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Brainy Is Sexy: Skoltech Professor And Space Weather Expert Tatyana Podladchikova On Why Science Is Fashionable
Brainy Is Sexy: Skoltech Professor And Space Weather Expert Tatyana Podladchikova On Why Science Is Fashionable

Video: Brainy Is Sexy: Skoltech Professor And Space Weather Expert Tatyana Podladchikova On Why Science Is Fashionable

Video: Brainy Is Sexy: Skoltech Professor And Space Weather Expert Tatyana Podladchikova On Why Science Is Fashionable
Video: Как устроена IT-столица мира / Russian Silicon Valley (English subs) 2023, November
Tatiana Podladchikova
Tatiana Podladchikova

Tatyana Podladchikova is a senior lecturer at the Space Center of the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology, a candidate of technical sciences and a laureate of the Alexander Chizhevsky International Medal in space weather and space climate. Space weather and space climate are a rather narrow niche, and therefore there are not so many real experts in it. Tatiana is one of them. However, she does not limit her activities to research and teaching and does not at all resemble the image of a modern scientist, which was presented to us by The Big Bang Theory. We talked with her about why the weather in space should be of concern not only to narrowly focused specialists and how science is becoming fashionable.

About his path to science

At the beginning of the journey, it is difficult to understand what drives you. I was very inspired by the story of two Voyager spacecraft that were launched into space in the 70s with the aim of exploring the solar system beyond. In case of a meeting with intelligent life somewhere in space, an information plate, covered with gold, was placed on the satellites to protect them from cosmic dust. It reads “Hello, I welcome you” in 55 languages, including Russian. There are also recordings of music by Bach, Beethoven, Stravinsky, Chuck Berry and many photographs: the Earth, the Sun, people, DNA structures, etc. For the first time in the history of mankind, satellites crossed the border of the heliosphere - the heliopause. This is the zone to which the Sun reaches with its tentacles. The solar wind, a continuous stream of charged particles from the Sun, no longer spreads beyond this boundary. For the first time a satellitecreated by human hands, touched something not belonging to our solar system, collided with the interstellar wind. This is one of the greatest space missions in human history, the strength and courage of human thought.

My journey began with the Sun, when I was accidentally asked to predict the strength of the 11-year cycle of solar activity, and also to develop a method for predicting geomagnetic storms. The result is two new space weather services that have been operating in real time for over 10 years. Curiosity is inherent in man and all living things, which makes him go further. New knowledge inspires, brings strength and beauty. In scientific research, it is very important to remember about beauty. And I am deeply moved and inspired by the beauty of our object of study - the Sun.

About working at Skoltech

Every second, the Sun converts 600 million tons of hydrogen into helium. At this moment, the Sun converts 4 million tons of matter into energy! This energy is the main source of light, heat and favorable life on Earth. But at the same time, the Sun is a source of powerful emissions that cause strong disturbances on Earth and in near-Earth space. And our job is to study the mood of the Sun, how this mood is transmitted to the Earth, and how to protect our society and technology in space and on Earth from the dangers of space weather.

Space weather is a new applied science. It requires constant monitoring of the activities of the Sun and outer space and is aimed at developing operational services. However, we have a long way to go before we can fully understand what is happening on the Sun and understand all the subtleties of the interaction between the Sun and the Earth. Therefore, at Skoltech we are not only developing new space weather services, but also studying why there are flares on the Sun, how powerful solar emissions and magnetic clouds threaten us, where the solar wind blows, why geomagnetic storms happen.

Still from the film
Still from the film

About an ordinary professor's day

So, there are many questions that the professor needs to solve. Answer incoming administrative questions, laugh off the mountains of documentation and reports, communicate with students, give some valuable instructions, provide moral support, correct several texts. Conduct a couple of meetings, lectures and consultations. Gently nudge students and graduate students to take their diplomas more seriously, push them more persistently and stricter in a few hours. Discuss with colleagues a new solar observation campaign and an upcoming conference talk. Remember that you missed lunch. And only in the evening to sit down calmly to engage in their scientific tasks, articles and enjoy in full the little knowledge that nature allows us to discover. Rest, of course, is a pleasure to spend in the fresh air and in the company of friends. Discuss events and pleasant joys.

