AN IDEALIZED UNIVERSE
I remember once, back in 1980, catching a plane from Orlando to New York, wearing just lightweight clothes appropriate to the laid-back and balmy life of central Florida, where I had moved a year previously from Massachusetts. It was early February. Twenty minutes from landing, the pilot announced that the ground temperature at La Guardia was thirty degrees, and it was snowing. I took a cab into Manhattan, and the first place I directed the driver to was "a menswear store--any store!" Two or three days were to go by before I could feel warm again. It's easy to forget that what we see when we look out at our own back yard isn't representative of the way things are everywhere.
Modern astronomy has its roots in the work of such figures as Kepler, Newton, and Laplace, whose laws described a mechanical universe consisting of electrically neutral bodies moving in a vacuum under the influence of gravity. And today's reigning cosmological theory concerning the origin and evolution of the universe as a whole is based upon Einsteinian General Relativity, which again is an essentially gravitational picture. Yet over 99.9% of the matter that we observe in the universe exists not as solids, liquids, and gases of the kind that make up our immediate planetary environment, but in the form known as "plasma."
Plasmas contain particles which, unlike electrically neutral atoms, carry a net charge. They range from relatively cool mixtures of neutral atoms and atoms from which one or more electrons have been stripped ("ions"), along with the free electrons, to raw elementary particles moving too energetically to combine stably. Unlike neutral matter, charged particles respond to electric and magnetic forces. (A magnetic force is created by an electric current, which is the name given to charges in motion. The field of a familiar permanent magnet arises from the alignment of large numbers of tiny fields generated by electron currents which in atoms of some materials happen to exhibit a net reinforcing effect, for example iron, nickel, and cobalt.)
The electric force is the one that causes like charges to repel and unlike charges to attract, and diminishes as the inverse square of distance, just like gravity. But the electric force is 39 orders of magnitude--that's a thousand trillion, trillion, trillion times!-- stronger. Even in a plasma as weak as comprising one charged particle in 10,000, which would be typical of a proto-stellar cloud, electromagnetic forces will dominate gravity by a factor of 10 million to 1. So all of the matter in the universe, apart from a negligible whiff, creates--by the separation of charges--and is responsive to forces that dwarf gravity into insignificance. Yet the model of the universe that we've come up with takes no account of it.
In a book called Worlds in Collision, published in 1950, Immanuel Velikovsky presented a case for Venus being a young, recently incandescent object that interacted with Earth in historically recorded times, and was ridiculed by the scientific Establishment. One of their principal objections was that a highly eccentric, comet-like orbit such as Velikovsky described (he maintained that Venus was ejected from Jupiter) could never have circularized to the degree seen today in a few thousand years. The equations of celestial mechanics didn't allow it. As the missing factor to explain what he insisted the myths, religions, and art forms of ancient peoples said had happened, Velikovsky suggested that the Sun and planets must be electrically charged, and that electrical forces, which would be quite capable of cushioning encounters, altering rotations, tilting axes, and circularizing orbits rapidly, must play an unrecognized role in celestial events. The retort, of course, was that conventional mechanics based on gravity alone had shown itself perfectly capable of predicting the motions of the Solar System, and electrical forces were not needed.
It seemed to follow that the bodies of the Solar System couldn't be charged. If they were, the effects on planetary motions would have been obvious; yet no such effects had been detected. Having reached this conclusion, the scientific community was compelled to devise exotic theories to explain away evidence that the Sun, Earth, and other bodies do indeed carry a charge. The Sun, for example, possesses a complex magnetic field that exhibits an agitated structure in the lower atmosphere and a dipole component with configuration similar to the Earth's field. Only electrical currents give rise to magnetic fields, and the simplest explanation is that the solar gases carry an excess charge of one kind or another, positive or negative. (In an ionized mixture where the charges balance, the random thermal motions will cancel, yielding zero net current and hence no magnetic field.) Rotation of the Sun as a whole would produce the dipole component.
