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Sun Research Yields Unexpected Results 197

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the fact-and-theory dept.
Syberghost writes "There are two major theories about the composition of the Sun. One says that it has similar composition to the planets. The other, that it has enriched levels of oxygen-16. NASA has been doing research on the soil samples Neil Armstrong brought back from the moon, to determine which of those theories is correct. Today, we have the results; they're both wrong. It looks like we're going to have to look more closely at the composition of everything in the solar system to figure this one out."
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Sun Research Yields Unexpected Results

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  • Curious (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DrMrLordX (559371) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @07:24PM (#15080882)
    I know the Sun is constantly tossing out charged particles in the form of solar winds and solar flares, but isn't most of that material from the corona? What about material deeper inside the Sun itself?

    Obviously there's got to be a lot of helium in there . .
    • Re:Curious (Score:5, Informative)

      by CheshireCatCO (185193) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @07:37PM (#15080953) Homepage
      It's mostly hydrogen; helium makes up around 20-25% of the Sun. Everything other than those two are trace elements.

      The stuff in the corona is injected from the photosphere: basically the Sun's visible "surface". There's a lot of convection in the upper layers of the Sun, so apart from the core (where helium "ash" builds up), it's probably reasonably well-mixed.
      • helium makes up around 20-25% of the Sun.
        How does that correspond to the theory that the Sun has lived about half of its projected lifespan? Does the process accelerate, or does the Sun die when it's made up of 50% Helium?
    • Re:Curious (Score:2, Funny)

      by colinbrash (938368)
      Obviously there's got to be a lot of helium in there . .

      Well, yeah. How else did that giant flaming balloon get so far up in the sky?
      • Re:Curious (Score:2, Funny)

        by FroMan (111520)
        Good thing there isn't much hydrogen though, cause that stuff will explode! It'd be very dangerous then.
  • Ahh the burn! (Score:1, Interesting)

    by 42Penguins (861511)
    Maybe I'm missing something, but how could the sun have similar composition to the planets, as in the first theory? I think of Earth compared to the sun, which seems to be a pretty big difference. Or is Earth extraordinary for a planet (besides water and life that wanders and wonders)?
    I doubt that the earth could sustain the same processes as the sun, or vice versa.
    Any meteorologists in the house?
    • Re:Ahh the burn! (Score:5, Informative)

      by aachrisg (899192) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @07:33PM (#15080928)
      They mean a similar composition in terms of the ratios of different isotopes (in this case, oxygen, which has 3 stable isotopes), not that it has a similar composition in terms of which elements make it up.
      • Re:Ahh the burn! (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Quadraginta (902985)
        It's worth noting that differing isotope ratios are quite difficult to explain. Nuclear reactions must be involved, because no* chemical or physical process can distinguish between the different isotopes of an element. That is, there is no way the isotope ratio in lunar soil can be different from Earth soil unless the material that makes them up has undergone different types of nuclear reactions.

        -----------
        * OK, almost no. I don't want to hear from any isotope-effects people. Anyway, you folks look for
    • "meteorologists"? What's the weather connection?

      It's a poorly worded article, actually. What they *mean* is that the Sun's relative amounts of oxygen-16 may be similar to one thing or another. Clearly the overall compositions are quite different. (Even the gas giants are not all that similar to the Sun's composition.)
      • Dr Ireland says while we cannot get samples directly from the Sun, we can infer its composition by looking at lunar samples, which are believed to reflect its composition.

        This is because lunar soil contains oxygen isotopes "implanted" by solar winds carrying elements blown out from the Sun.

        What they *mean* is that their assumptions about how to discover the sun's composition need to be re-evaluated.

        And WTF took them so long to evaluate those samples? They got 'em 37 years ago.

      • Perhaps he meant meteor-ologists. People who study meteors ;-P
  • by mkiwi (585287) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @07:27PM (#15080902)
    From the Article:
    "Our Sun is not the Sun that we thought it was."

    Your children are never who you think they are until you've seen them out in the wild (or in Cabo).

  • by hobotron (891379) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @07:27PM (#15080903)

    I thought it was full of a bunch of unsold SPARCs?

    Oh THAT sun. Nevermind.

