Pioneer cover

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.

 
Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit.
 

Sunspot update: More evidence of an upcoming maximum

NOAA last week updated its monthly graph for tracking the Sun’s monthly sunspot activity. As I have done now for every month since 2011, I am posting that graph elow with additional annotations by me to show the past and new solar cycle predictions.

August 2020 sunspot activity

The graph above has been modified to show the predictions of the solar science community for the previous solar maximum. The green curves show the community’s two original predictions from April 2007 for the previous maximum, with half the scientists predicting a very strong maximum and half predicting a weak one. The blue curve is their revised May 2009 prediction. The red curve is the new prediction, first posted by NOAA in April 2020.

August continued the trends seen in the past two months whereby sunspot activity actually exceeded the prediction for this particular month.

Does this mean the prediction of a weak maximum in 2025 will be wrong? Hardly. Sunspot activity in any given month can easily be above or below the prediction, as is obvious if you compare the fluctuations of the last maximum with the prediction. We will not really know if these higher numbers the past few months mean anything until a lot more time has passed, with the gathering of a lot more data.

What is clear is that the activity does herald the next maximum. As in the past few months, the sunspots in August all had polarities that assigned them to the new maximum. While it is not impossible for there to be a handful of sunspots in the next few months that belong to the last maximum, it now appears that the last cycle is pretty much over. We are entering the ramp up to the next maximum, presently predicted by a portion of the solar science community aligned with NOAA to be a weak one.

Above all, the real scientific mystery remains: Scientists do not really yet understand the causes and processes that produce this sunspot cycle. They know without question that it is caused by cycles in the Sun’s magnetic dynamo, but their understanding of the details behind this process remain quite unknown.

Furthermore, the Sun’s importance to the climate on Earth is unquestioned. What we still do not know is its precise influence on long term climate changes. There is circumstantial evidence that it causes cooling and warming of the climate on scales of decades and centuries, but this remains unconfirmed. Once again, our understanding of the details behind the changes in the climate remain quite unknown.

And as always, the devil is in the details.

Readers! My Quick November Fund-Raiser for Behind the Black is now over
 

I cannot thank the numerous people who so generously donated or subscribed to Behind the Black during this fund drive. The response was remarkable, and reflected the steady growth and popularity of the work I have been doing here for the past ten-plus years.


Thank you again!


Though the find-raising campaign is officially over, and I am no longer plastering the main page with requests for help, if you like what you have read you can still contribute, 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.


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2 comments

  • LocalFluff

    Anything that has an 11 year cycle can be correlated with the sunspots. I’ve lately seen two papers making such correlations. Bad flu epidemics beginning with the Spanish flu have been correlated with sunspot tops. Until the 1990s, since they they’v been correlated with the minima, so it is certainly spurious. There can very well be biologically driven 11 year cycles. But the potential explanation was that as the Solar magnetic field strengthens, the upper atmosphere shrinks. And surprisingly many virus have been found at high altitudes, up to 77 km (250,000 feet) according to sounding rocket measurements. So more virus might rain down during Solar maxima. An incredible number, if I remember correctly, of 800 million virus per square meter fall from the sky every day!!! This is speculatively interesting for the panspermia hypothesis. Perhaps the DNA of life on Earth is continuously influenced by virus from outer space? Maybe we should look for virus in space?

    Another correlation, that perhaps is less likely to have an own 11 year cycle mechanism, is big Earth quakes (not the small ones) that might be driven by the Solar magnetic field variations. A so called piezo electric effect on the mantle might be a real physical phenomena. Then it would be the change in solar activity rather than the level that drives it.

  • Star Bird

    I hope that means a hard cold snowy Winter and freeze out all t hose Global Warming/Climate Change Screwballs especialy Gore DeCAPRIO and those idiots from the various Eco-Freak groups and yes Al Gore as well

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