The existence of a downward electric field above the Earth's surface was first demonstrated in 1803 by a Professor Erman of Berlin, using a gold-leaf electroscope. The field strength has since been measured at 100 to 500 volts per meter on a clear day. (Voltage, also referred to as "potential," is a measure of the difference in electrical "pressure," analogous to a head of water in hydraulics. The field strength expresses the pressure drop per unit of distance through the field, or "potential gradient." In this case, the direction is downward, toward the ground.) The most straightforward explanation would be that it arises from a negative charge carried by the Earth. Nikola Tesla discovered that the Earth constitutes an enormous reservoir of free electrons, and one of his obsessions was to utilize this property for worldwide electrical transmission. In 1971 this finding was repeated for the Moon, when signals from the Apollo 15 command module were received at a time when the craft was behind the supposedly radio-opaque body. They had been carried around from the far side by electric currents in the Moon's surface layers.
How can such facts be reconciled with centuries of astronomical data showing that gravitational forces alone are sufficient to account for the observations? In 1962, instruments carried by the Mariner 2 Venus probe showed that the interplanetary medium, which generations of astronomers had treated as a near-vacuum, is actually a plasma. And when charged bodies are immersed in plasma, interesting things happen. Take a negatively charged body, for example--as we're suggesting is true of the Earth. The negative charge attracts an excess of positive ions from the surrounding plasma, causing a positive "space charge" to build up around itself and creating a negative layer--due to a deficit of positive charge--outside it, until the potential on the outside of this double-layer "sheath" matches that of the surrounding plasma. When this condition is attained, the full voltage gradient to be traversed in going from the Earth's potential to the plasma potential exists between the Earth and the sheath. No further gradient due to the charged Earth extends beyond the sheath. This gradient is how we measure the electric field. So what we're saying is that, instead of exerting their influence indefinitely as was assumed by the theorists who posited interplanetary space to be a vacuum, the electric fields of charged bodies--and hence also the magnetic effects that derive from them--are trapped in proximity to those bodies when the surrounding medium is a plasma.
The existence of the sheath has now been established by space probes. It sits around the Earth like a teardrop-shaped windsock in the solar wind, extending 10 Earth radii out on the sunward side, 40 Earth radii across at its widest point, and has been detected almost as far as the orbit of Mars in the direction away from the Sun. Although known as the magnetosphere, a better name would perhaps be the "plasmasphere." But the term is a product of a discipline still wedded to the "dynamo theory" of terrestrial magnetism being somehow due to circulating currents in the core.
We have a situation, then, in which planets orbiting beyond the range of their isolating sheaths don't "feel" each other's presence electrically, and move serenely under the influence of gravity alone. But consider what happens when the system is disturbed, either through the injection of another sizable body, either from outside or by fission from an existing planet as Velikovsky proposed, or by the onset of a chaotic instability in the existing configuration. (It is usual for textbooks to cite Laplace's proof that this can't happen. However, it turns out that the infinite series that he used--and later Poisson and Lagrange in their refinements--is not in general mathematically convergent as they believed, which is a necessary condition for the process to have predictive value.1) If two bodies come close enough for their magnetospheres to intersect, the full effects of unshielded electrical fields will suddenly come into play, subjecting them to powerful, complex forces and initiating electrical discharges between them on a scale that would make any lightning seen today seem puny as the potentials of the charged bodies seek to equalize. Seen in this light, the global calamities, clashes of celestial gods, and rains of cosmic thunderbolts that Velikovsky says were the only interpretation the ancients could make of what they witnessed don't seem so farfetched.
Such a state of affairs would rapidly adjust itself back to electrical quiescence. Imagine a skating rink containing a dozen or so skaters all twirling as they wander in a general precession around the center like dancers progressing around a ballroom. Ordinarily they are unaffected by one another, but if two come close enough to interact, their twirling causes them to rebound. The ones that happen to arrive in orbits that involve no further rebounding will obviously stay in them, while the others will repeat the process until the same applies. When all have found an encounter-free condition, a stable situation will ensue in which no further close-action takes place. Interestingly, besides the Earth's sheath extending to just short of the orbit of Mars, that of Venus extends to just short of the orbit of Earth, and Jupiter's extends almost as far as Saturn.
