Space Weather – The Carrington Event

by Stephanie Osborn, “Interstellar Woman of Mystery,” Rocket Scientist and Novelist

In August of 1859, during historic Solar Cycle 10, something very strange began to happen. The Sun, as it neared solar max, grew unusually active. It produced prolific numbers of sunspots and flares, some of which were visible to the naked eye. This continued through the end of the month, until, just before noon on September 1, British astronomer Richard Carrington, just 33 and already acknowledged as one of England’s premier solar astronomers, observed an incredibly brilliant solar flare – a flare that was easily visible to the naked eye. In later times, this single flare became known as The Carrington Super-Flare. In his own words from his scientific records:

“…Within the area of the great north group [of sunspots]…two patches of intensely bright and white light broke out…My first impression was that by some chance a ray of light had penetrated a hole in the [projection] screen…for the brilliancy was fully equal to that of direct sun-light; but by at once interrupting the current observation, and causing the image to move by turning the R.A. [right ascension, an astronomical coordinate akin to longitude] handle, I saw I was an unprepared witness to a very different affair…The instant of the first outburst was not 15 seconds different from 11h 18m Greenwich mean time, and 11h 23m was taken for the time of disappearance [from the telescope’s view]. In this lapse of 5 minutes, the two patches of light traversed a space of about 35,000 miles…”

British amateur astronomer Richard Hodgeson also observed it; Balfour Steward at the Kew Observatory noted a “crochet” effect on the observatory’s magnetometer. (A “crochet” is also sometimes called a Sudden Ionospheric Disturbance, or SID. It is when a solar event produces an abnormally high plasma density – remember, plasma is like the stuff in your fluorescent lights – in one layer of the ionosphere. This in turn creates literal electric currents running through the ionosphere, which magnetometers pick up. It creates something of an invisible lacy pattern in the atmosphere, hence, I suppose, the term “crochet.”)

And all of the previous flares and coronal mass ejections had fairly effectively cleared the interplanetary medium between the Sun and Earth.

The enormous coronal mass ejection produced by the super-flare slammed into Earth in only 17 hours.

The resulting effects lasted several days.

What kind of effects?

Worldwide aurorae for starters. These aurorae were most noted in the Caribbean, where they had never been seen before. Colorado gold miners, awakened by the brightening skies, got up and began cooking their breakfasts, because they thought it was dawn. In Europe and the northeastern United States, newspapers could be read by the light of the aurorae.

Speaking of newspapers, the Baltimore American and Commercial Advisor spoke of the ongoing event in poetic terms. “Those who happened to be out late on Thursday night had an opportunity of witnessing another magnificent display of the auroral lights. The phenomenon was very similar to the display on Sunday night, though at times the light was, if possible, more brilliant, and the prismatic hues more varied and gorgeous. The light appeared to cover the whole firmament, apparently like a luminous cloud, through which the stars of the larger magnitude indistinctly shone. The light was greater than that of the moon at its full, but had an indescribable softness and delicacy that seemed to envelop everything upon which it rested. Between 12 and 1 o’clock, when the display was at its full brilliancy, the quiet streets of the city resting under this strange light, presented a beautiful as well as singular appearance.”

Those dealing in the business of telegraphy did not think so highly of the display. The incredibly intense event, a maximal G5 and S5 by any definition, created induced currents in telegraph wires that were simply impossible to control. Lines and pylons threw sparks, telegraph batteries were blown, telegraphers received severe shocks, and telegraph “flimsy” paper burst into flames.

And yet some telegraph systems continued to function, despite having no batteries to power them. The induced current was simply that strong.

This was the Carrington Event, the most powerful solar/geomagnetic storm ever to occur in recorded history. It was before the advent of electricity, or electronics, or integrated grids and networks, save for telegraph systems, with which it wreaked havoc. Imagine what effect it would have today.

Dibs on the story.   

-Stephanie Osborn

Greetings from Alaska

Greetings fellow Mad Scientists – and those who just like to pretend on Wednesday afternoons. I am visiting the great state of Alaska, one small portion of it at least. If you weren’t aware, Alaska is durn big. I landed in Fairbanks Saturday night, spent Sunday hiking around the woods, and headed out to the military base I’m currently auditing.

This is an engineering audit, which is pretty exciting. We’re examining interesting ways for our opponents to kill us, and interesting ways to not get killed. The mad scientist gets to cut loose with wacky ideas – which would be literally shot down in real life. I am having a great time.

