I couldn’t decide between two articles this week, so I decided to just post two. First up, a research paper I came across in Science Advances that studies how suction cups, such as those on octopuses (that is the proper form of the plural, not octopi, according to traditional Latin grammar), adhere underwater.
This was a fascinating paper on multiple levels. The potential applications of this research are vast, the improvement in our understanding of something so apparently basic will inform all kinds of further research in diverse fields, and it also serves as a reminder that there are even apparently simple things about our world that we still don’t fully understand. I, for one, would have thought that someone had figured the mechanics of this out long ago, but apparently not.
Rather than adhering primarily from the familiar cavitation and pressure differential basis (and some van der Waals forces) that are at work in your everyday suction cups, it turns out that aquatic suction cups function in a self-sealing way that helps make their adhesion many times stronger than the limits of a similar device in the air.
On March 30th, the Sun released an X1 solar flare. Solar flares are categorized on an order of magnitude scale, which you can read about in detail on this Space Weather Prediction Center page. Suffice to say, X1 flares are not common, and are very strong – if they hit the Earth, they can have some serious effects, especially on spacecraft and radio transmissions. Here is the SWPC page on this particular flare: X1 FLARE (R3 – STRONG RADIO BLACKOUT) ON 30 MARCH, 2022.
NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory captured several images of the flare, which analysts believe may be associated with a new coronal mass ejection (CME). The difference between a CME and a solar flare is that flares are just energy/radiation, and therefore propagate at the speed of light, while CMEs are physical gouts of plasma and particles that are propelled from the star, and reach Earth in timescales of hours to days (as opposed to the eight minutes it takes a flare to reach Earth).
The Sun is moving towards solar maximum, so we can expect more flare and CME activity in the next few years. This is probably a topic that we will revisit in more detail in the future – maybe I’ll even write a whole blog post on heliophysics.
That’s all for this week. I hope you found these articles interesting. Consider discussing further in the comments below. If you have suggestions for articles that I should share here on the site, send them my way via the contact form, and you might just be featured in a post.