509: Induced Current
Title text: The MythBusters need to tackle whether a black hole from the LHC could REALLY destroy the world.
This comic is exaggerating the effects of the physics stated. Solar flares eject, among other things, ions, electrons and radiation. The charged particles reach Earth after a day or two, and in history has knocked the power out in some areas during a large flare. They can marginally affect the magnetic field of Earth, or dent it, as Cueball says. A voltage occurs in a conductor (the wire) when subjected to a changing magnetic field. However, this change is small and influences only very long conductors, such as telephone lines.
Interestingly, phenomena as described by Cueball have occurred several times in recorded history, with effects quite nearly like those described, most notably the Carrington event of 1859. In 1859, a solar storm produced a series of powerful geomagnetic storms across the world, and many telegraph operators reported electrical phenomena (electric shock from the apparatus, messages sent and received despite disconnect from power sources, and pylons carrying telegraph lines sparking and arcing with current) all across North America. For this to occur in shorter conductors, (e.g., Beret guy's extension cord,) a solar storm would have to be so destructively large as to pose far more danger than just fires. The chances of such a solar event occurring again are not prohibitively small, though quite infrequent, and the last one, of comparative size and strength, was recorded in 2012.
Mythbusters is a show which tests urban legends or myths that viewers submit. They have a classic style of scaling up myths to comical sizes. By starting the myth that a fire would be formed from the large voltage across the wire induced by the Earth's magnetic field, Cueball hopes to see it tested on Mythbusters, and perhaps then scaled up to astronomical proportions. This comic may also reference how Mythbusters is running out of urban legends to test, and has resorted to testing the feasibility of viral videos, movie scenes, proverbs and the like, plus occasionally making up urban legends.
The title text refers to the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the most powerful particle collider in the world and the fear of some people of the production of stable microscopic black holes destroying the Earth. Of course, testing something like this would be outside the scope of a show like MythBusters. Additionally, if the myth was confirmed, the planet would be destroyed, and nobody would like the MythBusters anymore.
- [Beret Guy, extension cord in hand, approaches Cueball as he works at his computer.]
- Beret Guy: Can I plug my extension cord over here?
- Cueball: No.
- Beret Guy: Why?
- Cueball: Solar Flares.
- [A diagram is displayed, illustrating the Earth's magnetic field being permanently impacted by a large solar flare (represented by a large arrow).]
- [A second diagram is presented, illustrating the Earth's rotation and the resulting impact that the solar flare would have on the earth's magnetic field.]
- Cueball: A large solar flare could dent the Earth's magnetic field inwards. The Earth's spin could then induce a strong current in any long conductors, melting them and starting fires. By extending your cord, you could kill us all.
- [Stunned, Beret Guy looks down at the cord he carries.]
- Beret Guy: Really?
- Cueball: Warn your friends.
- [Dejected, the man walks away, cord in tow.]
- [Cueball looks up from his computer as he is braced by Megan, a stern look in her face.]
- Megan: That was mean.
- Cueball: Listen, somebody has to keep Mythbusters in business. Next season should be fun.
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