conuly: (Default)
[personal profile] conuly
One article on sunspots.

Is the Sun Missing Its Spots?
By KENNETH CHANG

The Sun is still blank (mostly).

Ever since Samuel Heinrich Schwabe, a German astronomer, first noted in 1843 that sunspots burgeon and wane over a roughly 11-year cycle, scientists have carefully watched the Sun’s activity. In the latest lull, the Sun should have reached its calmest, least pockmarked state last fall.

Indeed, last year marked the blankest year of the Sun in the last half-century — 266 days with not a single sunspot visible from Earth. Then, in the first four months of 2009, the Sun became even more blank, the pace of sunspots slowing more.

“It’s been as dead as a doornail,” David Hathaway, a solar physicist at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., said a couple of months ago.

The Sun perked up in June and July, with a sizeable clump of 20 sunspots earlier this month.

Now it is blank again, consistent with expectations that this solar cycle will be smaller and calmer, and the maximum of activity, expected to arrive in May 2013 will not be all that maximum.

For operators of satellites and power grids, that is good news. The same roiling magnetic fields that generate sunspot blotches also accelerate a devastating rain of particles that can overload and wreck electronic equipment in orbit or on Earth.

A panel of 12 scientists assembled by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration now predicts that the May 2013 peak will average 90 sunspots during that month. That would make it the weakest solar maximum since 1928, which peaked at 78 sunspots. During an average solar maximum, the Sun is covered with an average of 120 sunspots.

But the panel’s consensus “was not a unanimous decision,” said Douglas A. Biesecker, chairman of the panel. One member still believed the cycle would roar to life while others thought the maximum would peter out at only 70.

Among some global warming skeptics, there is speculation that the Sun may be on the verge of falling into an extended slumber similar to the so-called Maunder Minimum, several sunspot-scarce decades during the 17th and 18th centuries that coincided with an extended chilly period.

Most solar physicists do not think anything that odd is going on with the Sun. With the recent burst of sunspots, “I don’t see we’re going into that,” Dr. Hathaway said last week.

Still, something like the Dalton Minimum — two solar cycles in the early 1800s that peaked at about an average of 50 sunspots — lies in the realm of the possible, Dr. Hathaway said. (The minimums are named after scientists who helped identify them: Edward W. Maunder and John Dalton.)

With better telescopes on the ground and a fleet of Sun-watching spacecraft, solar scientists know a lot more about the Sun than ever before. But they do not understand everything. Solar dynamo models, which seek to capture the dynamics of the magnetic field, cannot yet explain many basic questions, not even why the solar cycles average 11 years in length.

Predicting the solar cycle is, in many ways, much like predicting the stock market. A full understanding of the forces driving solar dynamics is far out of reach, so scientists look to key indicators that correlate with future events and create models based on those.

For example, in 2006, Dr. Hathaway looked at the magnetic fields in the polar regions of the Sun, and they were strong. During past cycles, strong polar fields at minimum grew into strong fields all over the Sun at maximum and a bounty of sunspots. Because the previous cycle had been longer than average, Dr. Hathaway thought the next one would be shorter and thus solar minimum was imminent. He predicted the new solar cycle would be a ferocious one.

Instead, the new cycle did not arrive as quickly as Dr. Hathaway anticipated, and the polar field weakened. His revised prediction is for a smaller-than-average maximum. Last November, it looked like the new cycle was finally getting started, with the new cycle sunspots in the middle latitudes outnumbering the old sunspots of the dying cycle that are closer to the equator.

After a minimum, solar activity usually takes off quickly, but instead the Sun returned to slumber. “There was a long lull of several months of virtually no activity, which had me worried,” Dr. Hathaway said.

The idea that solar cycles are related to climate is hard to fit with the actual change in energy output from the sun. From solar maximum to solar minimum, the Sun’s energy output drops a minuscule 0.1 percent.

