How is it possible that the area around the sun is about 200 times hotter than its surface?
This question is #6 from http://www.cracked.com/article_19668_6-scientific-discoveries-that-laugh-in-face-physics.html:
We intuitively understand the direction that energy travels -- from the thing with energy to the thing with less energy. That's why the second law of thermodynamics is among the first things you learn in science class that makes you say, "Well, I could have told you that." If you're too hot, you move away from the campfire, not toward it. You don't need science to tell you that heat energy travels from the hot thing to the less-hot thing. Well, everywhere in the universe except the sun.
There's a discrepancy between what science says should happen and what the sun actually does, and it's known as the sun's coronal heating problem. Essentially, when heat leaves the sun, the laws of thermodynamics just totally break down for a few hundred miles, and nobody can quite figure out why. The facts are pretty straightforward; the sun's surface sits comfortably at a blazing temperature of roughly 5,500 degrees Celsius. No problem there. However, as the heat travels from the sun's surface to the layer a few hundred miles away from its surface (known as the sun's corona), it rises to a temperature of 1,000,000 degrees Celsius. Which is 995,000 degrees Celsius, or 1,791,000 degrees Fahrenheit, or 1 billion gigawatts per 1/4 gigabyte jiggawatt hour (metric) hotter than it has any right to be.
He's a loose cannon! The heat source (the giant ball of nuclear explosions and plasma) should be the hottest thing, not the empty vacuum of space around it. This is the only instance in the known universe where the thing doing the heating is actually cooler than the thing it's heating. And it's been plaguing solar physicists worldwide since they discovered the little disagreement reality has with our universe in 1939. How is it possible that the area around the sun is about 200 times hotter than its surface?