Portals Between Earth and Sun Open Every Eight Minutes
November 5, 2008 1:55 PM   Subscribe

Magnetic Portals Connect Sun and Earth. "Like giant, cosmic chutes between the Earth and sun, magnetic portals open up every eight minutes or so to connect our planet with its host star. Once the portals open, loads of high-energy particles can travel the 93 million miles (150 million km) through the conduit during its brief opening, space scientists say." [Via]
posted by homunculus (34 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
If only Crichton were alive to tell us how aliens are involved.
posted by Rinku at 2:00 PM on November 5, 2008

That is really cool.
posted by dontoine at 2:03 PM on November 5, 2008

The Orange Box is True!
posted by isopraxis at 2:06 PM on November 5, 2008

I got excited when i read this because it sounded (to my wishful thinking mind) like the particles were moving faster than light, but no things are as they were.
posted by chelegonian at 2:06 PM on November 5, 2008

But what do the earth scientists say?
posted by doteatop at 2:08 PM on November 5, 2008 [5 favorites]

I hate to sound dumb, but what exactly does it mean? Are the portals like tunnels that the particles travel through in a straight line at ordinary speeds, like some kind of cosmic pipe? Or do they jump from one place to another instantly (Sounds like that isn't the case)? Is the path straight or curved, as in, are the particles "lead" to the Earth by these portals?
posted by mccarty.tim at 2:10 PM on November 5, 2008

Portals are so 1999.
posted by dhartung at 2:13 PM on November 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

And here I was so happy about Obama's victory. Now we're all gonna die.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:23 PM on November 5, 2008

time cube guy was right!
posted by condour75 at 2:23 PM on November 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

Wait...is there Cake?
posted by thanotopsis at 2:27 PM on November 5, 2008

Sounds something like lightning.
posted by StickyCarpet at 2:29 PM on November 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

The cake is a lie.
posted by fusinski at 2:31 PM on November 5, 2008

Flux transfer event. That's gonna be my new all-purpose reason/excuse/exclamation. So long, "Triumph of the Human Spirit".
posted by kuujjuarapik at 2:33 PM on November 5, 2008 [7 favorites]

So, like, the portal opens, and I have an idea. Paint the hall blue. Make another pie. Research the effect of caffeine on a full stomach vs. a pie-filled stomach. Make coffee, grind the beans half as long.

The portal closes and the mind sings with a fuzzy, washy sound. I drift around the kitchen, filters in hand, looking for the coffee maker. Eventually end up in the back yard, digging for bulbs I'm sure we planted.

The portal opens. I drop the spade, I rush inside. China is going to own Africa in five years. I'll write a book. I'll learn Chinese, OK Mandarin. OK, maybe not, it looks really hard and I can buy a device to do the translating for me. Mmmm, I should make some pie. I go back to the kitchen, find the coffee maker and get back to it.

The portal closes and I peel away from my body and waft on the convection currents being given off by the stove top. When the kettle whistles, I listen to the sound from three different angles and not the difference. The light reflecting off the kitchen window sharpens everything outside. Bulbs.

The portal opens. I haul the ingredients together for pie. I think for a moment about calculus and rue that I never studied it. Wonder if I could derive it myself, as Newton did. By the time I've stopped the laughing, the portal has closed.

The warp and woof of life - who fucking knew.
posted by From Bklyn at 2:39 PM on November 5, 2008 [21 favorites]

Obligatory Obama reference in unrelated topic thread.
posted by mattholomew at 2:50 PM on November 5, 2008


I mean, OK, it's got a cool name, and it is always cool when new things are discovered, but this sounds like it's just an intermittent connection between two magnetic systems. It wicks high-energy particles to Earth, OK. But what does that tell us? What new things does that allow us to do? Where, at the very least, are the cool pictures based on magnetic imaging (or some such other hand-wavey thing because I'm spit-balling)?

New source of energy to manipulate? New communications model?
posted by klangklangston at 2:52 PM on November 5, 2008

I have seen the cake, I tell you. It Is Real.
posted by longsleeves at 3:05 PM on November 5, 2008

“New source of energy to manipulate? New communications model?”

No, more just “oh, so that’s how that thing works.”
Not unuseful.

