Inside JPL’s Mission To Study Massive Solar Flares Close-Up

Samson Amore

Samson Amore is a reporter for dot.LA. He holds a degree in journalism from Emerson College and previously covered technology and entertainment for TheWrap and reported on the SoCal startup scene for the Los Angeles Business Journal. Send tips or pitches to and find him on Twitter @Samsonamore.

Inside JPL’s Mission To Study Massive Solar Flares Close-Up

In the fall of 1859, astronomers around the world were awed and terrified by what is still considered the largest and most well-documented solar storms ever. Dubbed the Carrington Event, the geomagnetic disturbance was only visible for several minutes but had lasting effects on the planet for days.

Radios were temporarily rendered inoperable and telegraph lines were taken out across North America. The telegraph pylons sparked, their platinum heated nearly to its melting point producing “streams of fire.” One telegraph operator was injured after a live ground wire shocked him in the head.

In 2013, insurance firm Lloyd’s of London calculated that in the case of another Carrington type event, the outage could cost up to $2.6 trillion. Which explains why NASA is eager to learn more about the sun’s changing climate, in the hope that they can one day learn to predict solar storms.

The ongoing mission is called The Sun Radio Interferometer Space Experiment (or SunRISE for short). Despite being our largest celestial neighbor, there’s much we don’t know about how the sun behaves the way it does, particularly when it comes to solar flares or eruptions, which could pose a threat to critical technology systems on Earth.

“Entire communication satellites have been lost during solar flares, and there have even been some international interplanetary missions, where those spacecraft’s computer was taken out by a solar flare and lost permanently,” explained Justin Kasper, NASA’s principal investigator on SunRISe and a professor at the University of Michigan’s college of engineering.

According to Kasper, astronauts on the International Space Station are at extreme risk of flares – not only if their equipment fails, but also because they “can see a flash of light in their eyes every time a high-energy radiation particle [from the sun] passes through them,” he said. Adding that, if there was a massive solar storm between the two Apollo missions, and if an astronaut had been on the lunar surface during that event, they would have needed hospitalization.”

SunRISE will launch next year. The launch window – and the private company NASA will contract for a rideshare to orbit – still hasn’t been determined. But in the meantime, NASA is hard at work building six small research spacecraft called cube satellites roughly the size of toasters, which once launched will orbit the sun and will collectively function as a giant radio telescope, measuring the radio emissions from the sun that are naturally emitted when solar storms are occurring.

The satellites will also attempt to create 3D maps of the sun’s magnetic field, while also pinpointing the location of disturbances in its atmosphere. Once collected, this data will be invaluable in helping scientists understand how the sun works and what might trigger its weather changes.

When the sun’s climate shifts, it causes coronal mass ejections, explosions of plasma from the sun that radiate its magnetic field out into the cosmos. “Solar flares are a lot like earthquakes,” Kasper said. “There’s a billion little eruptions happening every day, but those don’t produce a lot of radiation.”

Some solar storms, Kasper said, aren’t directed at Earth but instead pummel Venus or other planets. The JPL is eager to send its SunRISE satellites to explore how this side of solar storms we rarely see.

Kasper added that as the private space race continues to accelerate full tilt, solar flares present more risk to orbiting technologies. Alarmingly, he also said scientists are gearing up for another “big one,” since solar activity tends to follow an 11-year cycle, with the worst effects happening roughly in the middle. Two years ago, we saw a major solar flare erupt, causing radio blackouts across South America.

“The sun has been really quiet the last seven or eight years, which has seen this kind of explosion in commercial activity in space,” Kasper said. “I think a lot of small companies are about to learn just how dangerous the sun can be when it acts up.”

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“Millions of Dollars Completely Wasted”: Without Neuromarketing, Tech Firms’ Ads Get Lost in the Noise

Samson Amore

Samson Amore is a reporter for dot.LA. He holds a degree in journalism from Emerson College and previously covered technology and entertainment for TheWrap and reported on the SoCal startup scene for the Los Angeles Business Journal. Send tips or pitches to and find him on Twitter @Samsonamore.

“Millions of Dollars Completely Wasted”: Without Neuromarketing, Tech Firms’ Ads Get Lost in the Noise

At Super Bowl LVII, advertisers paid at least $7 million for 30–second ad spots, and even more if they didn’t have a favorable relationship with Fox. But the pricey commercials didn’t persuade everyone.

A recent report from advertising agency Kern and neuroscience marketing research outfit SalesBrain is attempting to answer that question using facial recognition and eye-tracking software.

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Behind Her Empire: ComplYant Founder and CEO Shiloh Johnson on Helping Small Businesses

Yasmin Nouri

Yasmin is the host of the "Behind Her Empire" podcast, focused on highlighting self-made women leaders and entrepreneurs and how they tackle their career, money, family and life.

Each episode covers their unique hero's journey and what it really takes to build an empire with key lessons learned along the way. The goal of the series is to empower you to see what's possible & inspire you to create financial freedom in your own life.

Behind Her Empire: ComplYant Founder and CEO Shiloh Johnson on Helping Small Businesses

On this episode of Behind Her Empire, ComplYant founder and CEO Shiloh Johnson discusses her journey to building a multimillion dollar business and making knowledge of taxes more accessible.

