recreating the Aurora Borealis

Have you ever seen the Aurora Borealis (also known as the northern lights)? I haven’t, because where I live seems to be not compatible with that visual effect. I’ve been up north (in the United States), but not at the right time. I’ve seen pictures of it, which is neat, but that’s not quite the same. (But here’s a picture anyway.) 🙂

Now you may be wondering why I would write about the Aurora Borealis when I’ve never seen it. Well, I’d like to see it. I have a friend who has a great saying for when someone is at the proverbial fork in the road with a situation that needs a solution: “What are you going to do about it?”

Maybe I should make my own! Of course some people might say I should just travel up north to go see it, but that seems like too much trouble. I’d rather bring it here. (That sounds so much like Heinz Doofenschmirtz from Phineas & Ferb, where he planned to take (steal) Big Ben from London and put it next to his skyscraper apartment window, because it was getting harder to read the numbers on his watch. He just wanted a bigger clock, and that was the solution he chose. Honestly, I did not take his idea and modify it — I actually came up with this crazy solution on my own, though you might could argue I’ve watched too many cartoons. You might lose that argument, but I digress…)

Okay, where was I? Creating the Aurora Borealis effect where it doesn’t naturally exist. That shouldn’t be too complicated… it’s just some color smeared around in the sky. 🙂 But there’s probably some complicated science equations to work out, and maybe I should’ve paid more attention in college… but what am I talking about? The goal of education is not memorizing facts but in knowing where to look and how to find the answers you need. I learned about Google, so let’s start there:

Particles discharged from the sun travel 93 million miles (around 150 million km) toward Earth before they are drawn irresistibly toward the magnetic north and south poles. As the particles pass through the Earth’s magnetic shield, they mingle with atoms and molecules of oxygen, nitrogen and other elements that result in the dazzling display of lights in the sky. … Typically, when the particles collide with oxygen, yellow and green are produced. Interactions with nitrogen produce red, violet, and occasionally blue colors. The type of collision also makes a difference to the colors that appear in the sky: atomic nitrogen causes blue displays, while molecular nitrogen results in purple. The colors are also affected by altitude. The green lights typically in areas appear up to 150 miles (241 km) high, red above 150 miles; blue usually appears at up to 60 miles (96.5 km); and purple and violet above 60 miles. These lights may manifest as a static band of light, or, when the solar flares are particularly strong, as a dancing curtain of ever-changing color.

That’s a good start. Combining that with Wikipedia, we basically need to create something similar to solar winds and the resulting geomagnetic disturbance. Obviously we don’t want to cause interference or destruction with electronics, so that has to be accounted for. And it’ll need to be simpler. The solar winds are basically a flow of magnetized hot plasma from the two million degrees outer layer of the sun (the corona), and they arrive at Earth with a velocity around 400 km/s. Recreating that would be considerably costly and dangerous… and a lot of work…

So this project sounds really difficult, if not impossible. But consider this saying: “Progress is made by lazy men looking for easier ways to do things.” What if there is a simpler way to make it happen? Also, what if no one has really tried before? And it doesn’t have to be at that scale… What about making it happen over a smaller area, like over your house? Or in your living room?

So I searched some more, and scientists have recreated the northern lights inside a container, which is neat, but it’s not in the open air, so someone should take this to the next level. Not only would it be awesome, but you could sell this technology (although I must stipulate that the licensing needs to specify no ads are allowed in the sky; we see enough ads).

Do you have any ideas on how to do it? What you would do with a device that could make the air glow?

To answer my own question, I’d like to make lightning appear in different colors. The science might be relatable. Lightning is sometimes as hot as the surface of the sun, and it already moves really fast. (And an interesting side note is that the resulting thunder is because of the air being ionized… or in layman’s terms, torn apart. This will become its own post soon… I’ve rambled enough here.) 🙂

viewer mail, issue #14

One of my regular readers recently pointed out that I haven’t written an issue of viewer mail in a while, and what they said was true.   There’s no good excuse for that, but to appease certain people, I’ll make an excuse anyway: I had stuff to do.  🙂

But enough rambling, well, rambling without a point, anyway.   Let’s get to the viewer mail.   As always, these are actual search terms that led people to this blog.  I will provide answers, advice, skepticism, ridicule, or whatever is necessary in response to these phrases.

