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Arbie's Unoriginally Titled Book Blog

It's a blog! Mainly of book reviews.

Currently reading

Charles Darwin: A New Life
John Bowlby
Progress: 392/527 pages
An Introduction to Magnetohydrodynamics
P.A. DAVIDSON, E.J. Hinch, S.H. Davis, Mark J. Ablowitz
Progress: 27/452 pages
Ursula K. Le Guin: The Complete Orsinia: Malafrena / Stories and Songs (The Library of America)
Brian Attebery, Ursula K. Le Guin
Progress: 359/700 pages
Plasma physics
R.A. Cairns
Progress: 4/244 pages
Selected Short Stories - Conrad (Wordsworth Classics)
Keith Carabine, Joseph Conrad
Progress: 37/272 pages
A Student's Guide to Lagrangians and Hamiltonians
Patrick Hamill
Progress: 7/180 pages
Complete Poems, 1904-1962
E.E. Cummings
Progress: 108/1102 pages
The Complete Plays and Poems
E.D. Pendry, J.C. Maxwell, Christopher Marlowe
She Stoops to Conquer and Other Comedies (Oxford World's Classics)
Henry Fielding, David Garrick, Oliver Goldsmith
Progress: 76/448 pages
Shakespeare and the Goddess of Complete Being
Ted Hughes
Progress: 369/517 pages
Magnetotails in the Solar System (Geophysical Monograph Series) - Peter Delamere, Caitr?ona Jackman, Andreas Keiling

This is not a pop-science book. It's not even a textbook, really. Instead it is a collection of "review arictles." Review articles (for those who don't know) are technical papers that, instead of presenting new research, attempt to summarise the current state of knowledge about some research topic. Hence they tend to assume you already know quite a bit and tend to ignore things like basic definitions, underlying principles and the concept of starting simple and increasing in sophistication.

In other words, you have no hope of understanding this book unless you are already familiar with the basic concepts of magnetospheric science. On the other hand, it collects an awful lot of information about comparative solar system objects's magneto-tails into one place and is therefore areally useful reference volume.

Here's what it's all about: The sun is constantly emitting plasma into space. This is the solar wind, famous from Arthur Clarke's story "Sunjammer". It carries a magnetic field with it and all solar-system objects move through it. Magneto-tails are the distorted magnetic fields generated down-wind of solar-system objects by their interaction with the solar-wind.

Some objects have their own magnetic fields, some don't. Some have atmospheres, some don't. Some have ionospheres, some don't. Size, rotational velocity, distance from the sun, chemical composition - all these factors and more affect the size, shape and dynamics of magneto-tails.

Some magneto-tail facts to amaze the masses:

Jupiter has the largest magnetotail of any solar system object, thousands of times longer than the planetary radius, so long that it stretches out to the orbit of Saturn and probably beyond.

The solar wind is supersonic, so "bow-shocks" form between the solar wind and the surface of planets that have their own magnetic fields. These regions drastically slow down the solar-wind and prevent the surfaces being hugely irradiated by it. Or put another way, we wouldn't exist if Earth didn't have a strong internal magnetic field. Bow-shocks are similar to the shock waves "sonic booms" caused by jets crossing the sound barrier. Earth is creating noise pollution on an interplanetary scale!

Ganymede is the only natural satellite known to have an internally generated magnetic field. It doesn't have a bow-shock because it sits entirely inside Jupiter's magnetosphere where the solar wind has already been decelerated below the speed of sound.

Uranus' magnetotail, instead of being a typical long, stretched out thing resembling a drop of water just about to detach from a leaky tap (faucet) has a corkscrew-like shape. This is because of it's unusual axis of rotation and internal magnetic field orientation.

A comet's tail does not tell you anything about its direction of motion, instead it tells you which way the solar wind is blowing in the same way a flag tells you which way the wind blows.