Why you should study space weather

Space weather has a direct impact on technological systems and humans in space and on Earth. With the rapid development of technology, this influence will grow steadily. In 1859, due to events on the Sun, one of the most powerful geomagnetic storms in the entire history of observation occurred. In North America and Europe, the telegraph was disabled, and in those days it was the main means of communication for doing business and personal contacts. If such an event occurs today, then modern devices are not protected in any way. We will find ourselves without electricity, television, internet, radio communications. And just in July 2012, an energy release occurred on the Sun, comparable to an event in the 19th century, but we were lucky because these emissions did not touch the Earth. According to experts,The damage from such an extreme event could amount to several trillion dollars and it will take up to 10 years to restore infrastructure and economy.

In 1989, a powerful geomagnetic storm due to active events on the Sun led to a power outage in Quebec, almost a day without heat, light and radio communications were 6 million people. Financial losses amounted to about $ 300 million. And in October and November 2003, powerful geomagnetic storms led to an almost instantaneous failure of radio communications around the world, the failure of GPS and television, and the disconnection of cellular communications in some countries of the world.

In the near future, equipment, robots and people will go into space, to the moon and a little later to other planets, to asteroids and back. This incredible space exploration must be safe. It is necessary to protect our technology and people from space storms and extreme conditions, from which neither technology nor we are protected in space. Not protected as well as on Earth, although on Earth we are not always protected, especially technology and means of communication. Accurate knowledge of space weather will ensure the safety of humans and technology in near space, in the solar system and on Earth. A good captain will not take his ship out to sea during a storm!

In many countries, space weather is included in the national disaster risk management plan. The main users of space weather services are satellite developers and operators, organizations related to space tourism and human space travel, space insurance companies, airlines, power plant and pipeline operators, scientists and engineers.

Satellites are already very firmly established in our daily life and are widely used for communications, navigation, Earth observation, weather and climate monitoring and other tasks. Now more than 4000 thousand satellites fly around the Earth. During powerful active events on the Sun, thousands of satellites can fail; powerful particle bombardment eats up and destroys the satellite's electronic organs. Therefore, during increased solar activity, satellites can be put into standby mode, turn off sensitive equipment and stop any satellite maneuvers. After all, the loss and restart of a satellite is a billion dollar budget.

Still from the film
Still from the film

Active events on the Sun can lead to heating of the Earth's upper atmosphere, its size increases, swells, and as a result satellites decelerate, go out of orbit or even fall. At the peak of solar activity, maneuvers can be carried out every 2-3 weeks to support the orbits of satellites. When a satellite leaves orbit and encounters space debris, even a small particle, less than 1 cm, flying at great speed, can act like a bomb when it collides with a spacecraft.

Since the launch of the first satellite into space in 1957, more than 41,500 tons of artificial objects have been placed in orbit around the Earth, the Sun and other celestial bodies. Since then, most objects - rocket bodies, large chunks of space debris - have returned to Earth's atmosphere in an uncontrolled manner. This endangers people and infrastructure on Earth. Therefore, at present, work is underway to predict solar activity to assess the time of return of spacecraft to Earth, adjust satellite orbits, avoid collisions, and simulate space debris.

Also, during active solar events, interruptions in communication may occur, the navigation signal may be mistaken for hundreds of meters or even go blind. For example, on November 4, 2015, a solar flare caused air traffic to stop operating in Sweden due to disruption of radio communications and radar systems. And on September 10, 2017, the Sun experienced one of the most powerful solar flares in the past 12 years. The astronauts on board the ISS were forced to go to a special shelter on board the station, in which there are more different electronics and thicker walls. In conditions of high solar activity, the route may be changed, or the flight may be canceled, especially if these are flights at high latitudes, to the polar regions. During a solar flare, a person can receive a radiation dose of more than 100 fluorographic examinations. But such powerful outbreaks occur quite rarely, maybe once every 11 years.

