Hotblack Desiato and Disaster Area

One of my favorite book series is Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, an uproariously funny collection of books by the late, great Douglas Adams who sadly passed away at a much too young age. One of the best scenes, apart from the mattress creatures of Squornshellous Alpha, is the scene from the third book, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, when the lead characters become trapped on a spaceship belonging to Hotblack Desiato and his rock group, Disaster Area. In the scene, the spaceship has been programmed to crash into the sun in an effort to create a solar flare. It’s all part of the elaborate stage theatrics of the band, which plays so loud that the audience must usually listen from a distance of thirty-seven miles away.

But could a spaceship crashing into a sun really cause a solar flare? Well, not likely. Science, which isn’t always as imaginative as fiction, tells us that solar flares are caused when electrons interact with the plasma medium of the sun. A curious phenomenon of magnetic reconnection is involved, and while we don’t know precisely how solar flares come about, we do know that they’re generally not set off by space ship crashes involved in theatrics from rock bands.

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