The state of the Solar System at the present time and over the course of the recent couple of millennia or more would therefore appear to be one of quiescence that has persisted since the electrical stabilizing system shut down. (Velikovsky believed that interactions between Earth and Mars persisted through to the 7th century B.C.) Hence, the comforting assumption made by the formulators of classical astronomy--and one still largely perpetuated today--that the present regularity can be extrapolated backward to deduce how things were at any time in the past is very questionable. On the same basis, I could tell you precisely the position and motion fifty years ago of a satellite that was put into orbit last week.
Although the occurrence of such events in the past would not be detectable from planetary motions today, wouldn't we expect to find records of such colossal electrical interactions written across their surfaces? The debate over volcanic versus impact theories to explain the craters on the Moon and other bodies of the Solar System goes back a long time. Although impact is currently favored, neither can fully explain all the features that are found. These include such recurring characteristics as craters with central peaks; flat, melted, glassy floors; and terraced walls, with the terraces again in some instances showing signs of melting. And then, along with craters, there are long, sinuous rilles and furrows; concatenated chains of craterlets--frequently scalloping the rims of larger craters; and raised blister domes, sometimes with burnt appearances.
Impacts cause very little melting. The pulverized rock tends to flow like a liquid under the overpressure and then freezes in a starburst pattern, leaving typically non-circular, dish-shaped craters with gently sloping walls. Laboratory simulations and experiments with explosives have consistently failed to reproduce the complex structures observed. But even down to the finer details, the marks and scars seen all over the Solar System bear an uncanny resemblance to phenomena produced routinely in electric spark machining, where material is removed by the focused energy of an electric arc discharge.
An arc discharge takes place when the electric field between two charged objects, a negative "cathode" and a positive "anode," is strong enough to accelerate charged ions of the intervening material to energies that ionize more atoms by collision, resulting in an avalanching current and breakdown of resistance. Common examples are arc welding, lightning discharges between clouds and the ground, and the lower-voltage glow of a neon tube.
The two ends of an arc behave differently. An anode discharge sticks to one point on the anode surface, producing intense heat and melting, with a tendency for the arc to move around the center point in a corkscrew motion, scouring a crater and throwing up a steep-sided, circular rim. Terraced walls are common, depending on conditions, as are conical central mounds, which tend to be left in larger craters in a way similar to the raised "fulgamite" blistering found on lighting conductors after a strike.
Scaled-up analogs of all these features are found across the Solar System, from the Moon, Mars, Venus, and Mercury to other satellites and the Asteroids. Some asteroids exhibit craters that are surely too large to have been produced by an impact without shattering the entire body. Mathilde shows five huge craters ranging from 3/4 to 1-1/4 times its mean radius. Vesta, 530 km diameter, has a gigantic circular crater 460 km across with a 13 km high central peak, yet the rest of its surface appears to be intact. Since impacts are the "in" fashion at the moment, elaborate mechanisms are contrived to find explanations that will fit. But such anomalies as the stratified central peak of the large buried Sudbury crater in Canada, thorium enrichment of the crater rim at Wolfe Creek in Western Australia (sufficiently powerful discharges can initiate transmutation of elements), and the "shatter cone" structure of the rim of the 70 km wide Vredefort Dome in South Africa seem more readily compatible with an electrical interpretation.
Cathode discharges wander across the surface, typically between higher points where field intensity is more concentrated, and produce linear, snaking features. Chains of circular pits and craters are common, sometimes following the rim of a larger crater just formed. Explosive discharges channeled underground can be extremely effective excavating agents. Again, the Moon, Mars, and other bodies are scarred with rilles and grooves tracing their own course without regard for the structure or slope of the pre-existing terrain. The record is held by Venus with a gouge winding 6,800 km over hill and dale, and a steady 2 km wide. It's described officially as a "collapsed lava tube." At the other extreme we find rilles on the 20 km rock Phobos, one of the moons of Mars. Presumably this would have to be ascribed to inner geological activity too.
