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.) 🙂

Einstein, ACME, and science

A while back I read an article about the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), and it had a few statistics that seem somewhat embellished to me.  Now, I’m no scientist, but I have stayed at a Holiday Inn Express.  And because of the anonymity of the Internet, I could be the smartest person in the room (as far you know).  Whether any of that is factual or not is largely irrelevant to this discussion, because we’re going to have fun with it.  Let’s get started, shall we?

Winding the solenoid coil of the CMS [Compact Muon Solenoid] took five years to complete. When it is fully operational, it will generate a magnetic field 100,000 times stronger than the one produced by the Earth.

What could possibly go wrong?  I first think of a super magnet that Wile E. Coyote bought to catch Bugs Bunny.  It was a 10,000,000,000 volt electric magnet, in a do-it-yourself (DIY) kit sold by ACME (of course).

Actually, there’s a structure made with 12,000 tons of iron to bridle the lines of the magnetic field in the LHC so normal stuff won’t get disturbed.  So they say…  Next!

Components are assembled for A Large Ion Collider Experiment, a.k.a. ALICE, an experiment to measure the matter created in the extraordinarily high temperatures — estimated at 100,000 times hotter than the sun — that existed after the Big Bang and that will be created by the particle collider.

The Earth picks up only 0.45 billionth of the sun’s daily energy output, yet that is more than 239 trillion horsepower each day.  I realize there’s more to energy than heat, but I still question their estimate.  And even more so, I wonder what their electrical bill is…  And upon further thought, would a device creating heat that’s 100,000 times hotter than the sun contribute to global warming any?  Something has to happen to the heat — you can’t just flush it down the toilet — there are those pesky laws of thermodynamics…  🙂

Speaking of ACME, they had everything, didn’t they?  Did you know that the Animaniacs helped Einstein figure out the theory of relativity by singing the ACME song to make him feel better about himself?  I never learned that in school…

But wait, there’s more!  While watching the Wile E. Coyote video with the super magnet, I noticed it said “Zajaxi Dynamos” on one of the boxes instead of ACME.  Maybe it was a subsidiary?  I have no idea.  I’ve never noticed that before and never heard of that, so I googled it, and would you believe my search returned ZERO (0) results?  There is something that’s been around for decades for which Google had no answer whatsoever!  I’ve always figured you could find anything on the Internet, but I just proved otherwise.

So now let Buffet o’ Blog be the FIRST WEBSITE EVER to mention “Zajaxi Dynamos”!  How many times can you say your website is the first to ever do something in the history of the Internet?  We should win an award…  🙂

And since there’s no reference to what that phrase stands for, I suppose we can make it up.  Any ideas?

a snow hurricane

This post may seem contrived given the content versus the current news event of Hurricane Sandy combining with a cold front to bring potentially unprecedented devastation, but I assure you this was written a couple of weeks ago.  It’s ironic because we discussed a snow hurricane, but considered it just rambling because that’s impossible, right?  Hurricanes require warmth to survive, yet this one may produce wintry precipitation with this “100-year-storm” / nor’easter / frankenstorm.  Anyway, enough with the irony… let’s get to the rambling.

Recently we had discussed how to prevent hurricanes, and one of our regular readers had the idea of using some of our existing technology that we’ve already invented.  His suggestion was to use our snow machine to create snow in the Sahara Desert.  (Yes, we have built a snow machine from scratch.  Follow the link if this is news to you.)  Based on just those parameters, it sounds like a win-win scenario, but there’s a flaw in the slaw.  However, I am getting ahead of myself.  Let me first explain his idea.

Of course we’d have to scale up our snow making machine many times, but this can be done given enough funds.  But as you might have already surmised, such an idea has a few logistical issues.  Making snow requires water, which is typically scarce in a desert.  (Yeah, yeah, that goes without saying — it’s a desert.  Duh!)

So this “solution” might be impossible.  But for a moment, let’s imagine the possibilities.  Given enough snow injected into the hurricane-forming cycle, could it create a snow hurricane?  (A snowicane?  A hurrisnow?  We’ll have to work on the name.)  But imagine a snowstorm in the form of a hurricane that comes to the southern U.S. and dumps snow everywhere… that would be awesome!  (For those of you not familiar with the southern U.S., it rarely snows here.  It’s a BIG DEAL when we get accumulation on the ground — schools cancel (sometimes even at the mere forecast of snow), businesses close, and people play in the snow and make snow ice cream.  Here in Arkansas, we rarely get more than a couple inches a year.)  Although, besides the awesomeness of it, there would be collateral damages, and then we’d be working on a way to stop it, so perhaps we aren’t really fixing the problem with this “solution”.  But personally, I’d rather have several inches of snow than several inches of rain, so I’m all for it.

Perhaps we should apply science here instead of just rambling.  (What an idea!)  Hurricanes may start with dry desert air, but they have to accumulate moisture at some point.  If we could make that moisture cold enough and somehow get it to stay cold… well, this might be impossible as well.

This idea will require a professional-grade think tank.  Fortunately, the Buffet o’ Blog R&D (Research & Development) team is qualified for such a task.  What we’ll need is (can you guess?): a lot of money.  Now, I know, you’re thinking it doesn’t take money to think, and there’s some truthiness to that.  But a hurricane-scale snow maker isn’t gonna build itself, plus there are numerous logistical impossibilities to overcome, and we’d need time away from our jobs to accomplish this mission.  So if you want a hurricane made of snow, you’re gonna have to send us money.  There’s simply no other way.  Again, we can print off some official certificates saying you’re awesome for contributing to this world-changing project, and you’ll feel warm and toasty inside (except when you’re out playing in the snow).

If you have money but doubt our plan, we could draw up some diagrams and flow charts to send to you in exchange for funding.  🙂  We could also meet to discuss this over good pizza…  (Our R&D department usually meet while eating… we’ve found it’s good for morale and having good ideas.)

Are humans just mutant animals?

Have you ever wondered what animals think of humans?  We take it for granted that we are many times more intelligent than our pets, but what do they think about us?  Your dog might think you’re a mutant with super powers.  You can do things that transcend his understanding.  Imagine it from his perspective…

Now some scientists think that we may have super powers compared to other animals, that humans are mutants and a “copyediting error” in the brain is what separates us from other animals.  To that I say, “WHATEVER”.  God designed us this way.  Although even if you believe in evolution, does that account for mutants with super powers?  If so, I wasn’t taught that in school.  Science and biology classes would’ve been a lot more interesting if we’d talked about how to get super powers.

It’s impossible to know how an animal would think of all this.  Although it’s probably safe to say that if you were born a cat instead of a human, you wouldn’t be thinking about these things, nor would you even be aware that such a discussion could exist.  Your life would center around eating, sleeping, and playing.  Although I reckon that’s what a lot of humans focus on, not making much use of our superior intellect.  To each their own.  Actually, on second thought, eating a big mound of nachos and taking a nap sounds pretty good right now, super powers or not.