Sunday, July 22, 2007

Science reporter seeks solar bomb experts

Sometimes you just have to read a story because of its headline: "Does anyone know how to restart the sun with a bomb?"

On July 20, reporter Philip Yam of Scientific American said: Last month, I caught a preview screening of Sunshine, Danny Boyle's sci-fi psycho thriller flick that opens today. After watching the film, I couldn't help but wonder about the premise. The sun's about to die--but not the way conventional astronomy dictates, in which the sun consumes its supply of hydrogen in its core, swells out as a red giant (and boils away the earth's atmosphere), blows off its outer layer and turns into a white dwarf. Sunshine makes no attempt to say how the bomb would restart the sun's thermonuclear engine.

So I pose this question to all you who know more astrophysics than I: can you envision just how the sun's output might start declining suddenly and precipitously? And how a "solar bomb" might actually work to restart it? The moviemakers do say that the bomb has the mass of Manhattan, but I don't know if that helps or hurts.