Perturbations of the Earth's magnetic field during magnetic storms result in electric currents in all long conducting systems. Also the impact on power systems can be very serious. Geoinduced currents flow into the grounding stations and from the inside destroy the entire infrastructure, as a result, transformers burn out - this was the case in Quebec in 1989. In pipelines, the protection against corrosion is violated, they rust and fail. Usually pipes serve for 15 years, but after 3 years, corrosion spots appear, the current violates the anti-corrosion protection. On a railroad, green traffic lights can spontaneously switch to red. As a result, all trains stop. In 1972, active events on the Sun led to the spontaneous detonation of sea mines off the coast of Vietnam. The mines reacted to the sudden change in the Earth's magnetic field,as if on ships sailing nearby.

On Earth, we are reliably protected by the Earth's magnetic field. A person spends about 20% of his life in geomagnetic storms. We don't think about it. At maximum solar activity, there can be about 50 storms a year. The Sun-Earth system is in equilibrium, and all life on Earth has adapted to these conditions. For healthy people, this is not scary. However, the response in people with health problems and weaker adaptation may be different. The number of ambulance calls can increase by 20% during increased geomagnetic activity.

About professional ambitions

Our world has good acoustics, and many great ideas can come not to one person, but to several researchers at once. Everyone knows the story of the invention of the light bulb. Yes, of course, I want to make a great discovery or solve an important problem, but not in order to demonstrate superiority, but in order to find the answer to make our life better. And this drive and curiosity that pushes you forward every day is not ambition. This is a driving impulse that inspires to search, make mistakes, study, reflect, and solve. Real success is when we can gain new useful knowledge leading to an understanding of the essence of the observed phenomena, control and forecasting future developments, as well as reliable decisions based on the results obtained. I would compare it to mountaineering. Why is a climber going uphill? Where did he get such fierceness and desire for knowledge? Where did he get his thirst to see the unknown? Despite the risks and dangers, it still goes. And it is very important to keep this momentum along the way.

How to interest the younger generation in science

The most important thing is to inspire. Everything that exists in our world, according to Plato, begins with an idea. Plato also discussed the potential of society to generate and implement these ideas. It is natural for a person to develop, a person will always be pulled into unknown areas, both in the outer space and in the inner intellectual space. I think that our society has a huge potential to create worthy and interesting ideas. It is important to maintain, develop, and prepare a suitable shift that will make everything even better. Nevertheless, scientific work is a lot of work. And those who start doing science should really love what they do.

Still from the film
Still from the film

Is science fashionable?

Science is present in our lives every day, in our thoughts and deeds. The way we live is the result of the development of science. When you turn on the lights in your house, you don't even think about the fact that once many years were devoted to the development of electricity. Electricity, internet, medicine, telephone, car, airplanes, films - all these are the results of scientific discoveries.

Yes, science is becoming fashionable. Nowadays it is popular to create art with the help of science, to sew clothes from new types of fabric. The dream of outer space, the dream of becoming an astronaut, flying to Mars, returns to the minds of citizens again. Every next step in science makes our life better. For example, a digital camera came into our daily life from space technology, when it was necessary to learn how to take photographs in space using telescopes.

Popularization of science

A curious person is able to ask himself questions and seek answers to them. Discoveries in science give impetus to human thought. The locomotive inspired painters and musicians, Darwin's theory prompted the study of genetics, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky's dreams led to the creation of a jet engine, Yuri Gagarin's flight into space and the beginning of the space era.

Therefore, it is necessary to engage in the popularization of science. But it is not so easy to do it efficiently. Georges Sand, a French writer, said that "simplicity is the most difficult thing in the world."

Simplicity, accessibility and humor are tools that influence our world, and influence for the better, making our world happier. But it can take a long time to understand and discover simple things. For example, an 11-year solar cycle. In European civilization, with the invention of the telescope, Galileo and other astronomers in the 17th century noticed that there were spots on the sun. However, the eleven-year periodicity of solar activity was discovered only in the 19th century, and then by accident, thanks to the pharmacist from Germany, Heinrich Schwabe. He was fond of astronomy and, with the help of an amateur telescope, sought to find a hypothetical minor planet inside the orbit of Mercury. He never found the planet, but thanks to systematic observations he discovered the cycles of solar activity. 250 years is long enough to discover such a simple relationship,which requires only systematic observations. And whatever storms rage, I wish you all good space weather!