From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.
Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.
The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.
He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.
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NOAA’s monthly update of the solar cycle, covering sunspot activity for November 2018, was released yesterday. As I have done every month since this website began in July 2011, I am posting it below, annotated to give it some context.
The graph above has been modified to show the predictions of the solar science community. The green curves show the community’s two original predictions from April 2007, with half the scientists predicting a very strong maximum and half predicting a weak one. The red curve is their revised May 2009 prediction.
As I have been expecting now for the last three months, NOAA has finally revised this graph to extend it past the end of 2018. The graph below is the graph from October, which follows the layout and design used since 2007. You can see the differences by comparing the two graphs. In extending the new graph to the end of 2022, they fortunately did not change the design significantly. However, because the new graph has a slightly different scale, I have stretched the green and red curves to make them fit properly. While I suspect the poor quality of the 2007 and 2009 predictions is one reason they do not include them on their graph, I think it essential to add them to better understand the limitations of the science.
Solar sunspot activity continues at the same low levels of the past two months, closely matching the level of sunspot activity in 2008 when the last solar minimum began. The extended red curve indicates when they now think the low point of this solar minimum will take place, in late 2021.While this fits with past behavior, whereby the ramp down to solar mimimum is long and gradual, the Sun simply has not been behaving like it has in the past. I would not be surprised if the low point comes sooner, and lasts longer than normal.
Earlier today I posted a link to a prediction of significantly more activity in the next solar cycle. This conflicts with other predictions calling for an even weaker cycle upcoming, some of which say a grand minimum is possible. That the new graph only provides room for sunspot numbers up to 120, compared to the older graph’s 175, suggests that the majority of the community does not agree with today’s prediction, and expects the next cycle to be weak in activity once again.
Nonetheless, like 2007 the solar science community is split, and uncertain about what will happen. This is to be expected, as none of them really understand the magnetic processes in the Sun that cause sunspots and the variations in activity.
Should a grand minimum occur, with no visible sunspots for decades, it will give scientists a wonderful opportunity to gain some deeper understanding of the solar cycle, as we have not experienced a grand minimum since the 1600s, a time before modern astronomy really existed. And if we do experience a strong solar cycle instead, they will then have a new and different clue for figuring out what is going on.
Every July, to celebrate the anniversary of the start of Behind the Black in 2010, I hold a month-long fund-raising campaign to make it possible for me to continue my work here for another year.
This year's fund-raising drive however is more significant in that it is also the 10th anniversary of this website's founding. It is hard to believe, but I have been doing this for a full decade, during which I have written more than 22,000 posts, of which more than 1,000 were essays and almost 2,600 were evening pauses.
This year's fund drive is also more important because of the growing intolerance of free speech and dissent in American culture. Increasingly people who don't like what they read are blatantly acting to blackball sites like mine. I have tried to insulate myself from this tyrannical effort by not depending on Google advertising or cross-posts Facebook or Twitter. Though this prevents them from having a hold on me, it also acts to limit my exposure.
Therefore, I hope you will please consider donating to Behind the Black, by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, as outlined in the tip jar below. Your support will allow me to continue covering science and culture as I have for the past twenty years, independent and free from any outside influence.
Regular readers can support Behind The Black with a contribution via paypal:
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