The science of the Sun – Solar Flares

There was some slight confusion on Saturday for TV viewers when The Cool Stuff Collective moved from 9am Sat ITV1 to 8:10am so a few people think I have changed into Hannah Montana. Hopefully the various repeats the rest of the week will rectify the problem.
The show this week was space themed and so it was worth trying something a little more scientific in future tech. So I got to discuss Solar Flares and Coronal Mass Ejections.
Given the current activity of the Sun and the fact that the main news is covering such solar events it was a real honour to do big science. NASA provided some great footage too.
As usual there were several points I wanted to get across. The rationale for covering CME’s was the potential harm to all our gadgets. Large waves of energy bombarding the Earth could seem scary, in fact they are. I think we avoided any scaremongering in talking about how there were ways to shield devices. In order to demonstrate the power of this invisible wavescollection of particles I used a picture frame of iron filings lined up nicely in a row, then passed a magnet over the row and caused breakages in the visual of an electronic connection.
Explaining Solar CME's
To show that all is not lost I then had a piece of wood covered in Aluminum foil to act as a shield. (I made it perfectly clear it was Monkey’s attempt and that wood and foil is not the ideal thing to blog a CME but it does block a small magnet. (The foil was of course for that home made science effect 🙂 )
Shielding a CME
The other part of the piece that I thought was important was that scientists need help investigating solar flares. The is effectively a crowdsourcing science website. It has made an achievement driven game out of us all being able to look at solar observation footage and spot unsual activity. It is the gamification of science and very educational too. It is well worth a look.
It is always good when we are able to mention something that has some follow on activity, I love the fact that the viewers can go and try something, just as with the Wikipedia show.
There is much more of that to come the next few weeks mixed with some of the big gadget adventures we have filmed on the road.