Solar Email Rage, I Got Some


I’m no stranger to abusive emails, but I thought I’d share a run-in I had with a particularly angry reader during the week.

Now, why would I be receiving hate mail? You might think it has something to do with my campaign of 2012 smack-downs last year… perhaps it’s an angry author of a doomsday book? Or a prominent religious figure with an axe to grind? Perhaps it’s the guys who think the LHC is going to put a continental-sized divot into Europe?

No, no and nope (although the last one would have been fun, I haven’t heard from them for ages; it’s as if I’ve lost touch with an old friend).

Actually, this particular example of email rage came from a very rare subset of Internet critic, the determined-and-possibly-half-way-intelligent-troll. Not content with flinging abuse around in blog comment boxes, this type of individual will read something, and then come hell or high water, they will hunt the author down to give them a piece of their mind.

The reason why I think this guy is possibly-half-way-intelligent is because he can spell. And he doesn’t spout his alternative theory or type in all-caps. Plus, he uses few exclamation marks. His message was short, sweet and left me in no doubt of what he thought about me:

Subject: The sun is BORING!?

Next time you write about the sun, can you try not to sound like a 15 year old? And thanks for educating me on global warming, I’m sure the sun has a negligible effect on the Earth’s climate…

Actually, next time you write about the sun, DON’T.


Now Aaron, tell me how you really feel.

I hold my hands up in defence. Yes, I did say the Sun was being boring, but that’s not quite the same as me saying, “the Sun is boring!” now is it. I’m not going to throw down the ‘but I’m a solar physicist and I actually have a clue card’… oh, I think I just did.

Although I usually assign these kinds of messages to the trash (when I was in my 2012 prime, I was getting up to 10 of these types of email a day, only with f-bombs, and “!!!!!!1“s), I found this one curious.

It was obviously relating to the op-ed article I did for the Discovery Space Wide Angle this week, but this guy had to do his research to find and consequently use my email form. Is this a new mainstream breed of critic that I haven’t been exposed to before? Do people really have this much time on their hands?

So my conclusion is, I don’t think he liked my opinion about global warming, or he really does think I write like a 15 year old. Well, it takes one to know one. When you grow up to be a 16 year old Aaron, read my articles again will you? And yes, I do forgive you, it’s okay, consider this strike one.

Introducing Little SDO

The Solar Dynamics Observatory (NASA)

Playing on our love for WALL-E, our amazement for the Pixar Lamp and some great animation, Chris Smith, an employee at NASA Goddard Flight Center, has given the upcoming Solar Dynamics Observatory a personality.

Apart from obviously having too much time on his hands, Smith is a very talented guy (as all NASA employees are) and is showing that, once again, the space agency is doing a fantastic job of reaching out to the public.

As proven by the efforts of the Phoenix Mars Lander team in 2008, communication goes a long way and by harnessing social media, NASA can make its missions household names. Phoenix was tweeting, blogging and podcasting to its hearts content for five months, from touchdown to frozen death; it was Big Brother for robots living on Mars.

Now most NASA missions have Twitter feeds and devoted blogs, ensuring everyone’s interest is piqued. It also helps to have a Twitter feed talking in first-person, giving these brave rovers, landers, orbiters and probes a much needed personality.

So now, Chris Smith has done something very cool with the SDO; he’s given it an animated personality in a short animation reminiscent of a movie teaser for an upcoming Disney-Pixar feature film. Behold, the Little SDO:

It’s a really fun little piece,” says Wade Sisler, a television producer for NASA. “And we’re hoping to use it as a way of waking some kids and folks up to solar science.”

And so NASA should, I like it! It’s going to get people interested in a comparatively small mission, and let’s face it, the satellite lacks character (the boxy 4-eyed robot doesn’t do much for me). However, now that Smith has added squeaky solar panel wings, and blinking “eyes” (without changing the design of the craft at all), he’s boosted the SDO’s likeability. Suddenly I care for the little guy. I hope he doesn’t get hit by a solar flare.

Due for launch in October, the SDO will be inserted into a geosynchronous orbit above New Mexico, gathering data from the Sun, so solar physicists can better understand space weather. The cool thing is that with those four eyes, the SDO will capture high-definition images of the Sun continuously.

It might not have the dazzle of the Phoenix Mars Lander, but it has a personality and people will love him (I await the Twitter feed).

Learn more about the Solar Dynamics Observatory »

Source: Wired Science