My Random March Through the Insanity of Solar Cycle Research (aka – Explanation of Landsheidt’s first paper, part 1)
Posted by The Diatribe Guy on March 18, 2008
I have become recently fascinated by some papers I have run across recently that really help me understand solar cycles and the impacts on climate. However, I am a simple guy. Yes, I am a math guy and a science guy, but quite honestly, despite all my education and years in those fields, I’ve never reached the point where I prefer formulas over lay terminology. And as I read the papers themselves and synopsises thereof, I am left with a feeling that this important topic is being left behind by the normal human being in the debate. What I want to do is give a very thorough review and understanding of it that accomplishes two purposes: the thoroughness allows the reader to actually understand the scientific mumbo-jumbo. Because a non-scientist will not understand what is being said in 10 words, I will use 100 words. But in the end, hopefully, the reader will be able to intelligently give a short, layman’s explanation that hits the salient points, and is factually accurate.
I am going to try to do something here that I may regret. I have become very interested in papers written and researched by Dr. Theodor Landscheidt. But I am not a scientist, and neither are most of us. The concepts, however, are vitally important in the debate regarding global warming and whether or not it is driven by solar activity.
As I read his papers, I wish to discuss all elements so that the layman can understand it. Even summaries I have read fall into terminology that the typical person will not easily comprehend, because most of us are not schooled in this area. I plan on going sentence by sentence and providing explanation. One caveat: I am learning many of these things and do not have a background in this area. If anyone who is well-schooled in these subjects reads an explanation and sees errors, then please let me know. Kindly, of course…
This may be too much explanation per sentence, but my hope is to explain these important papers so that everyone can understand what is being presented. I believe it is important for everyone, not just the scientific community, to be able to discuss this intelligently in the context of the global warming debate.
As for my background, I am an actuary and back in the day I took plenty of Physics and Chemistry courses, but I have no relevant work experience in the field. So, take what I explain for what it is. It is my understanding of the paper.
The long post that follows covers a whopping two sentences out of the following research paper:
First sentence: “The secular cycle of solar activity is related to the sun’s oscillatory motion about the center of mass of the solar system.”
The “secular cycle of solar activity” refers to an observed cycle of solar activity that was previously believed to generally range from 80-90 years. However, it was observed by previous researchers to be as short as 20 years and as long as 140 years. We will be talking much more about the variations in the cycle, and Landscheidt demonstrates that the actual cycle is much more consistent, and the past observed variations in the secular cycle can be explained by other factors. For the layperson, the important thing to understand is that the “secular cycle” just refers to this traditionally observed 80-ish year cycle. In non-solar terms, the “secular” cycle or variation refers to a long-term variation as opposed to shorter term variations. You will see the term used in connection with business cycles, for example. An example of a periodic variation within the secular solar cycle is the well-known 11 year sunspot cycle.
Oscillatory motion is motion that is repetitive between two points. A pendulum is an example of oscillatory motion. If there is a motion in one direction, and then in the opposite direction, and you end up at the same spot, then you have oscillatory motion. Reach down at your desk and open your drawer. Now close it. Congratulations… you have just demonstrated oscillatory motion! Periodic oscillatory motion refers to the fact that it often takes a particular amount of time for one oscillation – or cycle – to occur.
Regarding the “center of mass” of the solar system, it’s probably best understood by first understanding what “center of gravity” means. Imagine an empty plate. You can balance that plate on the tip of your finger in the center of the plate. If someone tosses a helping of mashed potatoes exactly centered on the plate, the center of gravity remains in the center. But now, if you move that helping of potatoes towards the side of the plate, the center of gravity shifts so that you must move your finger in that direction to find a new balancing point.
Likewise, the center of mass of a system of objects or particles is determined by the position of all those objects relative to their mass. Imagine, then, the solar system. The largest mass in the solar system is obviously the sun, so there is a natural center of mass near the sun. But we also have some planets (and some other things, such as an asteroid belt). The more evenly dispersed the mass of the planets will be around the sun, the closer to the sun the center of mass of the solar system will be. On the other hand, imagine a situation where all the planets were perfectly lined up on one side of the sun. This would place the center of mass of the solar system at a point furthest away from the sun. The center of mass doesn’t have to be on any object, it is the spot in the solar system where the mass is simply centered around that spot (so that if you crunched the whole solar system into one big ball and kept it’s center-point the same, that’s where you would crunch it up to).
So, to sum up the first sentence in layman’s terms, the observed long-term cycle of the sun, averaging 80-90 years, is related to the sun’s position with the center of mass of the solar system. The sun’s position vs. the center of mass demonstrates a periodic pattern of behavior.
Second sentence: “Comparatively short periods of revolution with relatively high rates of curvature constitute a potential for crucial values of the time integral of torque AL = J[to]r(t) dt which seem to give rise to a weak but long lasting flow of solar plasma that modulates short-term flow due to the dynamo effect.”
To use common internet forum lingo… LOL!!!
Let’s see if we can actually put this in language so that simple people like me can understand it. Note: I am using the convention J[to] to designate J (inertia) at time = 0. I couldn’t figure out the subscripts. I know, I know… what a dork.