Something removed two million cubic kilometers of material from Mars to create the stupendous Valles Marineris canyon, running a quarter of the way around the planet. This could perhaps help explain the rock-strewn appearance of large areas of the surface, discoveries of Martian meteorites on Earth, and maybe the origin of many asteroids, meteorites, and other bodies. Interestingly, ancient myths and legends worldwide tell of a thunderbolt striking the Mars god and leaving a scar in his cheek, brow, or thigh. A further implication is that the planets at that time came sufficiently close for the event to be visible.
From high above, the tracery of ridges and gorges around the Grand Canyon is strikingly (pun accidental; you can't avoid them when getting into this subject) evocative of "Lichtenberg figures" frequently etched into the ground after a powerful lightning discharge.
Io, the innermost Galilean moon of Jupiter, is very likely in the process of undergoing arc machining right now, under the eyes of NASA space probes. Except that the ejection of hot matter plumes 800 km into space with hot-spot temperatures second only to the surface of the Sun, fallout patterns of perfect concentric circles, and an apparently inexhaustible supply of volatile materials, are all attributed to volcanoes. The power to drive this is said to be tidal heating as Io rises and falls 100m through Jupiter's gravity field in its mildly eccentric orbit. Plumes have been followed migrating across the surface and leaving chains of small circular craters--one plume is measured as having wandered 85 km between 1979 and 1996. This is explained by some spokespeople as due to the vaporizing of "snowfields" of sulfur dioxide or sulfur by lava flows, and by others as "mantle plumes" of hot rising masses deep in the interior. Why the plumes should display a filamentary structure--the hallmark of plasmas conducting current--and how they come to exist without any connection to visible volcanic calderas remain unaccounted for. Proponents of an electrical model have no difficulty recognizing all of these features as indicative of an arc discharge in action between Io and Jupiter.
Io has been called "the great pizza in the sky" because of its orange, yellow, and red blotchy appearance, which is due to vast quantities of sulfur compounds covering the surface. Exotic chemical processes in the interior have been concocted to explain this abundance, all premised on the assumption of volcanoes. But if the jets mark the points of impinging cathode discharges, a more likely explanation would be that sulfur atoms are being produced by the combining of two oxygen atoms in the powerful field of the arc. Water ice, which occurs on all the other Galilean satellites of Jupiter, would provide a ready source of oxygen. The icy surface of Europa is covered by a network of furrows and grooves that are supposedly "cracks." Larger ones show regions of reddish coloring along the edges, and readings from the Galileo probe indicate a significant presence of sulfuric acid. A NASA researcher described the findings as demonstrating Europa to be "a really bizarre place." 2 Not really.
NATURE'S POINT-DEFENSE SYSTEM?
Conventional geological principles are of little use in interpreting these electric machining factories in space. Time will tell, perhaps, how far they apply on Earth itself. Often, when contemplating shattered landscapes or rugged mountain vistas such as those around where I used to live in the Californian Sierra, I have difficulty reconciling what my eyes are telling me of fresh, sharp features and recent stupendous violence with serene accounts of slow uplifting and the gradual workings of erosion and deposition.
It could be that nature provides us with our own terminal defense system against rogue objects striking the Earth. (After riding the ozone depletion and global warming bandwagons, this seems to be NASA's latest ploy for scaring the public and encouraging Congress to keep the funding flowing.) An object of alien potential penetrating Earth's plasma sheath, if not deflected by electrical forces, would have a strong probability of being disrupted by the energy release of an arc discharge before impact. Meteoritic iron has been found scattered over hundreds of kilometers around the famous Meteor Crater in Arizona but very little below the crater floor itself, raising the possibility that it could well be merely an electrical scar. The same might be said for the many strange effects attending the Siberian Tunguska event in 1908, where a massive object apparently disintegrated explosively several kilometers above the surface.