  • newly invented vitamins and minerals — I have nothing against science and inventing, but I don’t think we need more vitamins and minerals.  I already have enough trouble eating all of them I’m supposed to.  HOWEVER, if these new vitamins and minerals can somehow make things like bacon and gravy healthy, then I’m all for it!  That would be a great invention — not only would you improve the quality of life of millions of people, but you’d make billions of dollars!
  • volcano-kilauea-in-sept-84-shot-450m-high1“survive a volcanic eruption” — I can help you here.  The key for survival in that situation is to be far away.   It’s really that simple.  You really want to avoid the hot molten magma / lava, because it can burn through almost anything, including concrete and steel.  So it’s best to be far away.   And don’t try to cook marshmallows or hot dogs over the lava, because it can reach 2000 degrees; thus your food will melt, as will you.
  • friends that are too cool — It’s unfortunate this happens, but it’s a way of life.  Your only options are to either improve yourself, or just give them their space.  We had a guest editorial by Thomas Wayne about this one time, so you can read a few people’s thoughts on it in the comments on that post.
  • chocolate chip cookiescookies for breakfast — Some health nuts may say cookies are not a “breakfast food” or that they aren’t suitable for breakfast somehow.   To that I say “hogwash!”.   I have conducted my own extensive research in this area, and the results are conclusive that cookies make a great breakfast.   Milk is a good beverage of choice to go with your breakfast of cookies.
  • smoking/oxygen — I’m glad you brought this up, whoever you are.  Have you ever realized that smoking cigarettes and cigars burns oxygen out of our atmosphere?  Thus smoking contributes to global warming!   You probably won’t hear Al Gore mention that, because it might make some people mad, but I’m not afraid to rock the boat.

Well, that’s all we have time for today.   I really do have stuff to do.  🙂  Be sure to check out the other issues of viewer mail for more answers to the stuff you’re searching for.

Are plants contributing to global warming?

Plants play an important role in preventing global warming, because they absorb carbon dioxide (CO^2) and convert it into oxygen via .  Well, I’ve heard that global warming is on the rise because of too much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.  So this obviously means that plants aren’t doing their job.  I mean, that’s the main task of plants, right?  I’m pretty sure you’re not supposed to eat them (although animals do, which is important, I reckon), so their main purpose of existence is to convert carbon dioxide into oxygen.

flowersSince plants obviously aren’t fulfilling their basic life requirements, it’s time to take action.  I’m going to start suing greenhouses and plant outlets who are selling us defective plants and shrubberies and trees.  You may think this is crazy (and maybe it is), but hear me out.  Mother Nature has taken care of Earth for thousands of years.  Plants always did their job, and life continued on as it was designed to.  But in recent years, there have been stores that sold us plants, some of which were genetically mutated and stuff.  Obviously that’s why the plants are malfunctioning.

Someone has to hold these places accountable.  I should’ve seen this a long time ago.  The grass in the field behind my house grows just fine naturally, but when my yard was sodded for the first time, the grass didn’t grow well at all.  Why?  Because it was bought from a store.  And that’s not all — my wife got some flowers from the store and planted them, and they died not too long after that.  They were even watered extra beyond what the rain naturally sends, yet they died.  That’s just not acceptable.  That’s causing us to spend more money, and now I learned that the early death of these plants can contribute to global warming!  I shudder to consider how many people buy plants and shrubberies that die before their time, and now there’s too many greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.  What is this world coming to?

What would life on Mars be like?

Could there be life on Mars?  Scientists have long speculated (and continue to do so), although there’s more hope than ever.  They also wonder if humans might ever have a colony there.  But now the question is more like, “Would we want to?”

One of the reasons it’s improbable to find life on Mars is that the atmosphere doesn’t contain oxygen.  And it was thought that all organic life requires oxygen.  But a few years ago an organism was found that can live without sunlight and oxygen.  It’s a methanogen.  They eat hydrogen, breathe carbon dioxide, and belch methane.  A group of these were found in Idaho, living 660 feet underground.  They also exist in the digestive tracts of humans, causing gas.  If these bacteria are what life might be like on Mars, it might be a stinky place.

But there’s more.  Mars stinks naturally.  The surface of the red planet contains a very high concentration of sulfur.  Combined with other acids and minerals on Mars, it forms hydrogen sulphide (H2S), which is that rotten egg smell you may have experienced before.  And not only does it stink immensely, but it can cause headaches, and it is also explosive and poisonous.  So if you were living on Mars, you might be tempted to light a candle to reduce the stench (as some people are accustomed to doing), and KA-BOOM!

I’m thinking I’ll just stay here on Earth.  While there’s a few bad smells to deal with here, it’s not nearly so bad as it would be on Mars.


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