But the overlap of the Maunder Minimum with the Little Ice Age, when Europe experienced unusually cold weather, suggests that the solar cycle could have more subtle influences on climate.

One possibility proposed a decade ago by Henrik Svensmark and other scientists at the Danish National Space Center in Copenhagen looks to high-energy interstellar particles known as cosmic rays. When cosmic rays slam into the atmosphere, they break apart air molecules into ions and electrons, which causes water and sulfuric acid in the air to stick together in tiny droplets. These droplets are seeds that can grow into clouds, and clouds reflect sunlight, potentially lowering temperatures.

The Sun, the Danish scientists say, influences how many cosmic rays impinge on the atmosphere and thus the number of clouds. When the Sun is frenetic, the solar wind of charged particles it spews out increases. That expands the cocoon of magnetic fields around the solar system, deflecting some of the cosmic rays.

But, according to the hypothesis, when the sunspots and solar winds die down, the magnetic cocoon contracts, more cosmic rays reach Earth, more clouds form, less sunlight reaches the ground, and temperatures cool.

“I think it’s an important effect,” Dr. Svensmark said, although he agrees that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that has certainly contributed to recent warming.

Dr. Svensmark and his colleagues found a correlation between the rate of incoming cosmic rays and the coverage of low-level clouds between 1984 and 2002. They have also found that cosmic ray levels, reflected in concentrations of various isotopes, correlate well with climate extending back thousands of years.

But other scientists found no such pattern with higher clouds, and some other observations seem inconsistent with the hypothesis.

Terry Sloan, a cosmic ray expert at the University of Lancaster in England, said if the idea were true, one would expect the cloud-generation effect to be greatest in the polar regions where the Earth’s magnetic field tends to funnel cosmic rays.

“You’d expect clouds to be modulated in the same way,” Dr. Sloan said. “We can’t find any such behavior.”

Still, “I would think there could well be some effect,” he said, but he thought the effect was probably small. Dr. Sloan’s findings indicate that the cosmic rays could at most account for 20 percent of the warming of recent years.

Even without cosmic rays, however, a 0.1 percent change in the Sun’s energy output is enough to set off El Niño- and La Niña-like events that can influence weather around the world, according to new research led by the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo.

Climate modeling showed that over the largely cloud-free areas of the Pacific Ocean, the extra heating over several years warms the water, increasing evaporation. That intensifies the tropical storms and trade winds in the eastern Pacific, and the result is cooler-than-normal waters, as in a La Niña event, the scientists reported this month in the Journal of Climate.

In a year or two, the cool water pattern evolves into a pool of El Niño-like warm water, the scientists said.

New instruments should provide more information for scientists to work with. A 1.7-meter telescope at the Big Bear Solar Observatory in Southern California is up and running, and one of its first photographs shows “a string of pearls,” each about 50 miles across.

“At that scale, they can only be the fundamental fibril structure of the Sun’s magnetic field,” said Philip R. Goode, director of the solar observatory. Other telescopes may have caught hints of these tiny structures, he said, but “never so many in a row and not so clearly resolved.”

Sun-watching spacecraft cannot match the acuity of ground-based telescopes, but they can see wavelengths that are blocked by the atmosphere — and there are never any clouds in the way. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s newest sun-watching spacecraft, the Solar Dynamics Observatory, which is scheduled for launching this fall, will carry an instrument that will essentially be able to take sonograms that deduce the convection flows generating the magnetic fields.

That could help explain why strong magnetic fields sometimes coalesce into sunspots and why sometimes the strong fields remain disorganized without forming spots. The mechanics of how solar storms erupt out of a sunspot are also not fully understood.

A quiet cycle is no guarantee no cataclysmic solar storms will occur. The largest storm ever observed occurred in 1859, during a solar cycle similar to what is predicted.

Back then, it scrambled telegraph wires. Today, it could knock out an expanse of the power grid from Maine south to Georgia and west to Illinois. Ten percent of the orbiting satellites would be disabled. A study by the National Academy of Sciences calculated the damage would exceed a trillion dollars.

