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Book on sunspots and solar flares, released by Prof Roddam Narasimha

Padmavibhushan Prof Roddam Narasimha will release the book ‘Nature’s Third Cycle: A Story of Sunspots’, a popular science book written by Arnab Rai Choudhuri, Professor of Physics, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. The event will begin at 4 pm on March 4, 2015, in the Auditorium, Physical Sciences Building, Indian Institute of Science. The book is published by the Oxford University Press, UK.

The book is about ‘sunspots’, regions of strong magnetic fields on the surface of the sun. Normally, but not always, the formation of sunspots in associated with spitting out huge chunks of plasma from Sun’s corona, which travel away from the Sun at extraordinary speeds. Plasma is a state of matter full of free protons, neutrons and electrons. Luckily, our planet is so far from the Sun that we can hardly notice those grand displays, unless we are sending out a satellite to capture them. However, such flares, thousands of times stronger than the atomic bombs, can potentially disrupt electrical and communication networks here on earth.

Though the sunspots appear to be formed randomly, scientists have understood that there is indeed a method that is shrouded in the chaos that hits the eye. A look at the historical data clearly shows that sunspots spring up, approximately, once in eleven years. This is the “Nature's Third Cycle” Prof Choudhuri has explained in his book. If you are wondering about the first two cycles, they are the cycles of day-night, and seasons, resulting from the rotation and revolution of the Earth respectively.

Prof Choudhuri is trying to decipher Sun’s tantalizing fireworks since his PhD days in the University of Chicago. He did his PhD under the guidance of Prof Eugene Parker, a legendary astrophysicist who was the first to build a mathematical model for the formation of sunspots. During a career spanning more than three decades, Prof Choudhuri, along with a group of bright students, fine tuned those mathematical models to understand sunspots better. Now his group has the enviable distinction of accurately predicting the number of sunspots in the ongoing solar cycle. Two of his papers have earned 'Editor's Suggestion' from the editors of the prestigious international journal Physical Review Letters, an honour reserved for outstanding research work.

In the book, Prof Choudhuri takes the readers through the journey of his career, which also coincides with the time of breakthroughs in our understanding of the Sun. The book, which also doubles as his scientific autobiography, clearly shows the human side of a scientist’s life: joys, sorrows, and moments of ‘Aha’ insights.

About the Author

Arnab Rai Choudhuri is a Professor of Physics at the Indian Institute of Science. He received his PhD in 1985 from the University of Chicago under the supervision of Eugene Parker, usually regarded as the most influential solar physicist of our time. Choudhuri has carried on theoretical research on the formation of sunspots and the 11-year sunspot cycle. He was one of the originators of the flux transport dynamo model, the currently favoured theoretical model of the 11-year sunspot cycle. He is the author of two advanced textbooks, The Physics of Fluids and Plasmas (CUP, 1998) and Astrophysics for Physicists (CUP, 2010), used in many universities around the world.


Arnab Rai Choudhuri

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