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Astrophysics/Various questions

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Question
Hi,

OK, I have the following questions:-

1) What info do you have about humans experimenting re protection against cosmic rays during space-travel, and are cosmic rays really all that dangerous?

2) Is there even the slightest chance, as described in some science fiction stories, that a solar flare could seriously affect life on Earth? I don't mean just disruption of electrical generators, but wholesale destruction of life etc.? Thanks, Geoff.

Answer
1)  There are extensive studies about this, and they are very dangerous during solar flares.

2)  Yes, assuming that we lost our magnetic field (that is weakening and possibly flipping a few thousand years from now, as it does from time to time) and solar flares coincided with a massive surge in solar activity.  Now those are massive ifs that you will not see in your lifetime, but it's kind of science-fiction plausible.  More likely is what already happened, the darkening of a massive nation-sized power grid.  Trust me, that's actually the scarier scenario with people.  There have been international conferences on the careful construction of our power grids to prevent exactly such a scenario.

Astrophysics

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Dr. Stephen O. Nelson

Expertise

Fusion, solar flares, cosmic rays, radiation in space, and stellar physics questions. Generally, nuclear-related astrophysics, but I can usually point you in the right direction if it's not nuclear-related or if it's nuclear but not astrophysics.

Experience

Just moved from being a physics professor at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin into government work. Doctoral dissertation was on a reaction in CNO-cycle fusion, worked in gamma-ray astronomy in the space science division of the naval research laboratory in the high-energy space environment branch.

Organizations
Government work as a physical scientist with a nuclear focus.

Education/Credentials
Ph.D. in physics, research was on nuclear fusion reactions important in stellar fusion, further work on space telescope technology.

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