Catching up

Hit with a wacky schedule once again, so I’ve been unexpectedly offline for a bit. Still busy, but I figured I’d at least share a couple of interesting tidbits that have come across the ol’ desktop. I hope by the end of this week I’ll have some more time to do some “liquid thinking”. As everybody is no doubt aware, we are beset with all sorts of worrisome problems that can be readily read about everywhere. Such as the swine flu, continuing economic crisis, etc. So, let’s take a little break from that to check out something positive and interesting.

Twisters from Space!

Originating in the solar wind, the space tornadoes are rotating plasmas of hot, ionized gas flowing at speeds of more than one million km/h – far faster than the 300 km/h winds of terrestrial tornadoes, said Andreas Keiling, an astrophysicist at the University of California, Berkeley.

The tornadoes are actually vortices created by the release of energy on the dark side of the Earth in the trailing ‘magnetotail’ region of the planet’s magnetic field.

Yeah, but will they fling a space cow?

Unrelated but digging deeper into the Earth now, a mechanism has been proposed to explain how the Earth’s magnetic field reverses. As many are no doubt aware, the north and south magnetic poles are the effect of a magnetic dipole, which can be thought of, in simple terms, as a current loop. François Pétrélis of Ecole Normale Supérieure has shown that one mechanism that may explain the flips of the magnetic field is the coupling of the dipole field with a magnetic quadrupole field, due presumably to various flows within the core. In this model, velocity fluctuations in the flow of the core cause the system to be pushed towards having a quadrupole mode which couples to the dipole moment to eventually flip it. More details at the link.

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