If the potential of a body immersed in a plasma is not continually renewed by electric currents, it will quickly dissipate its charge to take on the potential of the plasma, and its isolating sheath will disappear. The Swedish Nobel Laureate Hannes Alvén did pioneering work giving primacy to the fundamental electrical nature of the universe and proposing an alternative cosmological model. While the mainstream gravity-based theory is forced to postulate near-infinite concentrations of the weakest force known, and a string of never-observed inventions like "missing mass," dark energy," and "inflation" to explain observations that don't fit, plasma cosmology deals with a universe of electrically active matter, shaped primarily by electrical forces arising from the currents flowing through it.
Velikovsky's suggestion of planets carrying charge had been ridiculed on the grounds that the electric force acting between them would have been obvious. The objection was based on the assumption that the intervening space was a vacuum. When it was shown in fact to be a plasma, the establishment rejected Alvén's model by promptly going to the other extreme of assuming it to be infinitely conducting. It was argued that this would make it unable to sustain the electric field necessary to create a potential difference, and a difference in potential is necessary to make a current flow. (In the same kind of way, frictionless quicksand, analogous to a resistance-less electrical medium, would be unable to support a length of pipe with one end elevated higher than the other. Since an elevation is necessary to maintain a pressure difference, there could be no flow of water in the pipe.) But the objections were based on theoretical studies of hot, dense plasmas, where the availability of current-carrying electrons and ions is effectively unlimited. In cool, rarified plasmas, the current that can flow is limited, which is another way of saying that a resistance is encountered. Resistance supports a potential difference.
All this was known to shirtsleeves-and-soldering-iron plasma experimenters. It seems that astronomers and cosmologists didn't talk to them. One forms the impression that the insistence on the impossibility of interplanetary currents, like the insistence on a pure vacuum before, was to preserve the ideal of isolated bodies interacting in ways determined solely by such innate properties as mass, density, composition, and so forth, which lent itself to elegant and appealing mathematical modeling. But no mathematics was available for treating everything as a connected system in which the medium plays a complex, active role.
Compared to the ordinary solids, liquids, and gases that make up our immediate environment inside the atmosphere, the behavior of plasma is certainly complex. Its constituent charges move in response to both electric and magnetic fields. But whereas an electric field produces a straightforward acceleration directed toward the source--attractive or repulsive, depending on the polarity--a magnetic field has the curious property of inducing a force at right angles to the direction of motion of a charge moving through it. This causes a charged particle to trace out a circle as it progresses, resulting in a helical path described around a hypothetical "line of force" denoting the field's direction. And that's not the end of it. A moving charge, as we said earlier, forms a current, and a current creates its own magnetic field. Such secondary fields will combine locally with the externally imposed field in various ways, resulting in filaments, braids, sheets, cells, and dynamic structures changing strangely and unpredictably. The name "plasma" was coined from biology in the 1920s to capture the eerie suggestion it can impart of living matter.
For sheer implausibility, few mechanisms could rival the Big Bang as a way of creating galaxies. Matter exploding outward simply becomes more rarified, with the chances of interaction rapidly decreasing. Such ad hoc inventions as "fluctuations" and "irregularities" have to be introduced to provide focal points, and then various unobservables to provide the necessary forces. In any case, the work of Halton Arp3 suggests strongly that the distance interpretation of redshift assumed since the 1920s is wrong, and the Big Bang is a fiction anyway. A more convincing approach would conceive the structured universe that we see today as evolving from an earlier plasma epoch, in which gravity played a negligible role. Gravity would become significant later, when sufficiently dense concentrations of matter had been swept together by electrical forces.
Currents flowing through space plasmas are called "Birkeland currents," after the Norwegian experimental astrophysicist Kristian Birkeland (1867-1917), who first identified electrical currents from the Sun as the cause of Earth's auroras. The magnetic fields created by currents flowing in parallel give rise to forces that are attractive at long range, "pinching" them together to produce the long filaments characteristic of plasma currents. Such filaments are seen, for example, in auroral displays, solar prominences, and the "plasma ball" demonstrations found in laboratories and as home curiosities. At shorter range the forces become repulsive, causing the filaments to persist as discrete entities instead of merging. These two actions give filaments a tendency to come together and wrap around each other, producing braided rope structures which again are typical of plasmas.
