1,000,000 degrees with a chance of solar flares: a Pint of Science solar weather report

Solar flare. Image provided by Author. Credit: NASA


Mendeley is proud to be partnering with Pint of Science for the third year running.


As an introduction to the great talks on offer we’re going to be previewing some of the most interesting here on the Mendeley Blog, featuring speakers from across all Pint of Science themes. You can follow along on our blog under the tag PintofScience17 or on Twitter under the hashtag #pint17.

Matthew Allcock

Matthew Allcock is previewing his talk/weather report “1,000,000 degrees with a chance of solar flares,” which you can attend on 17 May The Holt Cafe in Sheffield

Matthew (@matthew_allcock) is a PhD Student in the School of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of Sheffield. You can follow his work on Mendeley or on his personal website.



What is the biggest threat to the UK? The UK has a continually updated list of events that pose a catastrophic risk to our society, which includes events such as major terror attacks and flooding due to climate change. High on this list is severe space weather.

Why do such solar weather events occur?

Space weather encompasses the effects that charged particles ejected from the Sun have on the Earth. From satellite malfunction to large-scale power shortages, the volatile Sun poses a significant threat to modern society. The Sun waxes and wanes through a cycle of fluctuating activity with a period of approximately 11 years. During ‘solar maximum’, magnetic activity on the Sun is at its most violent. Tubes of plasma the size of the Moon, shaped by the Sun’s intense magnetic field, rise from the deep solar interior and penetrate the surface. Where these tubes break the surface, we see what are known as sunspots: near-circular dark regions that can be many times the size of Earth.

These magnetic tubes can also dramatically elevate tonnes of hot plasma from the bubbling surface to the high solar atmosphere, known as the corona, and remain in a semi-stable state. Energy stored in the magnetic field near the Sun’s surface builds up as these magnetic tubes are buffeted from below by convection currents until this energy can be stored no longer and is released as an ultra-bright solar flare. This blast can destabilise the elevated plasma, dynamically releasing it as a stream of charged particles, known as a coronal mass ejection (CME), into interplanetary space.

Are we prepared for the next major solar event?

The mid 1800s saw an anomalously active period for the Sun. In September 1859, amateur astronomer Richard Carrington was completing his daily observations of the solar surface when he noticed a blurry brightening around a sunspot. This was the first observation confirming the existence of solar flares and is the largest solar flare in recorded history. It triggered a huge CME that headed straight for Earth. In the hours following this sighting, a huge geomagnetic storm was detected and people witnessed the northern lights phenomenon as far south as Colombia.

What would be the impact of a Carrington Event today? Satellites rely on a complex system of intricate electronics. If a CME hits a satellite, induced electrical currents can cause short-circuits that can disrupt the operation of the satellite. A large CME hitting Earth induces ground-based electrical currents which can short-circuit power stations and cause blackouts and damage to electrical transformers. Had the Carrington Event occurred today, the financial impact of the predicted large-scale blackout is estimated to be upwards of £1 trillion. Blasts from solar flares and CMEs cause waves to propagate along the surface and in the atmosphere of the Sun.

In my research, I use these waves to probe solar structures and understand what makes them erupt by combining mathematical models of magnetic structures with the latest solar observations. It is all incredibly difficult to forecast.


Mendeley partners with Pint of Science Festival

Pint Of Science is back and only 3 weeks away!

Mendeley is proud to be partnering with Pint of Science for the third year running. This year, we are sponsoring “Atoms to Galaxies” events across the UK.

The last two years of the festival have been a massive success, and we feel passionate about the Pint of Science mission to bring research to the public, and give a chance for academics to present their work. You can have a Pint of Science at 26 cities across the UK this year!

Our partnership represents our hope to help grow the event so more people can hear about the vast and amazing research happening in our galaxy — and beyond.

As an introduction to the great talks on offer we’re going to be previewing some of the most interesting here on the Mendeley Blog, featuring speakers from across all Pint of Science themes.

You can follow along on our blog under the tag PintofScience17 or on Twitter under the hashtag #pint17.


Mendeley Brainstorm – The End of Driving: Getting into Gear?

Are we ready to entrust our transport to autonomous machines?