  • Oxygen (Score:3, Funny)

    by vinlud (230623) * on Thursday April 06, 2006 @07:28PM (#15080906)
    ...it has lower levels of oxygen-16 than expected.

    Not enough oxygen?
    Better plant some tree before it starts smouldering!
  • Hmm (Score:5, Funny)

    by More_Cowbell (957742) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @07:29PM (#15080911) Journal
    "Our Sun is not the Sun that we thought it was."

    Sounds like something my parents said...

  • by MyLongNickName (822545) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @07:29PM (#15080912) Journal
    Getting information about the Sun by looking at the moon? How stupid. I propose we send a mission to the Sun to find out first hand what the Sun is like. I can hear the scoffers whine "But it is to hauuuuuuuut to land on the Suuuuuuun". This is what you pay geniuses like me for. We land at night. Problem solved.
    • lets just get some of those retired folk from florida : )

      'Is Florida not hot and muggy enough for these people? They love heat. I mean if they ever decide to land men on the sun, I think these old retired guys would be the only ones that will be able to handle it. They'll just sit there on the sun, on the redwood benches, washcloth on the head going: "Close the door, you're letting all the heat off the sun. I'm trying to get a sweat going."
      '
    • As funny as it is, that probe crashed when it returned back to Earth.
  • Oh no... (Score:4, Funny)

    by dazlari (711032) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @07:30PM (#15080917) Homepage
    "Our Sun is not the Sun that we thought it was."
    ...we have a bastard sun!!
  • by Squiffy (242681) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @07:35PM (#15080942) Homepage
    To all of you who say science is faith-based as much as any religion, this article is an example of why you're wrong.

    1. Scientist has an idea.
    2. Scientist checks out that idea with experiments.
    3. Experiment refutes scientist's idea.
    4. Scientist scratches head and says, "I guess I was wrong."

    This pattern happens over and over and over again, and that's what people mean when they say science is not faith-based.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Oh yeah, that's how scientists are supposed to act. But there are a lot of people out there with a copy of Skeptical Inquirer tucked under there arm, going around saying such-and-such is "unlikely" (when they have absolutely no statistical evidence as to how likely or unlikely said thing is) and generally acting like know-it-all assholes, all while proclaiming to be in the name of science. You know the types: the ones who talk as though "Occam's Razor" were some kind of law of nature or rigid logical proces
    • by Xzzy (111297) <sether@tru7 h . org> on Thursday April 06, 2006 @08:02PM (#15081081) Homepage
      science is not faith-based

      Unless of course a scientist is fudging his results to maintain a desired result. Science as a community product isn't faith based, but only a fool would extend that to mean that anyone in a lab coat is an impartial participant.

      Not that you were explicitly suggesting otherwise, but I figured it was worth saying anyways.
      • Funding and grants can sometimes have a corrosive effect on scientists' morals and ethics.

        Religion has its share of charlatans too. They're usually in it for the same reason as the scientists who fudge their data: money or recognition.

        Unlike most discredited scientists, not all religious fakers seem to lose their audience once they've been outed. Faith can be much much stronger than facts.
      • Unless of course a scientist is fudging his results to maintain a desired result. Science as a community product isn't faith based, but only a fool would extend that to mean that anyone in a lab coat is an impartial participant.

        Then how is this practicing science? You can't say that someone is practicing science when they give up rational integrity. Science explicitly demands rational integrity. The communal process makes the growth of scientific knowledge more efficient. It exposes ideas to a greater number of criticisms. Assertions receive increased attempts at falsification; this quickly weeds out assertions that are not falsifiable. Weeding out non-falsifiable ideas is essential to maintaining rationalist integrity.

        If one professes faith in a religion and then acts unconscientiously, against the explicit teachings of that faith, would you then claim the religion isn't really what it says it is? I'm curious as to how any of your ideal institutions or shared processes might deal with the fallibility of humans.
        • Then how is this practicing science?

          You are still practicing 'science,' the only difference is you're practicing SELECTIVE SCIENCE that is based upon a person's unalterable beliefs (may be 'God,' may be 'Gaea,' may be anything, 'Intelligent Design,' for an example,) instead of practicing it upon pure science, which is very deeply rooted in mathematical equations based upon what we've been able to actually observe with our own eyes instead of our minds.

