An outline of a hard scifi story about life on the sun

on blog at

I started outlining this scifi story about life on the sun back in 2010 when the first proposals for Advanced Technology Solar Telescope and Solar Probe were floated. But I never wrote the story and now the passing of time has caught up with the "future" I was writing about and it's not quite panning out. The discoveries about the magnetic switchbacks in the solar wind have been cool though. Anyway, here's the story as a sketch:

The year is 2024. After years of gravity assists from the inner planets Solar Probe+, er, Parker Solar Probe, slips into a planned series extremely close passes only 9 solar radii from the sun itself. The plan is for it to become the first human object to directly interact with the magnetic fields and plasma of the outer corona.

This would be the story of the operators of the the Advanced Technology, er, Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope (DKIST) in the day of and years after their unexpected discovery of persistent seemingly life-like patterns of kilometer scale plasma and magnetic fields seemingly triggered below and overlapping in time with the Solar Probe+ perihelion.

The life-like patterns of bright spots are found in the cool molecular layer of the chromosphere below the transition region. The temperature in this layer is so low that many diatomic molecules exist at equilibrium. This is where the gradient of thermal pressure to magnetic pressure is greatest and charged particles undergo "anomalous acceleration" previously unexplained by any detailed mechanism.

[The beta of a plasma, symbolized by β, is the ratio of the plasma pressure (p = number of particles*Boltzmann's constant*temperature) to the magnetic pressure (p_mag = magnetic field²/2*magnetic permeability).]

The story would be about the process of science and discovery seen through the eyes of the DKIST and other observatory technicians [not: about the personal and political fallout experienced by the scientists and technicians of DKIST as the various postdocs in the labs compete compete to try to figure out if the patterns really are life and if so what can be learned from them]. As part of this it is also about the science involved in imaging and reconstructing ~50km long bright spots just above the surface of the brightest object in the solar system. After lots of exposition about zeeman splitting, the hanle effect, poynting vectors, crossing number and other topological considerations the shape and nature of the aliens as actual life would be clearer.

The bright points come into being as a result of tension in field lines causing magnetic reconnection creating discrete plasmoids with a definable magnetic helicity handedness (2). In order to keep stable the plasmoids have to shed magnetic helicity to the solar wind to keep their internal magnetic dynamo from stopping. This requires utilizing opposite helicity magnetic fields that rise from the solar dynamo to the the photosphere below (2).

As more resources are allocated and data is collected it is found that the plasmoid lifeforms are composed of dynamic arrangements of many plasmoids stuck together in patterns that "eat" opposite sign helicity magnetic flux tubes emerging from active regions. [This process would conclude with shedding single soliton waves via magnetosonic soliton conversion into shock waves that themselves break down into trains of soliton waves that propagate out into the solar wind? Soliton formation requires a balance between convection and dispersion.] The origin of nanoflares, unexplained km scale coherent radio emissions, non-thermal broadening of spectral lines in the transition region, the gamma ray excess and 40 GeV dip, and why the corona is hotter then the surface are finally explained.

Along with this human accomplishment and understanding of the outer sun references should be occasionally made to the uncertainty about the the processes occuring above the tachocline but below the photosphere. Even more mysterious is the dynamo itself in the core known only through inferences made from "G" vibrational modes of the star discovered through doppler measurements of the photosphere surface.

[comment on this post] Append "/@say/your message here" to the URL in the location bar and hit enter.

[webmention/pingback] Did you respond to this post? What's the URL?

Beryllium 7's nuclear decay rate can be manipulated chemically

on blog at

Yesterday I found out there is a nuclide, Beryllium 7, that has a nuclear decay where electron capture from the 2s (L shell) occurs. That's the shell used for chemical bonding in Be so the nuclear decay rate can be varied by changing the chemical environment. The decay rate can be increased by putting Be7 in a buckyball or decreased by ionizing it so that the 2s electrons are lost. That's fucking wild.

References: , Radioactivity gets fast-forward : , Be7 Decay Rate Papers :

While I'm on the topic of weird nuclei tricks Thorium has an isotope with a metastable excitation state that emits a gamma ray that is such low energy it's in the UV light range, 149.7nm. ref:

[comment on this post] Append "/@say/your message here" to the URL in the location bar and hit enter.

[webmention/pingback] Did you respond to this post? What's the URL?

Google search limiting results to a handful of pages for some logged-in accounts

on blog at

Update 2022-09-19: I was right. Google only ever returns < 400 search results. It will not return more. Google search *is* broken and it is broken intentionally. The differences between being logged-in and logged-out are merely the number of results per page. Even while logged out no more than 400 results can ever be returned. RIP Google Search, 1998-2019.