But no one can quite explain the current behavior or reliably predict the future.

“We still don’t quite understand this beast,” Dr. Hathaway said. “The theories we had for how the sunspot cycle works have major problems.”

And one on cell phones in Japan as compared to the US

Why Japan’s Cellphones Haven’t Gone Global
By HIROKO TABUCHI

TOKYO — At first glance, Japanese cellphones are a gadget lover’s dream: ready for Internet and e-mail, they double as credit cards, boarding passes and even body-fat calculators.

But it is hard to find anyone in Chicago or London using a Japanese phone like a Panasonic, a Sharp or an NEC. Despite years of dabbling in overseas markets, Japan’s handset makers have little presence beyond the country’s shores.

“Japan is years ahead in any innovation. But it hasn’t been able to get business out of it,” said Gerhard Fasol, president of the Tokyo-based IT consulting firm, Eurotechnology Japan.

The Japanese have a name for their problem: Galápagos syndrome.

Japan’s cellphones are like the endemic species that Darwin encountered on the Galápagos Islands — fantastically evolved and divergent from their mainland cousins — explains Takeshi Natsuno, who teaches at Tokyo’s Keio University.

This year, Mr. Natsuno, who developed a popular wireless Internet service called i-Mode, assembled some of the best minds in the field to debate how Japanese cellphones can go global.

“The most amazing thing about Japan is that even the average person out there will have a superadvanced phone,” said Mr. Natsuno. “So we’re asking, can’t Japan build on that advantage?”

The only Japanese handset maker with any meaningful global share is Sony Ericsson, and that company is a London-based joint venture between a Japanese electronics maker and a Swedish telecommunications firm.

And Sony Ericsson has been hit by big losses. Its market share was just 6.3 percent in the first quarter of 2009, behind Nokia of Finland, Samsung Electronics and LG of South Korea, and Motorola of Illinois.

Yet Japan’s lack of global clout is all the more surprising because its cellphones set the pace in almost every industry innovation: e-mail capabilities in 1999, camera phones in 2000, third-generation networks in 2001, full music downloads in 2002, electronic payments in 2004 and digital TV in 2005.

Japan has 100 million users of advanced third-generation smartphones, twice the number used in the United States, a much larger market. Many Japanese rely on their phones, not a PC, for Internet access.

Indeed, Japanese makers thought they had positioned themselves to dominate the age of digital data. But Japanese cellphone makers were a little too clever. The industry turned increasingly inward. In the 1990s, they set a standard for the second-generation network that was rejected everywhere else. Carriers created fenced-in Web services, like i-Mode. Those mobile Web universes fostered huge e-commerce and content markets within Japan, but they have also increased the country’s isolation from the global market.

Then Japan quickly adopted a third-generation standard in 2001. The rest of the world dallied, essentially making Japanese phones too advanced for most markets.

At the same time, the rapid growth of Japan’s cellphone market in the late 1990s and early 2000s gave Japanese companies little incentive to market overseas. But now the market is shrinking significantly, hit by a recession and a graying economy; makers shipped 19 percent fewer handsets in 2008 and expect to ship even fewer in 2009. The industry remains fragmented, with eight cellphone makers vying for part of a market that will be less than 30 million units this year.

Several Japanese companies are now considering a push into overseas markets, including NEC, which pulled the plug on its money-losing international cellphone efforts in 2006. Panasonic, Sharp, Toshiba and Fujitsu are said to be planning similar moves.

“Japanese cellphone makers need to either look overseas, or exit the business,” said Kenshi Tazaki, a managing vice president at the consulting firm Gartner Japan.

At a recent meeting of Mr. Natsuno’s group, 20 men and one woman crowded around a big conference table in a skyscraper in central Tokyo, examining market data, delivering diatribes and frequently shaking their heads.