          We (un-officially) call this the science of illog
          • That's not science. Science defined as the objective knowledge about the world. It cannot be objective knowledge if it is not falsifiable. Science, by definition, excludes unfalsifiable conjectures from it's attention. One cannot logically falsify a liar due to the paradox of the liar. Rational integrity is therefore a requirement for something to fall in the pervue in science.

            Science discriminates against ideas that do not have the property of falsifiability. What you believe is irrelevant, science doesn't
        • A stiring defense of science, sir. Although I am trying to wrap my head around the cognitive dissonance of your stated need for rationalist integrity:

          Assertions receive increased attempts at falsification; this quickly weeds out assertions that are not falsifiable. Weeding out non-falsifiable ideas is essential to maintaining rationalist integrity.

          and your sig:

          Conservatism is a provable error in logic. -- me

          Sounds like someone who's trying to wrap a political disagreement within a veneer of "scien

          • The requirement for rational integrity is illustrated by Russels Paradox of the Liar. If I say "I am a liar", am I telling the truth or lying, how could you ever know? If I claim to make a rational statement, then you should be able to analyze my position and determine if I have made an error in logic. You cannot do that if I have intentionally mislead you. Without rationalist integrity, you could not reproduce and analyze my assertions and their reasoning. If we understand that the most efficient way to fi
      • Science as a community product isn't faith based, but only a fool would extend that to mean that anyone in a lab coat is an impartial participant.

        Your comment is not a +5 Insighful. It is based on something you truly have no idea about, modded up by people who have no idea what is being talked about.

        Every honest Ph.D. shares a common belief in the pursuit of impartial truth in everything. That is truly the point of being a scientist and the point of following the rigors of the scientific process. While t

        • Every honest Ph.D. shares a common belief in the pursuit of impartial truth in everything.

          I don't really know the common beliefs of every PhD, and I don't really care. I do know that people can be partial and not even know it though. The most famous example of this is probbably n-rays [wikipedia.org]. The short story is that several scientists claimed to observe them, but they turned out to be an illusion. People were literally seeing something that wasn't their. Lesser known examples are Millikan's oil drop experimen
      • Global Warming Fraud (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Dareth (47614)
        When did there become an "overwhelming consensus" that man is causing global warming?

        The temperature of the Earth is increasing. Big deal. It has happened before, and it can and will happen again.

        Slashdot had an article about temperatures on Mar increasing as well... must be those damn rovers eh?

        Even when the science is impartial, the interpretation is not. I am not a fan of the current administration's policies towards the release of papers and research on climate change.

        We need all sides on an issue.
        • "I am not a fan of the current administration's policies towards the release of papers and research on climate change."

          Excuse me? If anything, science should be open to anybody - maybe excluding some research with far reaching information on building weapons. If it's for or against measures against climate change - that should not matter.
      • Unless of course a scientist is fudging his results to maintain a desired result.

        Then that person is no longer a scientist with respect to that research. With peer review this sort of thing is effectively limited.

        Unfortunately in cases without peer review, pseudoscience and tradition can temporarily rule. Ex: Tetraethyl lead; antibiotics' effectiveness on certain cancers.

        Science is, at its theoretical core, fact based. Religion is, at its theoretical core, faith based.

    • by babble123 (863258) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @08:03PM (#15081086)
      I would say that's even better than what you describe. Some people accuse scientists of "groupthink", that they don't publish papers that contradicts the majority point of view. But it's every scientist's dream to make some discovery that contradicts the current majority view of the field! That's what makes you famous.
      • That's what makes you famous.

        Most people don't want THAT type of fame. I mean look at the electric universe people and the household fusion guy. There are plenty of people who publish opposing theories, and most if not all of them are heavily criticized by the community, laughed about at places like this, and have a much harder time getting research money.
    • Who says science is faith-based like a religion?

      Sure, many poeple claim that evolution is, but very few make that claim about science.

    • by Bemopolis (698691) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @08:27PM (#15081231)
      Balderdash. Religion has a parallel development system:

      1. Religious guy has an idea.
      2. Religious guy checks out that idea with oratory.
      3. Inquisition refutes religious guy's idea.
      4. Religious guy loses head and says, "You'll burn in hell, sinne--".

