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Power Science

Wilma the Capacitor and Particle Accelerator 238

Sterling D. Allan writes "In a story at the new Open Source Energy Network site, Paul Noel says: "Energetically speaking, the vortex that forms in these storms is also a natural particle accelerator, and a massive capacitor bank. As the harmonic circuit develops, it resonates acoustically and functions as a capacitor, extracting the heat from the storm and transmitting it away. Without this electrical circuit, the storm would fail almost instantly due to the accumulation of heat from condensation of water." He also asserts that understanding these phenomena better could help us harness the power of nature, seen and unseen."
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Wilma the Capacitor and Particle Accelerator

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  • Are you serious? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 26, 2005 @08:26AM (#13879604)
    The author takes painkillers while the storm is thousands of miles away because of the electrical effects of the storm on his body.

    Give me a break.
  • I was inside Wilma (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 26, 2005 @08:47AM (#13879729)
    With winds gusting to 125MPH I was inside of Wilma as it battered Ft. Lauderdale. I can tell you for a fact and from personal observation that this guy is one of those psuedo intellectual types that does not know squat about what he speaks.

    Just for the record, although I was able to get to Jacksonville after the storm, there are still millions of people in the greater Ft. Lauderdale and Miami area that have no power. The lack of power makes it so that they are unable to get gasoline and therefore they can't even leave. There are other shoratages as well and the damage is massive.

    As usual, Slashdot reports on "news that matters", some twat prattling on about hurricanes as particle accelerators. Real funny when the particle is an aluminum car port coming at you at 105MPH.
  • by CyricZ ( 887944 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2005 @09:00AM (#13879807)
    While his analysis might be incorrect, how do you know that his back is not affected by weather changes? Indeed, that is often something that is reported by people who sustain injuries.

    When I was young, there was a farmer down the road who took shrapel in his knee in WWI. Just before a storm came his knee would swell up, and right after the storm was gone it'd stop. You could sit there watching it happen. Now, I'm not sure why it happened. But it did happen, and it happened frequently.

  • by Phanatic1a ( 413374 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2005 @09:04AM (#13879827)
    Indeed, that is often something that is reported by people who sustain injuries.

    No shit, really? I've never heard that.[/sarcasm]

    Sparky, what makes it bullshit is his analysis, which involves claims that it's because of the dielectric stress of a storm that's hundreds of miles away. Pretty much every single statement in his article is purest, unmitigated, grade-D bullshit.
  • Alternative theories (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 26, 2005 @09:43AM (#13880077)
    There is nothing wrong with having an open mind to alternative theories.

    However, alternative hypotheses require strong evidence to be accepted.

    Let's look at the facts here. Paul Noel had back pain in the weeks leading up to Wilma hitting Florida. We don't know how often he has back pain, but lets assume that this pain was distinctive, call it "storm pain". So Paul is having storm pain in the weeks before Wilma hits Florida. Now, where was Wilma during this time? Wilma was a tropical depression in the middle of the Atlantic. Currently, there are a number of tropical storms in the middle atlantic (Alpha and Beta). Is he having the pain right now? If his pain truly has a range of many thousand miles, how often does his pain pick up snowstorms in Canada? Or Pacific cyclones? Does the range depend on which storms are being covered on TV?

    In addition, his idea that it is electromagnetic in nature is easily testable. The electromagnetic spectrum is easily measured by someone with the proper equipment. I understand that he may not have access to this kind of equipment, but he shouldn't be telling us that it is electromagnetic in nature as some kind of default. There are plenty of things going on in the world, and just because you don't know what it is doesn't make it electromagnetic. Perhaps he is actually picking up hurricanes with his pain, but he is doing it with seismic waves. Too bad that he 'just knows' that it is electromagnetic - he could be looking in the correct place if he didn't 'just know' the wrong answer.

    I have an alternative hypothesis also. I think that his back pain is caused by something other than hurricane Wilma. I think that something in the local conditions in Alabama (which had a cold front come through at the same time that Wilma hit Florida, which dropped the temperature by a good 20 deg F) may have had more to do with his pain than a storm which got lots of media coverage. He could record which days he had back pain and what type, so that he could then draw correlations using weather records. That would be a good beginning. After he has correlations then he could make a theory of what the mechanism was, and try to test it. Then random people on the internet wouldn't be calling him so pseudoscientific, and his alternative theory might have a chance. Until he does something like that, you are wasting your time with him.
  • by ultranova ( 717540 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2005 @10:42AM (#13880439)

    blowing up a 50 megaton bomb in the middle of a hurricane wouldn't actually make a difference.

    Sure it would. Not only would it vaporize a lot of water, giving the hurricane a boost, but it would also irradiate said water, making those 60 m/s winds with heavy rainfall into 60 m/s radiactive wind and heavy raifall. In short, it would be the dumbest thing one could possibly do.

    Which gets us back to the grandparents question: why hasn't the US government tried it ?-)

    Sorry, couldn't resist...

  • by jellisky ( 211018 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2005 @03:38PM (#13883453) Journal
    Especially as a researcher of hurricanes.

    This man needs to look at some actual real atmospheric science work. Even a little search would get him a wealth of hurricane information:
    http://www.aoml.noaa.gov/hrd/tcfaq/tcfaqHED.html [noaa.gov]

    I would suggest anyone interested in hurricanes to read this FAQ. It is relatively regularly updated with new research and information.

    TFA has some interesting points, but electromagnetic forces? How about simple thermodynamics? The troposphere responds to thermal forcings more readily than electromagnetic. (This is not necessarily true of the very upper reaches of the atmosphere, e.g. ionosphere, where electromagnetic forcings by the sun have not been heavily filtered and where the diatomic molecules of N2 and O2 do not make up the majority of the air.)

    He is right, though, in a analogue way about the hurricane being a capacitor and that it needs to release heat energy somehow. He's just completely wrong on how hurricanes typically do this.

    Hurricanes are warm core systems. This means that the center of the hurricane is warmer than the environment it lives in. This is required to keep the winds in balance. In a developing storm, the warm core is thought to form because of all the condensational heating. Then, as the storm strengthens, the heating from the convection (in a way) fluxes into the eye which allows the storm to strengthen and stay in balance (this is known as thermal wind balance, one of the fundamental balances in vertically-varying fluids... it is the phenomenon that explains why jet streams happen over frontal systems). In a way, one could think of the warm core of the hurricane as a sort of thermal capacitor... but it's not a perfect analogue.

    Additionally, with all that energy transfer, why doesn't a strong hurricane keep strengthening even with all the convection happening? Simply put, the convection helps maintain the hurricane vortex against friction. Since the hurricane has strong winds near the surface, an unforced vortex will spin down very quickly. The convection around the eyewall provides the energy needed to keep the vortex spinning against friction. Take a moment and think about how much energy friction must be dissipating, then, if you need as much convection as is seen with strong hurricanes.

    The hurricane is well-known to be a strongly balanced vortex that has an obvious structure that doesn't require any odd forcings like electromagnetics. Thermodynamics and fluid dynamics are all that are needed to understand 90% or more of the hurricane's structure. Electromagnetics in hurricanes is pretty silly. Besides, it's been well-observed that, given the strength of the convection in hurricanes, they have very little lightning compared to continental thunderstorms. The exact reasons for this are still speculative, but deal with the different precipitation processes in the two types of convection. Either way, I found all this rather silly. It's interesting to think about, but, from an expert in the field, pretty much ludicrous on its face.


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