The discussion then turned to the cellphones themselves. Despite their advanced hardware, handsets here often have primitive, clunky interfaces, some participants said. Most handsets have no way to easily synchronize data with PCs as the iPhone and other smartphones do.

Because each handset model is designed with a customized user interface, development is time-consuming and expensive, said Tetsuzo Matsumoto, senior executive vice president at Softbank Mobile, a leading carrier. “Japan’s phones are all ‘handmade’ from scratch,” he said. “That’s reaching the limit.”

Then there are the peculiarities of the Japanese market, like the almost universal clamshell design, which is not as popular overseas. Recent hardware innovations, like solar-powered batteries or waterproofing, have been incremental rather than groundbreaking.

The emphasis on hardware makes even the newest phones here surprisingly bulky. Some analysts say cellphone carriers stifle innovation by demanding so many peripheral hardware functions for phones.

The Sharp 912SH for Softbank, for example, comes with an LCD screen that swivels 90 degrees, GPS tracking, a bar-code reader, digital TV, credit card functions, video conferencing and a camera and is unlocked by face recognition.

Meanwhile, Japanese developers are jealous of the runaway global popularity of the Apple iPhone and App Store, which have pushed the American and European cellphone industry away from its obsession with hardware specifications to software. “This is the kind of phone I wanted to make,” Mr. Natsuno said, playing with his own iPhone 3G.

The conflict between Japan’s advanced hardware and its primitive software has contributed to some confusion over whether the Japanese find the iPhone cutting edge or boring. One analyst said they just aren’t used to handsets that connect to a computer.

The forum Mr. Natsuno convened to address Galápagos syndrome has come up with a series of recommendations: Japan’s handset makers must focus more on software and must be more aggressive in hiring foreign talent, and the country’s cellphone carriers must also set their sights overseas.

“It’s not too late for Japan’s cellphone industry to look overseas,” said Tetsuro Tsusaka, a telecom analyst at Barclays Capital Japan. “Besides, most phones outside the Galápagos are just so basic.”

It is July 21st out there, 68 degrees and rainy. God, I loathe California's heat and blaring blazing sun, but I'm looking forward to it just to stop being so cold.

Date: 2009-07-21 10:08 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] amygooglegirl.livejournal.com
It's 16C (about 60F) here in Manchester, UK. Welcome to summer! Enjoy the Californian sunshine!

Date: 2009-07-21 10:39 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] elfster.livejournal.com
It's 11 degrees here (or 51F) in New Zealand. Pretty warm for a winter's night really.

Date: 2009-07-22 12:05 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] elfster.livejournal.com
Yes that would be bracingly cold! That would be a small-town Central Otago the pond's frozen over, let's go curling winter temperature.

Incidentally, 11 degrees Fahrenheit comes to = -11.6666667 Celsius

Date: 2009-07-22 12:15 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lizziey.livejournal.com
11F where I am during the middle of winter would be "oh hey, light jacket only" weather.

But then, its not unexpected for our nights to go down to -15F or lower. :-S

Date: 2009-07-22 08:29 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] elfster.livejournal.com
-15F would be -26C -- pretty cold!

We don't have much in the way of temperature extremes here so 11F would be very cold. There are parts of the central South Island that can get to -20C (-4F) and the alps would get cold obviously but that's all sparsely populated. Most densely populated areas scarcely get below freezing.

Date: 2009-07-22 12:16 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lizziey.livejournal.com
Heh, 68F up here is WARMMMMMM.

It has been a stupidly wet summer though. :(

Date: 2009-07-29 09:54 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] arcitizen.livejournal.com
Thanks for this information. I read this article. I got the unlock instrucitions from unlock guide (http://www.mobileunlockguide.com/) & i am searching for the unlockcode as free.

Profile

conuly: (Default)
conuly

October 2017

S M T W T F S
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22232425262728
293031    

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Oct. 17th, 2017 07:37 am
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios