Tag Archives: Deborah Netburn

Massive Solar Eruption Could Cause Magnetic Storm Here on Earth


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Deborah Netburn

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By Deborah Netburn

Posted on April 11, 2013 in Los Angeles Times

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Massive solar eruption April 11, 2013
Massive solar eruption on April 11, 2013

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Early Thursday morning, solar observers watched as a dark spot on the sun erupted with an enormous flash of light, causing the biggest solar flare of 2013.

Solar flares themselves don’t last long, but this one was powerful enough to cause a bubble of solar material called a CME (coronal mass ejection) to come bursting off the sun.

Up to billions of tons of that solar material is now hurtling through space at the mind-bending speed of more than 600 miles per second, and it is heading directly toward Earth.

The CME will slow down a bit as it approaches our planet, and scientists expect it will reach the Earth’s atmosphere late Friday night or early Saturday, but computer models can be off by up to seven hours either way, said NASA scientist Alex Young.

While a mass of solar material zooming toward Earth sounds kind of frightening, there’s not much to worry about. CMEs can occasionally affect the electronic systems of satellites or the power grid here on the ground, but our atmosphere will protect us from any harmful radiation associated with the initial flare or the CME.

Plus, there’s a major upside to these Earth-bound CMEs for sky watchers. When a CME interacts with the Earth’s magnetosphere, it can cause geomagnetic storms and enhanced auroras that could be visible as far south as Michigan and New York.

Here in Southern California, we still won’t be able to see them, but we’ll look online for spectacular photos and videos of glowing green skies on the days after the CME hits.

Although Thursday morning’s solar flare is the strongest to be recorded in 2013, NASA has classified it as a mid-level flare, and the agency notes that it was 10 times less powerful than the strongest flares, which are labeled X-class flares.

M-class flares are the weakest flares that can still cause effects on Earth. Thursday’s solar flare was responsible for a brief radio blackout, NASA reported.

The sun is currently nearing the peak of its 11-year solar flare cycle, or what is known as solar max. At the peak of the cycle, it is normal for there to be several solar flares a day.

Young said we should expect more and larger solar flares toward the end of the year and the beginning of next year.

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3-D holographic video conferencing is real? Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi!


Reproduced from Los Angeles Times, May 4, 2012, 12:14 p.m.

TeleHumanAn image of the TeleHuman prototype, which uses Kinects and a 3-D projector to allow for 3D video conferencing. (Courtesy of the Human Media Lab at Queen’s University / May 4, 2012)
By Deborah Netburn May 4, 2012, 12:14 p.m.

Skype and video iChat are great, but traditional video conferencing tools are so two-dimensional. Just imagine if you could talk to a friend or colleague in holographic 3-D.

Well, you may soon be able to. Researchers at Queen’s University have created a life-sized, 3-D video conferencing pod that allows users to see the person they are talking to in 360-degree holographic-like clarity.

They call it the TeleHuman.

But before images of Princess Leia telling Obi-Wan Kenobi that he is her only hope start dancing in your head, know that the 3-D holographic image only works if you have what looks like a giant cylindrical floor lamp made of acrylic that can display the life-sized 3-D holographic image in your home or office.

It’s clunky, and it’s expensive, but it’s still cool.

This innovation in video conferencing comes to you courtesy of Roel Vertegaal, director of the Human Media Lab at Queen’s Universtiy in Canada.

Although holographic video conferencing sounds very futuristic, Vertegaal and his team say they were able to put it together with existing technology.

“We basically stitched together a bunch of Kinect,” said Vertegaal in an interview with The Times, “but it was relatively complicated to get them all to work together.”

In a video about the project, the researchers explain that the pod has six Microsoft Kinect sensors at the top of the display that capture 3-D images as a person walks around the pod, and a 3-D projector in the cylindrical base of the pod creates the holographic effect.

The TeleHuman will only pick up your image if you are standing within roughly eight feet of the acrylic cylinder. Part of that is because of privacy concerns, said Vertegaal, and part of it is because that’s the farthest distance that the Kinects can pick up the image.

The researchers have programmed the Kinects to erase all the background imagery so when you show up in the other person’s pod, all they will see is your 3-D image.

Unlike traditional video conferencing, there is no “calling” or “answering” involved. In order to show up in someone else’s TeleHuman, all you have to do is walk toward your own TeleHuman and the pod on their end will start glowing with your image.

Using the same pod and similar technology, Vertegaal and his team created BodiPod — an interactive 3-D anatomy model of the human body.People can walk around the model and peel off layers of tissue to reveal muscles, organs and bone structure with hand signals or voice commands.

Vertegaal said he would like to see the acrylic pods come in different shapes and sizes — maybe dinosaur shape, or perhaps Viking boat shape.

As for its use as a teleconferencing tool, he said that he thinks the TeleHuman could be available at a $5,000 price point in the next five years.

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