Now Alaska is gorgeous in Summer. I recommend everyone come out here. They have woods as far as the eye can see. Fishing, hunting, and adventure sports as close as your back door, depending on where you end up staying. (My co-worker -if he had a gun in his hand first thing in the morning – could have shot a moose in his pajamas…no word about how the moose got into his pajamas.)

I’ve really enjoyed the people I’ve met here. They are a great bunch. I really can’t complain.

Do I have any Mad Science notes to share? No. I can’t talk about work, but I can tell you that most of the “wacky ideas” I come up with… we are taking them into account. This place is amazingly well defended, not the least by hundreds of miles of bloody well nothing.

Global warming – Green Energy

I’d like to take a second for a second subject. Everyone likes green energy and some things just make sense, like burning biomass. Reports in the Wall Street Journal – subscription required – show that this isn’t the case. When we talk about a “new green fuel source” it appears that we are only talking about “less CO2.”

Look friends and neighbors. CO2 isn’t really a big problem. Carbon Monoxide, Sulfur Dioxide, NOX, particle pollutants and other things are. The green movement is now calling dirty (biomass) clean and clean (natural gas) dirty. They’ve gotten so twisted around that they really don’t understand what hurts the environment, only that they have been told to fight.  Burning biomass is a dirty business because we don’t have good controls on the chemical content of the materials and they burn at a low temperature. That causes a lot of problems with the output. Coal is a lot cleaner, burns hotter, and we can scrub the excess sulfer. Natural gas burns well and has low sulfur content. The fear factor around fracking is complete junk – as far as the evidence currently available. (Not judging future evidence until it shows up.)

Just sayin’ – look at the evidence before you jump on the bandwagon, sometimes the activists are just plain wrong.

Solar-Earth DefCon Levels, Part 2

by Stephanie Osborn, “Interstellar Woman of Mystery,” Rocket Scientist and Novelist

Now, while all of this stuff is going on in the geomagnetic field, what’s happening in space? Hard radiation, and lots of it, that’s what. After all, that’s basically what’s causing the disturbance in the geomagnetic field.

And of course NOAA has another scale that relates to that, called the solar storm scale, and represented by – you guessed it – S.

There’s not a direct correlation that I’ve ever been able to find between the G scale and the S scale, because the S scale is determined by the number of protons of a given energy that passes through, say a square meter in a second. This number is called the proton flux. (In the case of the S scale, the energy of the protons must be greater than or equal to 10MeV, where MeV is mega-electron-volts. An electron volt is very tiny, only 1.6×10-19 joules. So an MeV is an energy of 1.6×10-12 joules. It’s not big, but when you’re talking about something as small as a proton, it’s big enough.)

So at S1, our proton flux is 10 protons per second per steradian per square centimeter. (This is not a very big area. The bigger the number of protons passing through, the bigger the radiation dose.) An S1 is a minor solar storm. According to NOAA, the effects are as follows, “Biological: none. Satellite operations: none. Other systems: minor impacts on HF radio in the polar regions.” This happens a lot, but not quite as often as a G1 – an S1 occurs about 50 times per solar cycle.

An S2 is a moderate solar storm. It requires a proton flux of 100, and occurs half as often as an S1. Effects: “Biological: passengers and crew in high-flying aircraft at high latitudes may be exposed to elevated radiation risk. Satellite operations: infrequent single-event upsets possible. [A single-event upset, or SEU, is when the bit of a computer is accidentally reset to its opposite condition by a proton or electron impact.] Other systems: small effects on HF propagation through the polar regions and navigation at polar cap locations possibly affected.”

S3 is a little stronger still; it’s a “strong” solar storm, with a proton flux of 1000. (Note that the solar storm scale is a logarithmic scale like the Richter scale, with each step of the scale having 10x greater proton flux than the previous.) Only 10 of these typically occur per solar cycle, but they aren’t pleasant. “Biological: radiation hazard avoidance recommended for astronauts on EVA; passengers and crew in high-flying aircraft at high latitudes may be exposed to radiation risk. Satellite operations: single-event upsets, noise in imaging systems, and slight reduction of efficiency in solar panel are likely. Other systems: degraded HF radio propagation through the polar regions and navigation position errors likely.”