Pinching filaments together concentrates mass, while the tightening rotation of their wrapping around each other will concentrate angular momentum. The kind of result we'd expect, then, would be successions of rotating plasma clouds marking the lines of currents flowing in immense cosmic circuits. Just like galaxies. Laboratory experiments with plasmas have reproduced spirals, barred spirals, and all the other structures representative of catalogued galaxy types. They do it using processes that are familiar and observed to occur in nature, without recourse to invisible inventions and mysterious metaphysics. If the rotations are governed primarily by electrical forces, it becomes hardly surprising that they fail to obey the simple gravitational law that works well enough locally, here in the Solar System, and hence require exotic mechanisms for a theory dominated by gravity to stand.
STAR AND PLANET FACTORIES
A remarkable property of plasma is that its behavior scales up through 14 orders of magnitude. In other words, phenomena created and studied on millimeter scales in laboratories can be identified at the largest levels of the cosmos--not just in the forms of galaxies, but also in the galaxy clusters, superclusters, and "walls" that make up the universe's largest-scale structures. Instead of existing as scattered conglomerations of isolated, weakly interacting objects, the universe becomes an interconnected system of stupendous power transmission across the vastest distances, linking its largest-scale manifestations all the way down to the smallest in a hierarchy of repeating structural themes. Currents from intergalactic space thread the galactic disks from rim to axis, forming filaments that sweep up dust and gas to produce the spiral arms. Stars are formed along the filaments like strings of beads in a scaled-down version of the same self-pinching process. And at the next level down from stars, we find planetary systems.
The generally promoted explanation of planet formation is that they and their parent star condense out of the same spinning gaseous nebula as it contracts. However, this model has some severe problems. For one thing, it has been shown that the clumping of matter postulated as being the first step toward producing a planet couldn't happen in a system like our own, inside the orbit of Jupiter. Its gravitational effects would keep such material distributed around an inner orbit, as is indeed the case with the Asteroids. And even if precursor clumps did somehow form, simulations consistently show them as rapidly dispersing rather than consolidating.
To conserve angular momentum, the material in such a contracting disk would need to rotate faster as it fell nearer the center, producing a centrifugal force that would oppose the contraction. Again, calculations and simulation show that these forces would balance long before a density capable of inducing stellar ignition was reached, making problematical how the central star could form at all. In our Solar System 98% of the angular momentum is carried by the planets. The gravitational model offers no mechanism by which angular momentum could have become concentrated out there to allow the Sun to collapse--nor really any real explanation of where it originated from in the first place, since the net angular momentum of a randomly swirling diffuse cloud should be small.
Finally, images like those of the Orion nebula recently captured by the Hubble Telescope show newly born stars moving away rapidly from the stellar nursery regions. Such motion is consistent with their being the result of energetic electrical events but is difficult to account for on the basis of isolated clouds self-collapsing under gravitation. In the electrical theory, planets form from plasma jets ejected as a result of instabilities in stars. This could sometimes constitute a multi-stage process in which smaller planets are born from primary gas giants. Again, the phenomenon of axial jets is a common feature of plasma structures, assuming spectacular dimensions in the enormous galactic jets that produce intense sources of radio energy. The problem of how planetary concentrations of matter could have come about under self-gravity doesn't arise, and current flow through the intervening plasma provides a ready means of transferring angular momentum outward. Hence, the planets arise naturally the way we see them, and the Sun has a way of condensing and compressing to become what everyone knows it to be. . . .
Except that not all of the theorists involved with developing the electric model of the universe over the last thirty years or so are convinced that the Sun really is what "everyone knows" it to be.
AN ELECTRIC SUN
Since we've come this far in questioning today's generally accepted cosmology, we might as well go the whole hog and look at some of the reasons for thinking that the Sun--and all the other stars--might not, in fact, be what we've always been told they are at all.