      This pattern happens over and over and over again, until a scientist shows up that they can all persecute.

      Bemopolis
    • Yeah but as the moon landing was a fake, so must all of this be... which begs the question, what do they have to gain by saying that the sun doesn't have the enriched levels of oxypoxytosis-16 that we thought it did? I think they're going to use it to say that the sun lied to us about what chemicals it owns, and use it as an excuse to invade. Of cause, this will be an act against God, who created the sun 6006 years ago during the ice age, so must be driven by the evil forces of the dark one, because he erm.
    • To all of you who say science is faith-based as much as any religion, this article is an example of why you're wrong.

      And your post is an example of how twisting an opponent's argument into something he or she never claimed and then proudly refuting it is a good way to get modded up without actually adding anything to the discussion.

      The faith (thinking) people have in science doesn't cause them to believe that theories can never be falsified. That would be silly since the whole of the scientific method

      • The primary article of faith of the true believers in science is that science can discover everything that matters.

        I have never known any scientist to claim this. I have, however, known plenty of anti-science types to claim that scientists claim this.
        • I have never known any scientist to claim this.

          Agreed. Note that I didn't say scientists believe this, I said true believers in science believe this. Real scientists understand the limits of their work as well as its strengths (which are clearly undeniable).

          I have, however, known plenty of anti-science types to claim that scientists claim this.

          I have known plenty of atheistic, science groupie slashdotters who clearly believe science answers all, even if it's hard to get them to come right out and

      • by mysticgoat (582871) * on Friday April 07, 2006 @01:11AM (#15082239) Homepage Journal

        The primary article of faith of the true believers in science is that science can discover everything that matters. Or to put it another way, that if something cannot be studied via the scientific method, it either isn't important or doesn't exist.

        This is actually an excellent litmus test that distinguishes those technicians, engineers, and educators who believe in a Supreme Scientific Authority from the true scientists. True scientists are persons 1) who do not believe in any authority at all but require that the empirical method be applied (and continually reapplied) to everything whereever it can be applied; and 2) who recognize that the most important questions any of us ever face cannot be addressed by the scientific method.

        In short, the true scientist recognizes that although he can apply the scientific method to many things, he cannot successfully apply it to his own life.

        One way of stating the Copenhagen interpretation is to say that human perception and cognition is such that there is no possible way we can comprehend the universe; the most we can do is build models that are somewhat useful in certain limited ways. This strongly implies that the scientist must learn to live with the discomfort of always being surrounded by impenetrable mysteries.

        • Very well said, overall. Just one point of disagreement.

          True scientists are persons 1) who do not believe in any authority at all but require that the empirical method be applied (and continually reapplied) to everything whereever it can be applied

          I would add the caveat that a person may believe in an authority where the empirical method cannot be applied and is not applicable, and still be a true scientist. Indeed, there are many such.

          This strongly implies that the scientist must learn to live wi

        • One way of stating the Copenhagen interpretation is to say that human perception and cognition is such that there is no possible way we can comprehend the universe; the most we can do is build models that are somewhat useful in certain limited ways.

          While I agree with the sentiment here (There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy) I submit that the Copenhagen interpretation [washington.edu] is a poor example. There are more compelling interpretations [washington.edu] of the QM formalism that

  • by merdaccia (695940) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @07:37PM (#15080954)
    I read the topic and I thought "What? They're turning a profit?"
  • You mean to tell me scientists were wrong in their assumptions, calculations, theory's? Well at least they had the guts to tell us about it. I know some people act like science is a religion and not as well...science. It can be wrong and it changes as we learn.
  • From the dawn of time, man has yearned to destroy the sun. Hopefully this research will bring us one step closer.

    jf
  • by rubberbando (784342) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @07:54PM (#15081044)
    ...maybe the sun is made out of milk, which would explain why the moon is made of cheese.. :P
  • by NotQuiteReal (608241) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @07:54PM (#15081047) Journal
    The Sun turns out to have more global warming particles than expected!
  • It is obvious that the Sun must be Cheese. That would explain why the moon is cheese and the sun is yellow.
  • This is an honest question and I'm not trying to troll or anything but why has it taken so long to analyze the samples that Neil Armstrong came back with? That seems like quite a while for dirt.
    • Re:It took how long? (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anthony (4077) *
      Scinetists often re-examine new material in light of new theories, or new developments in analytical techniques [anu.edu.au] which Trevor Ireland happens tp work on. BTW, Ross Taylor of the ANU was invloved in early moon sample analysis.
    • It's possible that it's a new technique of analysing particals, or new information that's been crossreferences, that's behind these results.