Stepping up to an S4, a severe solar storm, we have a proton flux of 10,000. They are pretty rare, with only about 3 per solar cycle occurring. “Biological: unavoidable radiation hazard to astronauts on EVA; passengers and crew in high-flying aircraft at high latitudes may be exposed to radiation risk. Satellite operations: may experience memory device problems and noise on imaging systems; star-tracker problems may cause orientation problems, and solar panel efficiency can be degraded. Other systems: blackout of HF radio communications through the polar regions and increased navigation errors over several days are likely.”

And finally the granddaddy of solar storms, the S5, the extreme storm. It has a proton flux of 100,000 protons per second per steradian per square centimeter. Simply put, a flood of 100,000 protons is striking every square centimeter (less than half an inch each way), every second. These are very rare, and may or may not occur in any given solar cycle. But they can be devastating. “Biological: unavoidable high radiation hazard to astronauts on EVA (extra-vehicular activity); passengers and crew in high-flying aircraft at high latitudes may be exposed to radiation risk. Satellite operations: satellites may be rendered useless, memory impacts can cause loss of control, may cause serious noise in image data, star-trackers may be unable to locate sources; permanent damage to solar panels possible. Other systems: complete blackout of HF (high frequency) communications possible through the polar regions, and position errors make navigation operations extremely difficult.”

We’re fortunate those don’t occur very often at all.

But even the typical description of a G5 or S5 doesn’t match the strongest geomagnetic storm in history.

-Stephanie Osborn

Excerpt: The Case of the Cosmological Killer: The Rendlesham Incident

By Stephanie Osborn, “Interstellar Woman of Mystery,” Rocket Scientist and Novelist

This is the prologue to the third book in my Displaced Detective Series, The Case of the Cosmological Killer, The Rendlesham Incident, a science fiction mystery. Books 1 and 2 (The Case of the Displaced Detective: At Speed) are in release, ebook and treebook; book 3, (The Case of the Cosmological Killer: The Rendlesham Incident) will be released later this year. You can purchase both in pretty much any format you like through my website, Hope you enjoy this excerpt.



“Leeming Tower, this is Blue-One-Niner; Tower, this is Blue-One-Niner.”

“This is RAF Leeming. Go, Blue-One-Niner.”

“Tower, I have visual at one o’clock low, approaching coast along south-southeast heading; range, estimated twelve klicks. Request verification and possible change of altitude.”

“Blue-One-Niner, this is Tower. Please repeat visual info.”

“Tower, Blue-One-Niner. Visual at one o’clock low, estimated range ten klicks and closing.”

“Blue-One-Niner, Tower. I thought you said twelve klicks.”

“Tower, One-Niner. I did; it’s incoming.”

“Blue-One-Niner, radar shows no other aircraft in your vicinity.”

“Leeming, better look again. It’s right there, range now…HOLY SHIT! It just accelerated! Range now seven kilometres and closing fast! I am executing evasive manoeuvers! Climbing to twelve thousand metres! Bogey heading south-southeast, nearing coastline…”

“Copy, Blue-One-Niner. Evasive manoeuvers; you are cleared to twelve thousand. Be advised, radar still shows no—hold one! Where the bloody hell did THAT come from?! Contact Fylingdales—you did? They don’t? Roger that! All other traffic on this channel, this is Leeming Tower; please move to Channel Four immediately. Blue-One-Niner, this is Tower! Do you still have visual on bogey?”

“Roger, Tower! Closing fast…”

“You are authorised to pursue and bring down, peaceful preferred. Scrambling backup.”

“Copy, pursue and bring down. If peaceful refused?”

“You are authorised to use whatever means necessary. If peaceful refused, consider hostile.”

“Roger that. It’s passing below me now. Turning to pursue.”

“Copy that. Blue-One-Niner, can you identify aircraft? Radar signature is…inconclusive.”

“Uh…Tower, that visual is an inconclusive, too. It doesn’t look like any bloody aircraft I’ve ever seen. In fact, it doesn’t even look like an aircraft…”


“It’s a…big fuzzy ball, glowing kind of…yellowish-orange. And moving like a bat out of hell.”

“Blue-One-Niner, please repeat last transmission. It sounded like you said a big fuzzy ball?”

“Affirm, Tower, that’s exactly what I said. Think…giant tennis ball, only more orange. Still approaching coastline near Scarborough… correction! Bogey has changed heading! Damn! Stand by, Tower…”

“Leeming Tower standing by.”

“Tower, this is Blue-One-Niner. I don’t know what the blazes they’ve got, but it’s way the hell more manoeuvreable than my Typhoon. They just executed a sharp turn to port, and I do mean sharp! I overshot by several miles inland, trying to make the turn. They are now paralleling the coastline, bearing southeast.”

