What is a scientific cartoon?

What is a cartoon?

Cartoons almost invariably play a role in discussions of how solar flares and CMEs work. These discussion may take place in august academic forums, or in pubs at any point around the solar world (see a list of bar bets). In place of a self-consistent theory, a cartoon is often the only way to guess how different features of an event might be related. A glance at the horrible complexity of even a simplistic model shows why physical completeness will always remain elusive. Behind each cartoon there is invariably a half-baked theory, and the artist wants to use the sketch to explore its implications in an intuitive and helpful way.

The cartoons naturally fall into four different categories. The best can show true innovation, for example perhaps where Sturrock invoked the ejection of plasma and current-sheet formation to explain high-energy phenomena. Or they can merely (but often imaginatively) be simple descriptions of observations, as in the basic Moore-Labonte rendition of the CSHKP model. The description may of course have a paradigm in mind. They can also be snapshots of numerical simulations, generally avoided in this Archive but represented here because (in this case) of its evocative reference to "slip-running reconnection". A roadmap cartoon crams a wide variety of observational material into a "pound to fit, paint to match" style. While all cartoons represent biased views, this category is particularly treacherous - one of them will happily point out all the consistencies, while blissfully ignoring every error, inconsistency, and failed prediction. There will be a prize for the first anti-roadmap cartoon! A final category, generally to be avoided except at stressful times such as proposal-writing for the sake of potentially gullible reviewers, would be the hyper-cartoon, which often grafts made-up field lines onto real images.