Sunspots mark areas on the Sun's surface where the star's magnetic field becomes so intense that a buoyant tube of magnetism literally pops through the Sun's surface. The magnetic field disrupts the outward convection of heat, resulting in dark Earth-sized splotches that are some 2,500 degrees Celsius cooler than the rest of the solar surface. Periods of high sunspot activity also usher in an increase in the number of solar flares--intense bursts of magnetic energy hurling energetic particles out from the Sun. When these flares reach the Earth's magnetic field, they can wreak havoc with electrical lines, communications satellites, and even automatic garage door openers. John H. Thomas, an astrophysicist at the University of Rochester, and Benjamin Montesinos of Madrid's Laboratory for Space Astrophysics and Fundamental Physics have developed what they say is a more realistic version of the siphon-flow model, which predicts how gas flows from sunspots into the solar atmosphere. The work could also offer insights into other astrophysical processes that involve strong magnetic fields and jets of gas, such as when stars form or die--an area that's the focus of much research. For more information, contact John H. Thomas at (716) 275-6717.
The engineers and inventors of the post WWII period turned their attention to advancements in electronics, communication, and entertainment. Breakthrough inventions range from LEGOs and computer gaming to the integrated circuit and Ethernet -- a range of advancements that have little in common except they changed our lives.
Neil Fromer is the executive director of the Resnick Institute, a program for energy and sustainability at the California Institute of Technology, working to develop new ideas and research technologies related to providing a sustainable future. He spoke to us about the severity of the current drought in California and how solar energy can help prevent such situations in the future.
Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.