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‘Expand Past the Stage’: How These LA-based Ticketing Platforms are Using The Metaverse to Take On Ticketmaster

Andria Moore

Andria is the Social and Engagement Editor for dot.LA. She previously covered internet trends and pop culture for BuzzFeed, and has written for Insider, The Washington Post and the Motion Picture Association. She obtained her bachelor's in journalism from Auburn University and an M.S. in digital audience strategy from Arizona State University. In her free time, Andria can be found roaming LA's incredible food scene or lounging at the beach.

‘Expand Past the Stage’: How These LA-based Ticketing Platforms are Using The Metaverse to Take On Ticketmaster
Evan Xie

When Taylor Swift announced her ‘Eras’ tour back in November, all hell broke loose.

Hundreds of thousands of dedicated Swifties — many of whom were verified for the presale — were disappointed when Ticketmaster failed to secure them tickets, or even allow them to peruse ticketing options.

But the Taylor Swift fiasco is just one of the latest in a long line of complaints against the ticketing behemoth. Ticketmaster has dominated the event and concert space since its merger with Live Nation in 2010 with very few challengers — until now.

Adam Jones, founder and CEO of Token, a fan-first commerce platform for events, said he has the platform and the tech ready to take it on. First and foremost, with Token, Jones is creating a system where there are no queues. In other words, fans know immediately which events are sold out and where.

“We come in very fortunate to have a modern, scalable tech stack that's not going to have all these outages or things being down,” Jones said. “That's step one. The other thing is we’re being aggressively transparent about what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. So with the Taylor Swift thing…you would know in real time if you actually have a chance of getting the tickets.”

Here’s how it works: Users register for Token’s app and then purchase tickets to either an in-person event, or an event in the metaverse through Animal Concerts. The purchased ticket automatically shows up in the form of a mintable NFT, which can then be used toward merchandise purchases, other ticketed events or, Adams’s hope for the future — external rewards like airline travel. The more active a user is on the site, the more valuable their NFT becomes.

Ticketmaster has dominated the music industry for so long because of its association with big name artists. To compete, Token is working on gaining access to their own slew of popular artists. They recently entered into a partnership with Animal Concerts, a live and non-live event experiences platform that houses artists like Alicia Keys, Snoop Dogg and Robin Thicke.

“You'll see they do all the metaverse side of the house,” Jones said. “And we're going to be the [real-life] web3 sides of the house.”

In addition, Token prides itself on working with the artists selling on their platform to set up the best system for their fanbase, devoid of hefty prices and additional fees — something Ticketmaster users have often complained about. Jones believes where Ticketmaster fails, Token thrives. The app incentivizes users to share more data about their interests, venues and artists by operating on a kind of points system in the form of mintable NFTs.

“We can actually take the dataset and say there’s 100 million people in the globe that love Taylor Swift, so imagine she’s going on tour and we ask [the user], ‘Would you go to see her in Detroit?’ And imagine this place has 30,000 seats, but 100,000 people clicked ‘yes,’” he explained. “So you can actually inform the user before anything even happens, right? About what their options are and where to get it.”

Tixr, a Santa-Monica based ticketing app, was founded on the idea that modern ticketing platforms were “living in the legacy of the past.” They plan to attract users by offering them exclusive access to ticketed events that aren’t in Ticketmaster’s registry.

“It melts commerce that's beyond ticketing…to allow fans to experience and purchase things that don't necessarily have to do with tickets,” said Tixr CEO and Founder Robert Davari. “So merchandise, and experiences, and hospitality and stuff like that are all elegantly melded into this one, content driven interface.”

Tixr sells tickets to exclusive concerts like a Tyga performance at a night club in Arizona, general in-person festivals like ComplexCon, and partners with local vendors like The Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach to sell tickets to the races. Plus, Davari said it’s equipped to handle high-demand, so customers aren’t spending hours waiting in digital queues.

Like Token, Tixr has also found success with a rewards program — in the form of fan marketing.

“There's nothing more powerful in the core of any event, brand, any live entertainment, [than] the community behind it,” Davari said. “So we build technology to empower those fans and to reward them for bringing their friends and spreading the word.”

Basically, if a user gets a friend to purchase tickets to an event, then the original user gets rewarded in the form of discounts or upgrades.

Coupled with their platforms’ ability to handle high-demand events, both Jones and Davari believe their platforms have what it takes to take on Ticketmaster. Expansion into the metaverse, they think, will also help even the playing field.

“So imagine you can't go to Taylor Swift,” Jones said. “What if you could purchase an exclusive to actually go to that exact same show over the metaverse? An artist’s whole world can expand past the stage itself.”

With the way ticketing for events works now, obviously not everyone always gets the exact price, venue or date they want. There are “winners and losers.” Jones’s hope is that by expanding beyond in-person events, there can be more winners.

“If there’s 100,000 people who want to go to one show and there's 37,000 seats, 70,000 are out,” he said. “You can't fight that. But what we can do is start to give them other opportunities to do things in a different way and actually still participate.”

Jones and Davari both teased that their platforms have some exciting developments in the works, but for now both Token and Tixr are set on making their own space within the industry.

“We simply want to advance this industry and make it more efficient and more pleasurable for fans to buy,” Davari said. “That's it.”