmosphere release the muon-neutrinos that have been in the news recently.

Hannes Alfvén in his book, The New Astronomy, Chapter 2, Section III, pp 74-79, said about cosmic rays: “How these particles are driven to their fantastic energies, sometimes as high as a million billion electron volts, is one of the prime puzzles of astronomy.  No known (or even unknown) nuclear reaction could account for the firing of particles with such energies; even the complete annihilation of a proton would not yield more than a billion electron volts.”

Of course, Hannes Alfvén wrote that book nearly half a century ago; since then scientists have, you know, done things. Black holes and quasars were only theoretical objects back then, now we’ve observed them emitting energies well in excess of the “million billion electron volts” that Alfvén proposed. His mistake was in assuming that cosmic rays needed to come from stars, when in fact they can come from all manner of things.

I’m skipping the next three sections (“Fluctuations in the Solar ‘Wind’”, “Characteristic Modes of a Plasma”, “Fusion in the Double Layer”) because they’re technical, boring, and kinda not important.

Sunspots

In the plasma of the photosphere, both the dimensions of, and the voltages within the granules, depend on the current density at that location (near the Sun’s anode surface).  The existence of the double layer of electric charge associated with each granule (separating it from the corona plasma above it) requires a certain numerical relationship between +ion and electron numbers in the total current.  This required ratio of electron to ion motion was discovered, quantified, and reported by Irving Langmuir over fifty years ago. Spicules, tall jets of electrons that emanate from the boundaries between granules, supply many of those needed electrons. In this Electric Sun model, as with any plasma discharge, the granular cells disappear wherever the flux of incoming electrons impinging onto a given area of the Sun’s anode surface is not sufficiently strong to require the augmentation of anode size they provide.  At any such location, the photospheric cells collapse and we can see down to the actual anode surface of the Sun.  Since there is no arc mode plasma discharge occurring in these locations, they appear darker than the surrounding area and are termed ‘sunspot umbrae’.  Of course, if a tremendous amount of energy were actually being produced in the Sun’s interior, these umbrae should be brighter and hotter than the surrounding photosphere. The fact that sunspot umbrae are dark and relatively cool (3000-4000 K or 2727-4227 °C) strongly supports the contention that very little, if anything, in the way of heat production is going on in the Sun’s interior.

So sunspots are regions of the Sun’s surface that are several thousand degrees cooler than the rest of the Sun. Scott seems to think that proves that the inside of the Sun is cooler than the outside, which proves he’s right. The problem is that real science has a perfectly legitimate explanation for why sunspots are so cool. This is becoming a pattern.

Sunspots are formed because of extremely strong magnetic fields that are randomly generated inside the Sun. These magnetic fields create outward pressure that balances the inward gravitational pressure, as well as the gas pressure exerted by other parts of the Sun’s surface. When these magnetic fields aren’t present, those forces are balanced by the pressure of the heated plasma, but when those fields are there, the plasma doesn’t need to be as hot in order to balance the inward pressures. These magnetic fields are also evident in coronal loops, which frequently appear close to sunspots. Coronal loops are made of plasma that follow the magnetic field lines.

I’m skipping the rest of this section because it consists entirely of the details of one graph that I really don’t care about.

Penumbral Filaments

But, what about the penumbra – those strangely shaped plasma filaments (cells) surrounding the umbra that remind us of the iris of a human eye? Starting just inside the Sun’s body, some ions have barely enough kinetic energy to leave the body of the Sun by rising up to voltage level V2 [referencing the graph I skipped] or greater. In the altitude range b to c in figure 4, where they are diffusing upward, some of these ions may collide with other ions or neutral atoms and some of them may be given a diffusion velocity that bounces them back downward (toward the left in figure 4). If they diffuse in that direction beyond point b, they will be attracted back down into the Sun. In 3D space they may just sink out the bottom of the granule, or fall off its side into the darker channels that surround each granule. Or, if they are close enough to the edge of a sunspot, they may fall into it. That is what we are seeing in the penumbral filaments shown in figures 3 and 5. The process is analogous to icebergs calving off from glaciers to which they have been attached. The tops of the granules near the umbra’s edge peel off, bend downward toward the umbra, and fall toward the lower voltage (and lower altitude) surface of the Sun visible in the umbra.

Here Dr. Scott goes into more detail about sunspots. If you look at a picture of a sunspot, like the one on Dr. Scott’s website, you’ll see that the sunspot is made up of two parts: the inner umbra, and the outer penumbra. The umbra is much darker and cooler, while the penumbra is brighter, warmer, and appears to be slanted inward. Dr. Scott tries to explain this in a convoluted way by saying that the surrounding surface of the Sun can fall toward the umbra, forming the penumbra. In reality, the penumbra is formed because the strong magnetic fields that form the sunspot are slanted at an angle in that region. In the center they point directly outward, but away from the center they start to tilt. And because the pressure created by the magnetic fields isn’t pointed directly outward, the plasma needs to be hotter in order to balance the pressure exerted by the rest of the solar surface. This is why the penumbra is hotter, brighter, and slightly slanted.

All of this is settled science, and I’m pretty sure it was settled when Dr. Scott wrote this. Here, Scott can’t hide behind his “science has no explanation” defense. Scott is outright lying about what science can and cannot answer, and what science can and cannot explain. I can almost kind of forgive him for the previous few sections, because science actually couldn’t explain those phenomena when he wrote them, although it can now. But this is unforgivable.

I’m skipping the rest of this section out of disgust.