(Dammit Hom - I was going to post this when I got to a real computer...grrr! ...although yours is nicer than mine probably would have been. I was just going to print it on cardboard and tape it up)
posted by Smedleyman at 3:22 PM on November 5, 2008

posted by Smedleyman at 3:24 PM on November 5, 2008

Aw, now I'm going to have to end all my sentences with "...space scientists say," aren't I?
posted by Sys Rq at 3:43 PM on November 5, 2008

There are many unanswered questions: Why do the portals form every 8 minutes? How do magnetic fields inside the cylinder twist and coil? "We're doing some heavy thinking about this at the Workshop," says Sibeck.

Someone give him mat's phone #. He has a list of thousands of heavy thinkers readily available for thinking.
posted by notreally at 3:50 PM on November 5, 2008

It's the first step of many steps towards building a warp engine. The Vulcans are watching us, closely.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:52 PM on November 5, 2008

Every 8 minutes? The sun is abut 8 light-minutes away from the earth. Coincidence?
posted by rusty at 4:19 PM on November 5, 2008

The Vulcans are watching us, closely.

They want our cake.
posted by homunculus at 4:41 PM on November 5, 2008

MetaFilter: So long, "Triumph of the Human Spirit"
posted by DU at 5:13 PM on November 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

It requires an army of airplanes and handsome, dreamy young men with doomed expressions. Space travel is so tricky.
posted by The Whelk at 6:07 PM on November 5, 2008

The Vulcans are watching us, closely.

Wasn't the thing that the Vulcans were on a standard run of the Sol System and saw nothing worth bothering with until the near-accidental burst of a primative warp engine?
posted by The Whelk at 6:12 PM on November 5, 2008


Nope. One's a simple time/distance relation and the other is a magical magnet portal beaming thetans into our unbeknownst souls.
posted by ageispolis at 6:14 PM on November 5, 2008

Probably a mainframe download.

I certainly wouldn't call it not useful. You probably want to dodge these portals with your satellites. Also, it might give more information about whether or not Earth's magnetic pole will reverse, something that has happened in the past and could be disastrous if it happens again--not to mention the effect this might have on the weather. More information is always a good thing when trying to build models to predict what's going to happen.
posted by eye of newt at 8:02 PM on November 5, 2008

"Portals" is just headline-speak, right? This is just swirlyness in the fluidic solar wind, magnetohydrodynamics stuff?
posted by XMLicious at 2:23 AM on November 6, 2008

"Strange portal," sheesh. It's like the science@nasa folks want people to misunderstand their reporting. They don't exactly make it easy for an outsider to find a more technical reference, either.

Of these papers, I only have easy access to one from this year. The dataset analyzed in that paper consists of 21 days over four years when a particular satellite saw more than ten of these flux transfer events. That paper seems to claim that "every eight minutes" is an overestimate, with flux transfers more commonly separated by two to four minutes. Maybe that's the "twice as often as previously thought" referred to in the news story.

So ... something interesting is hiding in here, but I don't really understand what.
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 2:45 AM on November 6, 2008

homunculus, there's an interesting game of "telephone" happening in your extra link, which cites Universe Today, which cites the Telegraph, where someone seems to have spoken with the authors of this paper.

Strong magnetic fields reflect charged particles; this isn't news. If you have a very small number of charged particles, a strong magnetic field will localized them within about a cyclotron radius. Ordinarily you don't see features smaller than that. Bamford and her colleagues point out that the situation is different in a denser plasma. Since moving charged particles create magnetic fields, in addition to being steered by them, you can get self-interaction effects. Bamford shows that the volume shielded by a magnetic dipole is much larger than the volume where the magnetic field is actually strong and, interestingly, that the plasma continues to follow the deflected path for some time after the magnet is turned off.

The experiment described in the paper uses a 0.2 T permanent magnet to empty the plasma from a volume of a couple of cubic inches. A repeated experiment with a pulsed magnet suggests that perhaps a continuous field is not necessary. Scaling things up, making a bus-sized low-radiation zone would require a refrigerator-sized magnet, which wouldn't have to run continuously.

This approach has promise for charged-particle shielding in space. But a title like "Ion Shield for Interplanetary Spaceships Now a Reality" is wholly misleading. A better summary might be "Obvious Flaw Might Not Doom Scheme for Ion Shield After All."
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 3:34 PM on November 6, 2008

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