“Roger that, Blue-One-Niner. We…saw the turn on radar…”

“Yeah, you probably see something else, too.”

“Roger that. Bogey is…ACCELERATING?!”

“Like that bat out of hell—on warp drive. Punching ‘burners…”

“Blue-One-Niner, this is Leeming Tower. Report.”

“Leeming, this is Blue-One-Niner. Sorry, mates, she’s outstripped me by a long shot. Keep ‘er on radar as long as you can, and try to anticipate and scramble interceptors. I’ve already almost lost visual.”

“Roger that…”

* * *

Inside the radar room at RAF Fylingdales, the Officer of the Day discussed the situation with his chief technician.

“Are you sure?” the OD pressed his radar tech.

“Positive, sir,” the tech replied, grim. “We’ve been watching it for the last five minutes, ever since it showed on radar. The only thing I know of that can travel that fast is a blasted Space Shuttle, and even they couldn’t make manoeuvres like this ruddy thing is making. We’re gathering all the radar data on it we can, profiles and such, but so far, we’ve not been able to put a plane close. Blue-One-Niner got a good visual on it, but that was sheer dumb luck.”

“What kind of craft was One-Niner in? Recon?”

“A Typhoon, sir. And the bogey left it in the dust, even on full afterburners.”

“Bollocks!” the OD exclaimed, shocked and gawking. “Left in the DUST? A TYPHOON?!”

“Like it was sitting still, as near as I can tell from air-to-ground transmissions. Radar supported the assessment, too.”

The OD thought hard for several moments.

“Any idea where it’s headed?”

“Yeah.” The techie scowled.


“You’re not gonna like it.”

“Tell me anyway.”

“Bentwaters.” The engineer gazed solemnly at his superior. The OD blanched.

“Bugger. Get the brass on the bloody horn!”

* * *

Deep beneath the seemingly abandoned RAF Bentwaters base, ciphered telephones were ringing off their hooks. Frantic officers and enlisted personnel scurried about, attempting to ascertain under what sort of threat they were operating.

The underground facility itself was under full lockdown, with absolutely no sign of life visible to the outside.

And that was precisely how they wanted it.

Far overhead, in the deepening twilight sky, a glowing golden sphere floated, searching.

* * *

In the Headquarters of Her Majesty’s Secret Service, the Director General was in her office, reviewing the dispatches as soon as they arrived.

“Not again,” she muttered under her breath, obviously deeply concerned. “I thought we were done with this decades ago.”

“Doesn’t look like it, madam,” Captain Braeden Ryker noted, subdued, handing her another report. “All hell is breaking loose out there, by the sound of it. Some of the public reports are probably spurious, and some of it—seventy-five percent, I’d say—likely due to hoaxes and copycats and just plain power of suggestion. But that still leaves the remaining twenty-five percent as real. We’ve got jets scrambled all along the coast, and except for the initial intercept, which was accidental, not one of our aircraft could even get close enough to see the thing.” He looked down at the paper in his hand. “We did luck out on one point. Our local field office got a heads-up from Fylingdales at the same time they notified Bentwaters, and Gregory got his ass in gear with record speed. He mobilised a field team in time to have a gander at the object. They’re still in the field, so we don’t have word yet.”

“Is it still out there?”

Ryker glanced again at the communiqué in his hand.

“Not according to the latest information, no, madam.”

“Get a detail out there and start looking into the situation.” The director shook her head, obviously gravely concerned.

“What about…?” Ryker began, then added candidly, “Do you want me to override Gregory, madam?”

“No, I want you to work WITH him,” the Director declared with a wave of her hand. “Get some of the Headquarters experts out there right alongside his team—specialists, to aid him in his assessment, not supersede him. I know Gregory. He’s a good man, with a good team. I simply want all the data we can gather. I want to know what this thing is, where it’s from, what it’s after, and I want to know five minutes ago.”

“Right away, madam,” Ryker nodded, exiting swiftly.

* * *

The field excursion team filed into the back of the nondescript office building, entering an equally bland conference room. They appeared to be college students and young professionals, clad in jeans or chinos and shirts, carrying attaché cases or backpacks, as appropriate. When the last of them arrived and the conference room door closed, they turned to the man in the corner.

“Here we go again, Gregory,” the field team lead sighed, shaking his head. “It’s the Halt transcript all over again, right down to the imagery in the night vision goggles.”

“Any feeling of intent?”

