Friday, March 09, 2007

Sunshine


Danny Boyle is the ultra-hip director of TRAINSPOTTING, SHALLOW GRAVE and 28 DAYS LATER. Now he has the budget to visit Space for SUNSHINE. In a future when the Sun is dying, a spaceship is on a desperate mission to save humanity. The movie looks like gritty, suspenseful fun.

It would be foolish to think that humans understand everything about the Sun. As Carl Brannen has noted, NASA's Ulysses spacecraft has discovered that the Sun's North Pole is slightly cooler than the South Pole. Like Saturn and its little Moon Enceladus, an unknown process makes the South Pole warmer. This could be yet another sign of an internal singularity.

Theories of the Sun have advanced over time. As late as the 1920’s most astronomers would lecture that our Sun was made of iron, and glowed in the sky like a hot poker. Only a young astronomer named Cecilia Payne suggested that the Sun’s spectral lines could be interpreted as hydrogen. Because Payne was a woman, her idea was roundly dismissed. The equations of nuclear fusion were still being worked out, and most scientists doubted that Black Holes existed. Eventually the young woman was vindicated. As our knowledge of physics advances, so must theories of the Sun.

A Black Hole could conceivably exist in the second last place we would think to find one, inside the Sun! A tiny singularity would feel right at home in the temperature and pressure of a stellar interior. The Black Hole’s rotation would cause the star’s inner layers to rotate faster, contributing to a magnetic field. Indeed astronomers now know that our Sun’s core rotates faster than the outer layers due to some mysterious influence. A Black Hole could be literally in front of our face each morning.

Only occasionally would Black Holes within stars reveal themselves. In their twilight years, the largest stars would consume all their fuel until fusion abruptly ended. The equilibrium between outward pressure and the Black Hole's gravity would abruptly end. Robbed of fusion’s energy, a star would collapse catastrophically. A star’s mass suddenly falling into a Black Hole would produce an immense explosion, like a supernova.

As we have seen before, the paradox of a "Faint Young Sun" is precisely explained by a changing speed of light. Though the Sun's luminosity goes through small fluctuations, it is constant enough for life to have evolved on Earth for billions of years. Previously it was assumed that carbon dioxide somehow custom-heated Earth's atmosphere for us. This led to the present debate about global warming. Measurements of iron carbonates show that early Earth can not posibly have contained that much CO2.

No matter what one's opinion is about global warming, it is clear that humans spew too much junk into the atmosphere. Many fascinating technologies have been developed to cut emissions. This is one way that scientists can make a positive contribution to the world. I'll be away from the computer for a few days, test-driving one of those new techologies.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Kea said...

Would that be an Imperial starship?

1:52 PM  
Blogger L. Riofrio said...

Hee hee, one doesn't have to go far to see a star. Enidence of a c change from distant supernovae is corroborated by the nearest star of all.

Kea, your prescience is amazing as always. I have some good news about something Imperial.

7:41 PM  

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