      This is just guess, I've not RTFA :-p

    • Maybe they've been spending some time building and calibrating the equipment to properly analyse the samples?? I doubt that NASA would be so stupid as to fire up a prototype analysis system to check out their limited supply of moon rocks...
    • Money. When the Apollo program was shutdown, most of the money for lunar research also disappeared. That resulted in huge amounts of telemetry data and large numbers of lunar samples that were never properly analyzed.
  • DoninIN (Score:4, Informative)

    by DoninIN (115418) <don.middendorf@gmail.com> on Thursday April 06, 2006 @08:28PM (#15081237) Homepage
    The sun is a mass of incandescent gas A gigantic nuclear furnace Where hydrogen is built into helium At a temperature of millions of degrees
  • by vistic (556838) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @08:30PM (#15081246)
    I just saw a TV program last night or this morning about analyzing what the Sun is made of.

    A satellite was sent out and put into L-1 (I think) for 3 years or so. It had an area of shiny hexagonal materials, of quite a few different kinds like I think maybe gold covered sapphire was one of them. So bits of the Sun were carried out by solar wind and collided with the collectors at something like 200 miles per second... fast enough to bury little particles into the hard collectors.

    Then it folded itself up and headed back to Earth... unfortunately the parachute didn't open on re-entry. So it came tumbling into Earth and crashed somewhere in Utah I think. They managed to rescue a few good pieces though of the shattered collectors. And supposedly they didn't get too contaminated since the speed of the crash was much less than the speed that the solar particles were traveling at when they hit the collectors. So Utah dirt didn't get down as deep as the solar particles... and they're analyzing it.

    I don't know how long ago this happened though... but I would think they would have as good or better data than studying moon samples.
  • is vs of (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Ragica (552891) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @11:15PM (#15081998) Homepage
    "In our world," said Eustace, "a star is a huge ball of flaming gas."

    "Even in your world, my son, that is not what a star is but only what it is made of."

    -- Voyage of the Dawn Treader (C.S. Lewis)
  • Hydridic Earth theory [wikipedia.org]:

    Solar wind in the primordial system pushed elements away from the center. The elements with lower ionization potentials were trapped by the Sun's magnetic field and held closer to the sun, the elements with higher ionization potentials were pushed to the outer fringes.
  • Science really only has a few theories, because scientific theory are based on disprovable, repeatable, predictable, and in this case observable evidence.

    What happened is that two competing conjectures, maybe even hypothesis, were proven wrong. Okay, interesting, and we all learned something from it. But, conjecture and hypothesis are proven wrong all of the time, they are not very high on the scientific food chain. The misuse of the word theory by people is really, really ruining people's fundamental un
  • http://www.thesurfaceofthesun.com/ [thesurfaceofthesun.com] claims that the sun has a solid "rocky, calcium ferrite surface layer" beneath a plasma photosphere.

    The animations / .avi files on that site (like this one: http://www.thesurfaceofthesun.com/images/T171_0008 28.avi [thesurfaceofthesun.com]) are strangely convincing. Beneath the turbulently moving filaments of a coronal mass ejection, you can see a layer that has features that remain quite fixed in location relative to each other -- implying a solid surface.
    • Well, the obvious problem with this theory is the the problem that bedeviled all pre-quantum theories of the Sun's composition: why is the Sun still glowing? It's easy enough to work out the energy lost by the Sun every year, and calculate how long it could stay as hot as it is given that energy loss, and given any particular mechanism of energy generation.

      The problem, as previous generations discovered, is that no chemical energy-producing reaction whatsoever can produce enough energy for the Sun to still

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