The driverless vehicle is one of the most significant practical applications of Artificial Intelligence. It will change how we travel from place to place and how our supply chains are managed. But is humanity ready to trust machines with something so vital? Or would we be taking too much a risk? We are looking for the most well thought out answer to this question in up to 150 words: use the comment feature below the blog and please feel free to promote your research! The winner will receive an Amazon gift certificate worth £50 and a bag full of Mendeley items; competition closes May 10, 2017.

Taking the Wheel

Perhaps one of the most significant changes wrought by Artificial Intelligence to our daily lives will be the arrival of driverless vehicles. In addition to Google’s Waymo project, which aims to replace passenger cars, autonomous lorries will transform how goods are shipped.

Are We Ready?

The chief executive of FedEx Freight, Michael Ducker, recently stated his company could soon rely on self-driving vehicles. He told the Financial Times: “It is coming faster than many people think, just because technology is advancing so rapidly…I think technology will lead, and sociological issues will lag, in this particular case.”

Green Light, Yellow Light

In theory, autonomous vehicles should be an improvement; machines are immune to the misjudgements that human beings make out on the road. Furthermore, they don’t tire like human drivers do, and thus the movement of both people and freight should be faster and more efficient. Nevertheless, the car is viewed as a means to achieve personal independence; many people’s livelihoods depend on the transport industry.

Get into Gear?

Is humanity ready to entrust transport to machines? Or are we taking too much a risk? What about the impact to employment? What is your view? Tell us!

About Mendeley Brainstorms

Our Brainstorms are challenges so we can engage with you, our users, on the hottest topics in the world of research.  We look for the most in-depth and well thought through responses; the best response as judged by the Mendeley team will earn a prize.


Hook, L. (2017). FedEx Freight calls for US self-driving truck regulations. The Financial Times. [online] Available at: https://www.ft.com/content/b14abc72-1e4b-11e7-b7d3-163f5a7f229c [Accessed 11 Apr. 2017].

Waymo. (2017). Waymo. [online] Available at: https://waymo.com/ [Accessed 11 Apr. 2017].

On Mendeley Careers: Artificial Intelligence: Technology at Work

As machines become more intelligent, what will the future of science and research be?

On Mendeley Careers, we’ve just published an interview with Professor Paul Chung of Loughborough University; we’re looking at the future of science, research, work and society as Artificial Intelligence research advances:

Artificial Intelligence is one of the ‘hot topics’ in science; recently, Tesla’s Elon Musk announced he was beginning a new venture, Neuralink, to “merge the human brain with AI”. But apart from visions of cyborgs dancing the heads of science fiction writers, what are the implications of Artificial Intelligence? For the general public? For researchers? And for the future of employment?

Click here to read the full interview.

Need Funding for Your AI Research?

Here are some of the latest funding opportunities for artificial intelligence and robotics researchers provided by Mendeley Funding:

Country Organisation Opportunity
USA NASA Artificial intelligence for human space exploration applications
USA Department of Defence Spectrum allocation using Artificial Intelligence for software defined radios in a tactical environment
USA Department of Defence Joint Program Committee-1 (JPC-1)/Medical Simulation and Information Sciences (MSIS) research program utilizing Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence for Medical Training Needs (MACH Learning) award
USA Oak Ridge Associated Universities ORNL Critical infrastructure modeling post-master’s research associate
USA National Institutes of Health BRAIN Initiative: Team-Research BRAIN circuit programs – TeamBCP
USA Oak Ridge Associated Universities Imaging, signals and machine learning post-master research associate
USA Department of Defence Robotic following using deep learning
UK University of Southampton PhD Studentship: Enhancing Autonomous Guidance & Navigation with Deep Learning AI Technologies
UK Coventry University Associative Neural Networks Model for Developing Emotional Communication for a Robot Buddy
UK Coventry University An Empathic Robot Companion to Improve User Mood and Well-Being
UK Coventry University Robot Homing Deeply Reinforced by Another Robot
EU Horizon 2020 Interfaces for accessibility – RIA Research and Innovation action
EU Horizon 2020 Advanced robot capabilities research and take-up – RIA Research and Innovation action
EU Horizon 2020 Advanced robot capabilities research and take-up – IA Innovation action
Australia University of Newcastle, Australia PhD Scholarship – Power Engineering, Sensor Technology, Artificial Intelligence