Prominences, Flares, and CME’s

All of the above discussion applies to the steady-state (or almost steady-state) operation of the Electric Sun. But there are several dynamic phenomena such as flares, prominences, and coronal mass ejections (CME’s) that we observe. How are they produced? Nobel laureate Hannes Alfvén, although not aware of the Juergens Electric Sun model, advanced his own theory of how prominences and solar flares are formed electrically.  It is completely consistent with the Juergens model.

Any electric current, i, creates a magnetic field (the stronger the current – the stronger the magnetic field, and the more energy it contains).  Curved magnetic fields cannot exist without either electrical currents or time varying electric fields.  Energy, Wm, stored in any magnetic field, is given by the expression Wm = 1/2 Li ^2.  If the current, i, is interrupted, the field collapses and its energy must be delivered somewhere.  The magnetic field of the Sun sometimes, and in some places on its surface, forms an ‘omega’ shaped loop.  This loop extends out through the double sheath layer (DL) of the chromosphere. One of the primary properties of Birkeland currents is that they generally follow magnetic field ‘lines’.  A strong looping current will produce a secondary toroidal magnetic field that will surround and try to expand the loop. If the current following the loop becomes too strong, the DL will be destroyed.  This interrupts the current (like opening a switch in an inductive circuit) and the energy stored in the primary magnetic field is explosively released into space.

Oh really? “Curved magnetic fields cannot exist without either electrical currents or time varying electric fields?” Well I guess all of these must not exist then. My bad.

It’s entirely possible to create a static, curving magnetic field without electricity. In fact, here’s a tip: Magnetic fields are always curved. You can’t get a straight magnetic field. They don’t exist. Dr. Scott literally says this in his next paragraph: “Magnetic field lines that are drawn to describe a magnetic field, have no beginning nor end.” Magnetic field lines are always loops. Loops, if I’m not mistaken, are curved. Sometimes, I can’t believe this guy.

Most of this second paragraph is Scott trying to explain coronal mass ejections, where large jets of plasma erupt from the surface of the Sun. The actual explanation involves magnetic recombination, where magnetic fields travelling in opposite directions interact and release huge amounts of energy. Dr. Scott actually attempts to address this, with disastrous results. I’m skipping over a couple paragraphs here, but they’re not important anyway:

A magnetic field is a continuum.  It is not a set of discrete ‘lines’.  Lines are drawn in the classroom to describe the magnetic field (its direction and magnitude). But the lines themselves do not actually exist.  They are simply a pedagogical device.  Proposing that these lines break, merge, and/or recombine is an error (violation of Maxwell’s equations) compounded on another error (the lines do not really exist in the first place). Magnetic field lines are analogous to lines of latitude and longitude or topographic lines on a map. They are not discrete entities with nothing in between them – you can draw as many of them as close together as you’d like. And they most certainly do not break, merge, or reconnect any more than lines of latitude do.  Oppositely directed magnetic intensity H-fields simply cancel each other – no energy is stored or released in that event.

Dr. Scott is kinda right about magnetic field lines, in that they don’t actually exist. A magnetic field exists everywhere, not just at certain points. But Dr. Scott is wrong about oppositely directed magnetic fields. When two opposite magnetic fields overlap, they do cancel each other, but a magnetic field contains energy, and according to the First Law of Thermodynamics, energy cannot be created or destroyed. So where does that energy go? It has to go somewhere. Dr. Scott says it disappears, but real science says it gets converted into the kinetic energy that powers coronal mass injections.

Conclusion

This rather lengthy page has actually been the briefest of introductions to Juergens’ Electric Sun model – the realization that our Sun functions electrically – that it is a huge electrically charged, relatively quiescent, sphere of ionized gas that supports an electric plasma arc discharge on its surface and is probably powered by subtle currents that move throughout the now well known tenuous plasma that fills our galaxy. A more detailed description of the ES hypothesis as well as the deficiencies of the standard solar fusion model are presented in The Electric Sky.

Today’s orthodox thermonuclear model fails to explain many observed solar phenomena.  The Electric Sun model is inherently predictive of most if not all these observed phenomena.  It is relatively simple.  It is self-consistent.  And it does not require the existence of mysterious entities such as the unseen solar ‘dynamo’ genie  that lurks somewhere beneath the surface of the fusion model and serves as a fall-back explanation for all observations that are inconvenient for the accepted fusion model.

Ralph Juergens had the genius to develop the Electric Sun model back in the 1970′s.  He based it on the work of others who went before him. His hypothesis, and modern extensions of it have so far passed the harsh tests of observed reality.  This seminal work may eventually get the recognition it deserves.  Or, of course, others may try to claim it, or parts of it, and hope the world forgets who came up with these ideas first.

There is now enough inescapable evidence that a majority of the phenomena we observe on the Sun are fundamentally electrical in nature.  Ralph Juergens had the vision to recognize that.

A funny story about Ralph Juergens. Juergens wanted to show that, according to the standard model, convection on the Sun should be impossible. So he decided to calculate the Reynolds number of the Sun. If the Sun’s Reynolds number is above a critical value, he said, convection should be impossible. So he does the calculation, and he finds that the Reynolds number is “100 billion times greater than the critical value” so convection can’t be possible. He then trumpets his finding to the heavens, because he’s a “genius” with “vision.”

The problem is that the Reynolds number has nothing to do with convection. Jeurgens was thinking of the Rayleigh number, which is completely different. According to the Rayleigh number, the Sun is perfectly capable of convecting. But the interesting part is that Jeurgens, for all his “genius,” didn’t even know the difference between two completely unrelated constants. To put this in perspective, it’s like confusing meters with kilograms. It’s a mistake that can only be made by a completely incompetent scientist. This is the man that Scott chooses to associate with. This is his theory. And this should tell you everything you need to know about the caliber of this particular brand of pseudoscience.

If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments. And join me next time, when we talk about neutrinos!

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