“Definite intent,” another remarked. “It was…looking…for something. A natural phenom doesn’t sweep a grid pattern. This bugger did. Nice and precise, too.”

“Blast and damnation,” Gregory sighed. “What was it looking for? Any ideas?”

“That’s the prize question, isn’t it, boss?” the second field investigator shrugged. “If we could answer that, problem solved, and on to the next issue—which is, what to do about it?”

“Yeah,” Gregory muttered. “Well, boys and girls, get your reports together fast. Headquarters is breathing down our necks. Word has it the Director General herself is involved, and you know to whom SHE reports. We’re likely to have help soon. In fact, some experts are supposed to be coming down from London as we speak, to work alongside.”

There was a collective groan from the room.

“All right, boss,” the team lead noted. “Everyone, laptops out, reports in half an hour. Type fast.”

* * *

Ryker came into the Director’s office at speed, bearing the collected dispatches from the field office.

“Here you go, madam,” he noted, handing them to the Secret Service director. “The latest on the phaenomenon. I can’t say I’m pleased with the way this is headed.”

The scowling director scanned through the reports, speed-reading. “Ah, I see your point. Are the subject matter experts on their way?”

“They are.”

“Very good. Dismissed.” As Ryker turned to leave, she changed her mind. “Ryker, wait a moment.”

“Yes, madam?” He stopped, pivoting smartly on his heel to face her once more.

“Your…friends…in America…” She pondered briefly.

“Williams, madam?”

“No, the scientist and a certain detective.” She threw a small grin at the agent.

“Ah,” Ryker grinned back at her, “Dr. Skye Chadwick and Mr. Sherlock Holmes.”

“The very ones. What are they doing at the present time?”

“I don’t know offhand, madam, but I can contact Williams and find out,” Ryker said. “I have strong reason to believe they may be coming across the Pond for a visit after the first of the year, however. Are you considering calling them in on this?”

“Possibly,” the director confessed, looking over one of the dispatches. “Certainly they possess the specific expertise necessary to look into so abstruse a problem as this. They…” she paused, staring at the paper in her hand. “The night vision goggles showed a HOLE in the middle of the object?” She raised her head, gazing at Ryker in astonishment.

“Yes, ma’am. It makes no sense, I know, but that’s just like it happened back in 1980.”

“And you have every confidence in Chadwick and Holmes.” She eyed Ryker sternly.

“Yes, ma’am,” Ryker responded smartly, with confident emphasis.

“And this is really THE Sherlock Holmes?”

“Without doubt,” Ryker smiled. His certainty was almost palpable. Despite this fact, the Director sighed without enthusiasm.

“Very well. Yes, Captain Ryker. Contact Captain Williams and have him ascertain their availability. Provide Williams with a detailed abstract of events through appropriately secure channels, and see to it he briefs Holmes and Chadwick on the matter as soon as possible. Ensure they are instructed to stand by in the event they are called in on the case.”

“Consider it done.” Ryker snapped off a salute before spinning and exiting the office.


For more, or to purchase this and more books in the series, go to my website,

Excerpt: The Case of the Displaced Detective: At Speed

by Stephanie Osborn, “Interstellar Woman of Mystery,” Rocket Scientist and Novelist

This is the prologue to the second book in my Displaced Detective Series, The Case of the Displaced Detective: At Speed, a science fiction mystery. Books 1 and 2 (The Case of the Displaced Detective: At Speed) are in release, ebook and treebook; book 3, (The Case of the Cosmological Killer: The Rendlesham Incident) will be released later this year. You can purchase both in pretty much any format you like through my website, Hope you enjoy this excerpt.


Chapter 1—Ruminations and Rehabilitations

Skye woke up in a hospital bed on Peterson Air Force Base near Colorado Springs the afternoon following the shooting, which was Saturday. Her chest and belly ached miserably, and there was a taste in her mouth as if all the armies that had ever marched had tramped across her tongue.

“Uhg,” she groaned softly, smacking her mouth in disgust.

As sensation and full consciousness slowly returned, a previously unnoticed grip on her fingers tightened, and a familiar, English voice murmured, “Skye?”

“H-holmes? Is that you?” Skye wondered, confused.

“Yes, Skye. I am here.”

Through the slits of her barely open eyelids, she saw a dark form loom over her, coming to sit gingerly on the edge of the bed. As her eyes finally responded to her mental command to focus, the form resolved into Holmes, who was now dressed in the RAF uniform he kept in their office. He reached for something beyond her range of sight, then brought his left hand back with a small plastic cup, a straw tucked inside it.

