Talk Nerdy To Me: Solar Storms

By Phil Plait | August 21, 2012 9:53 am

My friend Cara Santa Maria is a scientific researcher and educator. She’s also Senior Science Editor with The Huffington Post, where she does a video show called "Talk Nerdy To Me". She contacted me recently because she wanted to do an episode on solar storms – how they work, and how they can affect us here on Earth. She interviewed me about them, and the episode is online at HuffPo:

[Note: If the video doesn’t appear directly above this sentence, refresh your screen.]

The Sun has been a bit feisty lately, spitting out some decent flares and coronal mass ejections. So far, none has been both strong enough and aimed at us to do any damage (there was a fairly powerful CME in July, but it was on the other side of the Sun, directed away from us). And while they can’t hurt us directly due to our protective atmosphere, as I say in the video solar storms can disrupt our power grid and our satellites, creating havoc. The more we study the Sun the better we understand it, and the more likely we’ll be able to protect ourselves should it decide to throw another major hissy fit.

I’ll add that Cara’s good people, and I like her show (she interviewed me for the Venus Transit, too). She’s passionate about science education, and like me she finds real joy and wonder in all fields of science and nature. You can follow her on Twitter.

[Edited to add: the shirt I’m wearing in the video (watch to the very end!) is available at Lardfork’s Spreadshirt store.]

Related Posts:

The birth of a sunspot cluster
October’s solar blast, seen from the side
The comet and the Coronal Mass Ejection
The Sun blasts out a flare and a huge filament


Comments (24)

  1. Jon

    Oh lord… Terribly sorry, Dr. Plait, but I truly loathe videos that start playing automatically and are highly recalcitrant about stopping and pausing.

    Please don’t post any more.

    Thank you.

  2. The video did not play automatically for me, nor did I have any trouble pausing it after playing.

  3. Mike

    The video autoplays here too, and doesn’t pause either (running Linux, using Firefox).

    It even respawns after a while if I kill the plugin-container process. Nasty…

  4. Isaac

    As Senior Science Editor, does she have enough clout to affect the non- and anti-scientific woo-woo crap that so often appears on HuffPo?

    I’m guessing not.

  5. Regarding the automatic playing (or, in my case, lack thereof) of the video, I guess I should have mentioned what browser/OS I’m using: Chrome & Windows 7.

    I agree that it would be extremely annoying for the video to begin playing automatically, and totally unacceptable if there was no way to pause or stop it.

  6. Wzrd1

    No automatic playing here on OS X, Firefox.
    Perhaps some adobe player preferences being saved from another site on some systems?

  7. Jagoff

    Win 7 Firefox, not autoplaying for me and pause works.

  8. sebastian

    I actually know her as a contributer to TheYoungTurks, which I’d recommend to anyone (in contrast to HuffPo, which should not be recommended).

  9. Scott

    Yah no problems on windows, did not auto-play. Perhaps the player doesn’t understand the concept of “linux”. It would definitely be nice to see these type of things addressed with a standard player… altho, I’m not sure he has a lot of control over the player sometimes.

  10. Jon

    Web browser here is Opera, 11.64. and yes, it plays and no, we can’t shut it up without closing the entire window.

    Imagine how much fun it is when you have two windows open that are doing the same thing?


  11. Wzrd1

    Weird, I tried it with Safari and Firefox on my mac, no auto-play.
    Tried it on my Vista machine with IE and Firefox, no auto-play.

    @Jon, been there, done that. I’ve even had to kill the Flash process in the past. I won’t even go into a java bomb player that attempted to open infinite players because someone had a loop in their script.

  12. George D.

    wait…wait a second. My brain is having a hard time processing that the girl can be THAT cute AND be into science. I’ve watched the video a few times now and I apologize Phil but it wasn’t for you haha!

  13. George D (12) – First off, um, yes, women and men both can be good looking and ugly and tall and short and fat and skinny and like science.

    Second, I know your comment was made to be in jest, a bit of fun, but I’d like to gently point out that it purveys an assumed sexism, pushing the old stereotype that girls/women don’t like science, or if they do, they must be plain.

    I speak from experience here. I’m not angry, or even upset by your comment – “chagrined” might be the best word – but I do want you to understand that things like this are another brick in a very, very tall wall faced by women in our society.

  14. George D.

    I apologize. I’m not sexist and I didn’t mean to push any type of stereotype but I definitely see what you mean. If anything it would only make me happy if more people in general, especially women, were into science. The world would be a much better place if science were at the forefront of the global dialogue!

  15. Ozonator aka Robert Rhodes

    Huffpo had a story on earthquake predictions which was an advert for buying mountains of computers to tell the difference between P and S waves. Now this Huffpo piece has some bald guy with no tattoo on his forehead, his long lost daughter wanting bone marrow, and an advert for buying piles of PCs to watch the video that does not even have any sex or violence if one was at the RNC convention in Tampa with nothing to do thanks to the farcical aquatic tarts (aka skinny dippers), Vitters and Akins, one guy we call Sally, and a new class of freshmen/women/other basic biology, how to read a thermometer (morning) and calendar (afternoon), and Hurricane Issac hitting Tampa is God’s way of telling traitor Obama that the rich need more tax breaks.

  16. Well, if you must talk nerdy to me, then go ahead:

  17. You want to talk Solar storms? How about this recent APOD:

  18. Wzrd1

    I was remiss in thanking Phil, the sun is my absolute favorite star. I may be biased through familiarity, but still, it’s my favorite.
    If I could, I could watch it all day, in various spectral filters and sensors for UV, IR and gamma.
    I wish for a real time feed that could go to my screen saver!

  19. Chris Winter

    George D wrote (with tongue, I am sure, at least partly in cheek): “My brain is having a hard time processing that the girl can be THAT cute AND be into science. I‚Äôve watched the video a few times now and I apologize Phil but it wasn‚Äôt for you haha!”

    At the risk of seeming to be sexist, I’ll proffer two words: Lisa Randall.

    (That lady, of course, is married.)

  20. Chris Winter

    Hmmm. I was sure I read that she was married. But Googling turns up no evidence for that conclusion.

  21. Rorgg

    Phil, is that you, or Bryan Cranston fresh off a “Breaking Bad” shoot?

  22. Matt B.

    Am I the only one that gets the video frame about 6000 pixels wide and normal height? When the page has just loaded, it’s filled with a nice wide picture of a band of the Sun, but the video plays at normal width and right in the middle.


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