Mission managers have determined Space Shuttle Atlantis will not launch before Tuesday, Aug. 29. NASA

Aug
26
2006

Sunspot numbers by year: Photo source GlobalWarmingArt
Sunspot numbers by year: Photo source GlobalWarmingArt

Magnetic reversal in sunspot 905 signals new sunspot cycle.

Sunspots go through an eleven year cycle. When one solar cycle gives way to another--sunspots reverse polarity. For the second time in a month, a backward sunspot has appeared. The first backward spot, sighted on July 31st, was tiny and fleeting. The latest, however, is big and sturdy, bipolar sunspot 905.

The onset of Solar Cycle 24 is big news, because the cycle is expected to be intense, but don't expect any big storms right away. Solar cycles take years to ramp up to full power. The next Solar Max is expected in 2010.SpaceWeather

Most intense solar maximum in fifty years is forcast.

The prediction comes from a team led by Mausumi Dikpati of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR).

"The next sunspot cycle will be 30% to 50% stronger than the previous one," she says.

If correct, the years ahead could produce a burst of solar activity second only to the historic Solar Max of 1958. During the intense solarspot activity of 1958 people knew something big was happening. Northern Lights were sighted three times in Mexico. A similar maximum now would be noticed by its effect on cell phones, GPS, weather satellites and many other modern technologies.
Solar physicist David Hathaway of the National Space Science & Technology Center (NSSTC) explains that a convection current "conveyor belt" cycles magnetic knots from the core of the sun up to the surface, then back toward the core again. The cycle varys from 30 to 50 years. If it is flowing fast we will get more sunspots appearing. Science@NASA

Aug
25
2006

California goes solar: photo from Wikipedia commons
California goes solar: photo from Wikipedia commons

California again leads the way

Almost every September my wife and I stay with some friends in California. Because their house has solar electricity and hot water we are told to not feel guilty about long, hot showers. Their electricity usage is also pollution free.

One million more solar panels

Californians are leading the way by supporting renewable energy. This week they passed a bill, signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Monday, that calls for the installation of one million rooftop solar panels on homes, businesses, farms, schools and public buildings by 2018.

The solar systems would generate 3,000 megawatts of power and reduce emissions of greenhouse gases by 3 million tons, equivalent to taking 1 million cars off the state's highways and making California the third biggest solar producer after Japan and Germany.
The California Public Utilities Commission in January approved a $2.9 billion program to help pay for the solar program. The money will come from funds earmarked for solar energy and from gas and electric utility rates. Reuters

Aug
25
2006

Sad little pluto
Sad little pluto

The folks at the Minnesota Planatarium are planning a wake due to Pluto's loss of planatary status. Join them at Joe's Garage in Minneapolis on Thursday, August 31 from 7 to 9 p.m.

Join us for a wake in honor of our dearly departed planet Pluto. It was a good planet, and although it will have new life in the ranks of dwarf planets, we'll remember it how it was in its full planetary glory.

We'll also have a telescope on the roof to view the quarter moon. Parke may be persuaded to give a short Eulogy.

Informal and impromptu
Food and drink available for purchase.
Costumes not required but prize for best Pluto costume.
Toasts to Pluto encouraged.

While the new Minnesota Planetarium isn't a reality just yet, they do have a great gallery of 3D space images (anaglyphs) taken by NASA. Get your red-blue goggles out to see these.

Researchers suggest children who watch TV while receiving a shot suffer less pain from a hypodermic needle than children not watching TV.

Aug
24
2006

Hiccup cure: One of the many homemade variety.Coutesy lissame
Hiccup cure: One of the many homemade variety.
Coutesy lissame

One of the unexpected pleasures I’ve had in working in Body Worlds have been discussions about hiccups. There are several plastinated bodies that show the diaphragm -- the usual instigator of hiccups -- very well.

Along with those discussions have been a ton of comments from visitors about how they stop their hiccups. So I put it to you Science Buzz readers…what is your cure for hiccups?

Where's my diaphragm: Torso showing location of diaphragm. Courtesey Gray's Anatomy
Where's my diaphragm: Torso showing location of diaphragm. Courtesey Gray's AnatomyCourtesy Gray's Anatomy

I’ve been surprised at how few people actually know what happens in their body when they have the hiccups, so let’s cover that first.
The diaphragm is a large muscle that stretches across your entire torso, just below your lungs. It moves up and down to help your lungs inhale and exhale the air you breathe.

A hiccup occurs when the diaphragm experiences a spasm. You’ve probably felt your arm or leg muscles spasm, when they kind of twitch without you doing anything to make that happen. When the diaphragm spasms, it causes a quick intake of breath. But that breath is stopped quickly because the vocal cords in your throat close. The resulting turbulence of air in your throat makes the sound of a hiccup.

So why does the diaphragm spasm? One of the main causes is a full stomach. Factors leading to a full stomach that can lead to hiccups include eating too much food too fast, drinking too much alcohol, swallowing too much air, smoking, a sudden change in stomach temperature (like drinking a hot beverage after a cold beverage) or emotional stress or excitement.

In most cases, hiccups go away in just a few minutes. If they go on for a longer period of time, your abdomen may start to hurt. In rare instances, hiccups can last for more than 48 hours. Those persistent hiccups are usually a sign of more serious health problems and should be checked on by a doctor. Those conditions could include a problem with the central nervous system; problems in the body’s chemistry for kidney functions or hyperventilating; irradiation of the nerves in the head, neck or chest; anesthesia or surgery; mental health problems.

The best cures for regular forms of hiccups involve increasing the level of carbon dioxide in your blood. So how do you think you can do that?

Aug
24
2006

The International Astronomical Union stripped Pluto of the planetary status it has held since its discovery in 1930. CNN(Science & Space)

Aug
23
2006