“Here. Sip this.” His right hand never let go her own. Skye allowed him to place the straw in her mouth before sipping the cool water.

“Oh, that’s better. My mouth tasted nasty.”

“That would be the narcotics,” he replied, the hint of a smile on his tired face as he returned the cup to the bedside table.

* * *

“Oh.” Skye gave him a bleary-eyed scrutiny, and Holmes read it accurately.

“No, my dear. Watson broke me of that habit some years ago, at my own request, I might add. And I must confess, I find this world of yours stimulating enough that I have no interest in such substances, anyway.” He allowed the hint of expression to become a full-fledged smile, and he said, “Dear old Watson, it seems, was equally as determined as dear new Skye. But it does mean I have some experience with nasty tastes in one’s mouth.”

“How bad?” Skye gestured to her bandaged, aching torso.

“Punctured left lung, lacerated spleen.” Holmes drew a deep, pained breath. “Considerable blood loss. The spleen was not so damaged as to require complete removal, fortunately. There is speculation it caught a ricochet; the bits of metal pulled out from that organ definitely did not add up to a complete bullet, as opposed to the one in the lung, which emerged intact. But lung and spleen are repaired now, and you are getting blood.” He gestured at the IV bags hanging nearby, where a deep-red fluid dribbled through a tube into her arm. “In fact, one of those is mine. They were low on your blood type.” Then he quipped, “And relative to some of the people in this age of yours, it seems I am quite the healthy specimen.” He paused, becoming very serious. “Skye, I must apologise…I had to break my oath to you.”


For more, or to purchase this and more books in the series, go to my website,

What Does it Mean? – Talking Higgs

So, what the heck is a Higgs Boson? No, there is no such thing as finding God in a particle, but it does explain something integral to both the string theory and the standard model.

First off, if you have no idea of what I’m talking about, here is a quick guide.

Secondly, Kat Bat sent me a terrible joke. I love it so I am foisting it off on all of you.

The Higgs boson sees this long line to get into a cathedral, and decides to try sneaking in the back instead. He makes his way through the back, and comes out at the front of the huge sanctuary. And everyone in the pews is staring at him! So he leans over to an alter boy and asks, “Why is everyone staring at me?”

The alter boy replies, “They’re expecting you to give mass.”

Ok, so Pop Science and Physics Jokes aside. What does it Mean?
Some people have said that using a supercollider to look into particles is like studying car wrecks to figure out Volkswagens. A closer metaphor is that it is like throwing rocks at a guitar to figure out music. Each of these … bosons …. are just resonances. Energy likes to be in packets of this size. 

For the basically science away, I can get a lot deeper.
When you run electricity through a gas, you are throwing electrons at each other. Much like a super collider. You could call it a mini-super-collider. The electrons tend to be bound at specific energies, which tend to result is specific colors of light, or x-rays. Mercury, Krypton, Neon, Hydrogen, Oxygen. I’ve run currents through those and a few others. They make spectra you can see…and measure. The peaks on your spectrometer are the places energy … likes to gather. Yes, there is an explanation for this behavior, taught in High School and college. Energy Levels. Each Electron is bound to an Energy level, is knocked off, you have characteristic energy emissions.

For the scientist, I can get a bit deeper.
When you throw neutrons at a nucleus, you cause the emission of a characteristic x-ray. This is because the neutrons and protons in the middle of an atom have the same kinds of characteristic energy levels that the electrons in the outer regions do. The energy difference is a factor of a thousand, more or less, but the size difference between the electron cloud and the neutron cloud is closer to a factor of a hundred thousand. 
The Franck-Hertz Experiment
So, to play with quarks and bosons, they increased the energy by another factor of a thousand, hoping to look at the energy structure that binds the parts of protons and neutrons. If you imagine that neutrons and protons are made up of a cloud of excited particles, just like the nucleus and the electron cloud surrounding it, you may have a view of what the scientists are doing.

Hopefully, pounding particles together are giving them the energy structure of the … pieces parts … inside the neutron, proton, etc. Somehow, one of those energy levels looks like mass. Yeah, I don’t really know how that part works. I guess that if I did I could start writing my acceptance speech for my Nobel prize.