I've also registered and put up a little placeholder explanation of the problem. Hopefully more (and a comment system) to come.


Maybe I should change the name of this blog to "superkuh complains". Annoyance seems to be the only thing that can motivate me enough to post. This time around I'm annoyed at google search results being broken when I'm logged in to my google account. Searches for generic words like "vector" "surfboard" or "cat" will say they're showing x of 82,000,000 results. But if I go down to click to page 2 of results, then 3, then 4, the results run out. There are only 4 pages of results for the word "vector" and it starts reporting "~x of 381 results" instead of millions. The screenshot is a youtube link demonstrating the problem.

I didn't notice this myself. A friend on IRC was having the issue and asked if anyone else was. I thought he was just confused or bullshitting or something. But it happened to me too. I spent the next day asking around and 20 people responded. 7 of them had the problems of limited search results and 13 said google was behaving normally.

The only useful information I've been able to figure out is that it's account based. But if I am logged out and it's working and then I turn off javascript and get shunted to the mobile site the problem happens again. It doesn't matter what OS, which computer, browser, or IPv4 IP I use. So,

			Bad	Good
Logged in with JS	x
Logged in no JS		x
Not logged with JS		x
Not logged no JS	x	

I sure hope it's just some bug and it gets fixed. I did submit a few "feedback" reports just in case someone cares. For now I'm keeping an extra browser open and logged in to google just for google services (like youtube) but it's tedious and I wish I didn't have to.

It's super weird.

[comment on this post] Append "/@say/your message here" to the URL in the location bar and hit enter.

[webmention/pingback] Did you respond to this post? What's the URL?

A janky underwater camera for ice fishing: waterproofing with cast paraffin wax.

on blog at

There are lots of really cool all-in-one underwater ice fishing cameras for sale commercially. Unfortunately most of them cost about $150 minimum (without most features), and more like $300-$400 for a modern brand name system. I decided to assemble my own from parts. My system ended up consisting of a vehicle rear-view back-up camera, 50ft RCA+power extension coxial cable, 12v portable digital video recorder, 7 inch LCD monitor, and a 12v 7amp hour sealed lead acid battery. Everything is done with NTSC video over RCA coaxial cable. My system ended up being comparable to an older generation low-end Aqua Vu like the Micro Stealth 4.3 ($200++) with the difference that my system can record and display video from 2 underwater cameras at once. I tested them head to head out on the ice and they are very similar in functionality and quality. The Aqua Vu's screen was easier to see in direct sunlight and it's much lighter and easier to carry around.

The waterproofing was the interesting part, otherwise it was just all plug-and-play w/RCA cables and a bit of soldering 2.1x5.5mm DC power barrel jacks. My first step was removing all screw holes from the camera by filling with baking soda + super glue (no waiting around to cure like epoxy). Before spraying silicone conformal coating over the camera I cut a tiny circle out of masking tape to cover the lens. I then sprayed everything a handful of times over three days. For the RCA connections in the extension cord I also did one spray of silicone conformal coating but most of the water proofing comes from melting paraffin wax and casting it as blocks around the standard RCA plugs. To do this I cut up some cardboard tubes and used them as molds around the plugs/cable. This was very janky looking but it worked for many hours down 15ft underwater. It might not work well above water for any long (tens of minutes) period because the RCA coax DC injector bit get hot enough to soften the wax. But easy removal is an upside compared to hot glue or epoxy. I attached everything to some scrap cardboard by poking holes and threading zip ties. I wraped it with some plastic and packaging tape.

I ended spending about $125. If someone tried to replicate it they might have to spend more because they didn't already have the spray silicone coating, a 12v charger, or bins full of DC barrel jacks, or an old power cord from something broken to repurpose for the battery cable. For this amount I probably could've bought a smaller chinese device already "assembled" but such devices don't have the capability to record video. And unlike my setup they cannot use two cameras at once for 360 degree vision. The only downsides of using such cheap ($5 shipped) cameras was the they have the vehicle back-up lines overlayed on the video. It's aesthetically displeasing but functionally it makes very little difference. Video quality was about the same as the $300 commercial system but when I use the 50ft extension cord I do get slight interference lines. I aluminum taped over the very bright white LEDs on the back-up camera since I couldn't disable them.

[comment on this post] Append "/@say/your message here" to the URL in the location bar and hit enter.

[webmention/pingback] Did you respond to this post? What's the URL?