Tag Archives: negative

The Ever-changing and Skepticized Van Allen Belts

The Van Allen belts are two radiation belts. These are zones of electrically charged particles which are poised, encompassing the Earth far above the surface, and held there by the planet’s magnetic field. The first of the belts was discovered in early 1958 through data collected by Explorer I (the United States’ first space satellite) and the Explorer III and Pioneer satellites, under James Alfred Van Allen and his team at the University of Iowa.

Similar radiation belts have since been found surrounding other planets, but the term of Van Allen belts only refers to those two belts (and sometimes other belts that are transitorily formed) which surround the Earth. They have been dubbed the Van Allen belts after the American physicist credited with their discovery.

Each of the two belts surrounds the Earth in a sort of doughnut-shaped formation. The inner belt reaches from approximately 600 to 3,000 miles above the Earth, and the outer belt from about 9,300 to 15,500 miles above the Earth. Astronomers have determined that the belts consist of many electrically charged particles, like protons and electrons. Earth’s magnetic field traps these particles, directing them to the magnetic poles.

The particles move in spiral paths along a system of flux lines, curving from the north magnetic pole to the south magnetic pole. As the particles come nearer either pole, the converging flux lines reflect them toward the opposite pole. This effect keeps the particles of the Van Allen belts bouncing between the poles. The belts receive new particles from the solar wind, a continuous stream of charged particles emitted from our sun.

Chart Showing the Van Allen Belts in Proportion to Earth


Other particles can be gained by solar flares and cosmic rays. Intense solar activity can disrupt the belts, leading to magnetic storms. Such disruptions also affect radio reception, cause surges in power lines, and produce auroras.

Ever since their discovery, the Van Allen belts have concerned and inspired people’s minds. Hollywood feature film and TV producer, writer, and director Irwin Allen came out with his science fiction movie Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea in 1961, three years after the discovery of the first belt. The main plot conceived by Allen and Charles Bennett revolves around saving all life on Earth from the natural inferno that was created when a meteor shower pierced the Van Allen radiation belt, catching it ablaze.

Ice burgs begin to melt in the Arctic, entire forests are engulfed in flames, and the crews of sea-going vessels traveling on the ocean’s surface are baked alive. Eventually, scientist Admiral Harriman Nelson proposes to shoot a nuclear missile from his submarine Seaview into the burning belt at a certain projection and time, which would, in theory, overwhelm and extinguish the skyfire, essentially “amputating” the belt from the Earth.

Scene from Irwin Allen’s 1961 Film Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. Source: 20th Century Fox.


Even today, decades later, people are concerned about the radiation belts. A prominent group of physicists wants the belts eliminated altogether. A plan was even suggested in which long conducting tethers that are charged with a high voltage are deployed from satellites into the belts. It would force charged particles that come into contact with the tethers to have their pitch angle altered.

Over time, theoretically, this would dissolve the inner belts. The belts pose certain difficulties and dangers (mainly caused by radiation) whenever a satellite, telescope, or human is to be launched into outer space. There is a decent scientific argument in that these belts provide anything useful, or that we could do away with them without a negative effect.

According to some, if the belts were not there, the Earth would no longer possess a magnetic field. That means that cosmic ray particles would be at liberty to collide with our atmosphere in larger quantities, resulting in a higher background level of secondary “air shower neutrons”, leading to higher doses of background radiation on the surface. If the Van Allen belts were gone, it would definitely impact human life.

Other sources:

The World Book Encyclopedia Vol. 20. World Book, Inc., 1987.

Female models and their negative effect on men

scarlett johanssonWe all know that seeing female models can have a negative effect on how women think about themselves, but really, it seems hard to believe that they would have the same effect on men. Still, Jennifer Aubrey, a leading researcher of media effects on body image, completed three different studies that led to the same conclusion: it’s actually men that are more affected.

In the first study, she measured the male exposure to magazines such as Maxim, FHM, etc, and she found that the readers pick up two different messages: the visual (which of course, is of sexually sugestive nature) and the textual (which reffers to fashion, sex, technology, urban culture, etc). She then measured men’s self awareness about their bodies, and the appearance anxiety.

“We found that reading lad magazines was related to having body self-consciousness a year later,” said Aubrey. “This was surprising because if you look at the cover of these magazines, they are mainly images of women. We wondered why magazines that were dominated by sexual images of women were having an effect of men’s feelings about their own bodies.”

To conclude the test, they divided men into two groups. A group received pictures with great looking females while the second received the same pictures, only with average boyfriends added to them and explanations about how female models are attracted to average people.

“We found that the men who view the ads with the average-looking boyfriend in the picture reported less body self-consciousness than the men who saw the ads with just the model,” Aubrey said. “When the men felt that the model in the ad liked average-looking guys, it took the pressure off of them and made them less self-conscious about their own bodies.”