In fact, I really do think they are on the wrong track. Electron levels don’t “cause” chemical reactions. They interact in specific ways which appears to be chemistry from the outside. Neutron interactions have to do with filled and empty levels, much like chemical interactions. The structure of the quark leads to color/flavor/etc – but there isn’t a specific energy level that “causes” that behavior. Where you apply the energy causes more charge vs. more mass vs. more … other undefinable attribute.

We hardly understand electron shells, we don’t understand neutron shells, and the concept of quark shells is crazy-talk, still. We know there isn’t a particle – phonon, there isn’t a particle – graviton. There isn’t a particle – Higgs. It just fits the chart and lets them wander down some odd roads a few more years. In a hundred years, this will all make less sense than Alchemy, but the path of science frequently takes it through strange pastures. For now, we are tipping Bosons and running away.

Sadistics – Statistics and Probability

If you ever, ever, state a statistic, make sure you understand it first. Now, I’ve just stated the precepts after the conclusion, so clearly I don’t know how to do it right.

Why do I even bring this up?

I’m peer-reviewing publications for a primary radiation conference. This is a Very Big Deal for a several hundred people. Sure, you’ve never heard if it… except you Miss Scott… but in the world at large, a publication is a big deal. The publication itself is the final point of a lot of work, sometimes years of work. SO, you’d think somebody took some time to get it right.

Signal to Noise Ratio –

One paper said that the signal to noise ratio was 40 to 1, or 16 decibel. This gave them a probability of greater than 99%. (This is a big selling point of their technology.)

40 to 1 is identical to 40/41…. which is pretty easy to calculate. I mean, most people know that 99 to 1 is 99%. Sure, we shorthand to 100 to 1, 20 decibel, or .9901. easy peasy lemon squeasy. So how is someone with an advanced degree missing an obvious point like that?

They don’t do their own math. They have some kid running around telling them he understands math. Don’t let it happen to you. Read a book on Probability theory.

E. T. Jaynes “Probability Theory: The Logic of Science.”
Hugh Young “Statistical Treatment of Experimental Data.”
or something similar.

Statistics is actually easy, in practice. Theory is a bit of a bear, as the equations have a lot of big scary summations and a lot of little letters. Chi squared theorems and all that look rough the first couple of times, but again, if you hold your own data in your hands, do your own math, you get over the “big scary math” pretty quick. It really comes down to a methodology. You work through it once or twice then program it into excel or matlab. Then give it to your students to screw around with.

People have been lying with math so long, that they start to believe their own B.S. Don’t do it to yourself. Check your starting precepts. Where did this data come from? How accurate is it? Do I make any assumptions that fail the laugh test? (Sit a knowledgeable person in front of you and tell them what you assumed. When they chuckle…find out why. “Really? You are only counting flying  turkeys? Your sample is going to be somewhat at variance from the standard farmyard.” )

Then check your math. Then get a similar set of data and do the same math. Compare ChiSquared numbers. Take pieces of the data and compare to other pieces. Did you have a run of “Good Luck”? Don’t believe in luck, if the same answer comes up several times in a row, there was an experimental error. (Or some kid realized that he was writing down the wrong number and changed it.)

Finally, make a pretty picture of your data. Something that makes a sensible beginning and end. Look at the data and make sure it makes sense. If it doesn’t, go back to the beginning. Data does – sometimes – show us something unusual. Usually, data is to show us what we know, better. If your data is inconsistent with what you expected, find out why. Also, if your data is exactly what you expected, check your experimental apparatus again. Garbage in, Garbage out.

Seriously, the real take away here is don’t take math for granted. People who play with math can make it do anything, adjust the results to find your model and make a good match. Look at the games they have played with the Higgs Boson. Maybe they have found a mass in the right energy range, but any comparison to Higgs is based on the most tweaked equation ever. I don’t expect that there is any real comparison between those numbers and anything like reality.

Traces of two high-energy photons measured in the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) experience (AFP/CERN/File)
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Excerpt: The Case of the Displaced Detective:The Arrival

by Stephanie Osborn, “Interstellar Woman of Mystery,” Rocket Scientist and Novelist

This is the prologue to the first book in my Displaced Detective Series, The Case of the Displaced Detective: The Arrival, a science fiction mystery. Books 1 and 2 (The Case of the Displaced Detective: At Speed) are in release, ebook and treebook; book 3, (The Case of the Cosmological Killer: The Rendlesham Incident) will be released later this year. You can purchase both in pretty much any format you like through my website, Hope you enjoy this excerpt.