First, building on the whole center of mass of the solar system (because I’m lazy, I’ll use CMSS from now on) stuff, Landsheidt is alluding to the fact that the CMSS can be thought of as a fixed point, and the sun whips around this spot in a certain pattern. The long term pattern is the secular cycle, but there are other periods within that cycle. Sometimes the pattern will be a tight revolution and sometimes it won’t be. While it may be odd to think of the sun whipping around anything, keep in mind that our entire solar system is revolving around the galaxy. It makes sense to think of the solar system as one big thing traveling about the galaxy. In this light, then, the CMSS is the point that draws the imaginary line of orbit. If that’s the case, then if the CMSS is fixed along this path, and the sun’s position relative to the CMSS changes, then it makes sense to think of the sun as whipping around the center of mass. It also perhaps seems more tenable when you think of how huge the galaxy is, that this one little star is being whipped around a little bit at the mercy of this big, mean galaxy pulling the whole darn solar system around at its whim. The revolution of the sun around the CMSS can’t be a normal-looking orbit, since all the other planets are moving around and constantly changing the location of the CMSS, and the sun then needs to compensate by either moving further away from the CMSS or closer to it, otherwise the laws of Physics would be broken and the Universe as we know it would explode. Or something like that.
So, let’s parse: “Comparatively short periods of revolution with relatively high rates of curvature…”
Hopefully this is now clearer. When the sun is forced to revolve about the CMSS to compensate for planetary alignment of the current day, and there is a good dispersion of planetary and other mass, then the sun’s revolution around the CMSS will be a small orbit, because the CMSS is close to the sun (i.e. it will be a short period). The curve of the orbit will be much more pronounced (high rate of curvature).
Now the real fun begins: “constitute a potential for crucial values of the time integral of torque AL = J[to]r(t) dt”
Okey-dokey… This is a mouthful.
Let’s start with torque. What is this torque thing? Have you ever pushed your kid on a little merry-go-round at the playground? You need to put a little heave-ho into it in order to get it moving. Now, that heave-ho, depending on how creaky and unoiled the piece of equipment is, will determine how fast the thing spins, right? If you keep applying the same force by walking around, the constant force will keep it moving. Also, we all know from experience that it is more difficult to push that thing if you push close to the center than if you push on the outside. Torque is used to describe how much an object will rotate around a fixed pivot point (its axis) based on the force applied and the distance (radius) from the pivot point (axis) of the object to the point where you are pushing.
Torque is determined by multiplying the force F times the radius r (It’s actually slightly more complex than that, but this will suffice).
In the context of this discussion, remember that we will be discussing the sun revolving around the CMSS.
Now, let’s go to the actual formula. J is inertia. Inertia basically means that a body in motion will stay in motion unless other forces cause it to stop or change direction. Some guy named Newton came up with that. Anyway, that [to] that you see in the equation means at time = 0. Thus, J[to] is the initial force, but since it is a constant it is considered the force being applied at all times. The r(t) is the distance between the sun’s center and the CMSS at a specific time = t. Since F x r = Torque, we see that this is the torque equation. The expression dt is a mathematical expression for the infinitesimally small change at time = t. The phrase “time integral of torque” tells us in words that we take the integral of that expression from one time to another (as it relates to t=0). An integral basically sums up all the infinitesimal lengths of r at all moments of t, and multiplies them by J[to]. This yields this weird AL term as a result. L is basically the “inertia” of rotations. Whereas inertia is used to describe a straight line motion, L stands for “angular momentum” and basically means a similar thing – the propensity of an object to continue revolving around an axis without being acted upon by another force. The term A stands for “vector potential” and is a bit tricky to understand, as well.
Vector potential has to do with electrical and magnetic field potential. I am going to borrow an example from A Hitchhiker’s guide to the “free energy” MEG because I wasn’t smart enough to come up with a simple example on my own. We are all familiar with an electrical outlet. The numerical potential, in volts, of this outlet is 110 V. Now, if we combine the numerical with a direction, we have a vector potential. I admit to not completely following this, but their example says “In the case of our 110-volt outlet, if we change the direction from say the horizontal to the vertical, we can double our potential to 220 volts. Therefore, direction is important for the creation of any magnetic field; they all emerge from a magnetic vector potential where direction plays a critical role. ” Let’s basically settle on this: A stands for the potential release of energy, the amount of which can be affected by direction of that energy flow.
For those of you who are saying “I thought this was supposed to be explained so that non-math or science people can understand it” I will finally try and boil that part of the sentence to these words:
All that stuff we said about the sun revolving around the CMSS? Well, things that are revolving like that have this thing called an angular momentum that we can measure at any time, and it depends on the initial inertia of the object, where it is now in relation to the CMSS, and all this stuff can tell us some interesting things about whether or not certain values of angular momentum mean anything to us. At any time, there is a potential energy flow of some kind that depends on all this stuff. That pretty much gives us the meaning. And if someone doesn’t buy it, memorize that formula up there and impress your friends and the next neighborhood barbecue.
Finally, “…which seem to give rise to a weak but long lasting flow of solar plasma that modulates short-term flow due to the dynamo effect.”
Who knew that two sentences would take so long to address? But that’s OK, it gives us a good groundwork for the rest of the paper. Plasma is a distinct state of matter, different from a regular gas, because it’s got “free electrons” running around in it providing an electrical charge. The free electrons are called ions, and thus we refer to the gas as “ionized.” Eventually, a huge ball of plasma can become a star. So, our solar plasma includes the sun as well as the surrounding plasma about the sun.
The dynamo effect says that if you have a weak magnetic field, and you move fluid conducting material around that field, it will generate an electric current. In turn, this electric current creates a secondary magnetic field. This is what occurs around the earth’s core, where liquid iron is that fluid conducting material. Landsheidt suggest that the same type of phenomenon occurs based on the angular momentum of the sun, where solar plasma is that conducting material. Basically, he’s saying that as angular momentum changes, so can electrical and magnetism effects of the sun. These things, in turn, regulate other solar activities, such as sunspot activity.
In a nutshell, then: as the sun whips about the CMSS, its angular momentum changes. As angular momentum changes, there are changes in the sun’s magnetism such that plasma flows can be impacted.
UPDATE: See Part 2 here: https://digitaldiatribes.wordpress.com/2008/03/22/landscheidt-part-2/