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Guru
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To Boldly Go...

09/21/2006 3:13 PM

Magnetic Potholes, Sluggish Solar Wind, Anomalous Cosmic Rays... Something that the Star Trek crew could expect on every journey, but in real life, this is what NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft is experiencing right now!

Almost 30 years into its mission, Voyager 1 is about 10 billion miles from Earth, inside the so-called heliosheeth. If you wonder what the heliosheeth is, just turn on the tap in your kitchen sink! Sounds too good to be true? OK, it's not that simple, but read NASA's headline of 21 Sep, called 'Surprises from the Edge of the Solar System', with Voyager 1 as the lead actor.

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Guru
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#1

Re: To Boldly Go...

09/22/2006 8:41 AM

Fascinating stuff, indeed. The payoff from Voyager has really exceeded expectations.

Now, the next thing we will hear is how environmentalists claim that green house gasses are destroying our heliosphere and heliosheath. ;-)

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The Engineer
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#2

Re: To Boldly Go...

09/23/2006 11:00 AM

This is really interesting. To think of space filled with magnetic turbulence (although weak ones) and solar winds slower by a factor of ten then what they expected. Voyager's I and II were really incredible successes. The article says that it will be in the heliosheath for another 10 years. I wonder how long Voyager could last?

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Guru
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#3
In reply to #2

Re: To Boldly Go...

09/23/2006 1:48 PM

That is a question only a gambling house would touch. I think that the power supply is nuclear, so that is not so much of an issue. However, bigger issues would be damage from radiation in space and funding on Earth! So far we have an extension given to us on the original budget and as long as data keeps coming our way that has value I suppose dollars will be authorized.

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Guru

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#4

Re: To Boldly Go...

09/26/2006 10:26 AM

Thanks, Jorrie. Another intriguing post. I find that your posts get me thinking about related, but tangential subjects. For example, we appear to have been off by an order of magnitude on the speed of the solar wind. So we decide that the model needs some adjustment. I think it's reasonable to be off by an order of magnitude -- I am not at all inclined to say "What were you nitwits thinking??"

But imagine if you were off by an order of magnitude in your checking account: "Gosh golly, bank, I'm sorry. I thought I had $90,000 in my account, not $9,000. Would you mind covering the $86,000 check I just wrote?"

Let's see, Avogadro's number is 6 something times 1023 . Or is is 1026? Well, whatever, it's pretty close. In one case, I'm only off by a factor of 1000. But I'm pretty much in the ballpark, right? Is it a problem in perception? Is it that it looks like the two numbers differ by just 3 parts in 26 (about 12 percent) when they really differ by 100,000 percent? Even writing out the numbers side by side, with all the digits doesn't help: still, one is just a little bigger than the other.

Have others pondered how huge differences can look small, and how, nevertheless, the apparent small difference ends up being pretty close to the right perception after all?

Unfortunately, my bank just doesn't seem to get it.

This particular thread is probably not the place to discuss this numeracy issue, but perhaps someone could better articulate this quandary, and post an article.

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