Prologue—Objects, Subjects, and Beginnings

A tall, dark figure, clad in formal Victorian eveningwear, strode briskly down the shadowed street, casually swinging his silver-embellished walking stick. No carriages had passed in the last half-hour, and only one hansom cab had wandered by ten minutes before, its horse’s hollow hoofbeats echoing between the buildings. The gas street-lamps were long since lit, but between them were patches of deep darkness, patches entirely too broad for comfort in these circumstances. Beneath the brim of his silk top hat, eagle-sharp grey eyes darted about, studying the shadows, alert and aware. For well this man knew that danger lurked in the gloom this night, danger peculiar to him alone; and he was alone. So very alone.

But not for long. He was headed to a specific destination. To the one man he knew he could trust, the one man who would stand at his side regardless of danger—for had he not done so, many times before? Was not this the reason for the deep, if largely unspoken, bond of friendship between them?

His friend would help. There was no doubt in his mind on that point. Already today two attempts had been made upon his life, and well did this man need help.

“Not far now,” the words breathed past thin, pale lips. “Almost ther—”

The words died on said lips.

A hulking, brutish shadow materialised from the alleyway in front of him. The elegant man in the top hat ducked just in time to avoid the lead-weighted bludgeon that swung through the space his head had occupied fractions of a second before. Instead, the silk hat took the brunt of the blow, flying across the sidewalk and into a puddle in the gutter, its side crushed. Flinging up his cane and grasping each end in his hands, the gentleman dropped into an Oriental horse stance, and prepared to do battle.

“’Ere, now,” the other figure said, in a coarse growl. “Hit’s th’ end o’ you, it is. Me superior won’t be ‘arvin’ it, an’ Oi means t’ see ‘e don’t ‘arve ta.”

“You can try,” the gentleman replied, calm. “But better men than you have tried, and here I stand.”

A guttural, angry sound emerged from the assailant, and the cudgel swung again, this time with enough force to crush bone. Deft, the gentleman caught it with the center of his cane, but to his chagrin the walking-stick, his weapon of choice in many a similar street altercation, chose that moment to give up the ghost. It snapped in two, splintering and cracking. He snarled his own irritation, and flung the pieces aside when he realised there was not enough left to use as a decent weapon.

Then he began to flit and weave as the other man smirked and lunged at him, swinging the club repeatedly, as hard as he could. It was a dance of death, and one wrong move by the gentleman would have serious, possibly fatal, consequences.

But the man in the evening dress was not without weapons; no, his best weapons were permanently attached to his person. The alert grey eyes watched, looking for some opening; and when he saw his chance, he struck like lightning. A fist shot out at the loutish face, catching the hit man squarely in the mouth just as he realised his danger and started to shout for help. All that came out was a grunt, however, and the assassin fell to the pavement as if pole-axed, with both lips split.

The gentleman hissed in pain, grabbing his fist with his other hand for a moment to let the worst of the discomfort pass before examining the damage.

“By Jove, he has sharp teeth for such a troglodyte,” he murmured, peeling off the ruined black kid glove to expose the bloody knuckles beneath. “Completely through the leather and into the flesh. I shall have to have this disinfected, for certain. No time for that now. Go, man!” He turned swiftly to resume his journey.

A crack resounded from the brownstone close at hand, and the man felt a spray of stone chips strike the side of his face. He flinched, and a sharp curse left his lips. He took to his heels and rounded the corner of the street, then disappeared into shadow.

* * *

Not ten feet away from the gentleman, though invisible to him, an elegant blonde woman in a white lab coat stood between tall, electronic towers. Behind her, concentric rows of computer consoles were manned by two dozen scientists, engineers, and technicians. Surrounding all of them was a huge, domed room carved from solid pink granite.

The woman stood for long minutes, silent, watching.

Finally one of the technicians broke the electronic silence.

“So, Doc, whaddaya think?”

“What do you think, Jim? How were the readings?” The woman turned toward him.

“I’ve got bang-on, Dr. Chadwick,” Jim noted, glancing down at his own console, brown eyes darting about as he surveyed his readouts. “But I can’t say for everybody else.”

“Rock steady at Timelines,” someone else called.

“Sequencing looks good…” another said.

“Software’s running nominally.”

“Hardware’s humming right along…”

On it went, from console to console. Finally the woman nodded.

“Perfect,” she purred in deep satisfaction. “We’ve got our subject. Page Dr. Hughes and have her come down.”

“On it, Doc,” Jim grinned, reaching for the phone.


For more, or to purchase this and more books in the series, go to my website,