The standard model of the Sun traces back to the work of Sir Arthur Eddington in the 1920s, which was based on maintaining an equilibrium between the compression of a gaseous sphere under gravity, and an expansive force due to an interior heat source. What kind of source could maintain a prodigious enough output of energy to sustain the mass of the Sun at the size observed remained an unanswered question. In the following decade, studies of nuclear physics established the mechanism whereby hydrogen nuclei (protons), given sufficient energy, can fuse together to form helium atoms in a process that yields significantly more energy per reaction than even that obtained from uranium fission. The Sun was known to consist predominantly of hydrogen, and so the story recounted in all the textbooks today took shape, of the Sun being powered by thermonuclear reactions deep in the core, ignited by heat generated through gravitational compression. All observational data is then interpreted in terms of this assumption.
Although accepted practically universally as beyond question, the model does have problems. For a start, the density calculated for the center of the present-day Sun is about a hundred times too low to ignite a thermonuclear process. Hence, the creation of a star from a collapsing cloud of the Sun's present mass would seem to be ruled out. At the calculated temperature of thirteen million degrees K, the protons would possess insufficient thermal energy to overcome the mutual repulsion of their positive charges, as would be necessary for them to get close enough to fuse.
The response is to invoke quantum mechanical tunneling, which is the curious ability of quantum objects like protons to occasionally "tunnel" through energy barriers that they don't possess enough energy to climb over. It would be as if a marble rolling around in a soup dish without the momentum to make it to the rim were suddenly to appear outside. Such tunneling permits fusion only when the protons approach head-on, which occurs in a minuscule proportion of collisions. The entire process postulated to occur does so under conditions that are far beyond laboratory experience, and involves approximations unjustified by anything but a need for mathematical simplification. Undaunted, the majority of theorists, seeing no alternative to fusion, conclude that since the thermonuclear Sun obviously did ignite, the requisite temperature must exist.
According to the model, the hydrogen gas gravitates into layers of ever increasing density and temperature inward from the Sun's surface to its center. The 1970s brought the first reports of the entire solar surface being observed to expand and contract rhythmically through an amplitude of about 10 km, with a period of 2 hours, 40 minutes. On the basis of the simplest interpretation that this represented a purely radial pulsation, this periodicity is almost precisely what would be expected if the Sun were a homogeneous sphere having equal density ("isodense") throughout--like the air in a balloon. The conventional model predicts a natural period of about an hour, corresponding to a steep density rise in the interior. The difference may sound trivial to some, but the short answer is that an such an isodense Sun is incompatible with a thermonuclear engine at the center--the core would be too cool. Suggestions followed that perhaps the pulsations were not pure radial motions but higher harmonics of some more fundamental gravity wave, but they were not enthusiastically received. That this was pure fudging to preserve the theory was obvious, and it seemed strange that a high harmonic should be dominant. The other response from the mainstream school was to ignore it.
The net energy-producing reaction in the standard model is known as the proton-proton, or P-P reaction. It converts four protons plus two electrons into a helium nucleus (consisting of two protons and two neutrons), two neutrinos, and six photons. Since the Sun's photosphere--the white-hot sphere of light that we see--and the underlying layers enveloping the core are opaque, the photons would have to percolate to the surface through countless absorptions and re-emissions by matter in a process estimated to take 100,000 years or more. Sixty percent of the energy from the P-P reaction is carried away by the neutrinos, theorized as tiny massless particles which in contrast to the photons do not interact appreciably with matter and escape from the Sun at the speed of light. The thermonuclear model has the Sun producing around 1.8 x 1038 neutrinos per second, of which, at the distance of the Earth, 400 trillion would pass through a human body (giving some idea of how big a number 1038 is).
Neutrinos react so weakly with matter that this has no affect on us at all. However, suitably designed devices can register neutrinos produced artificially in nuclear reactors, and in 1965 a system located two miles underground in a South African mine (to screen out other particles from extraneous sources) detected neutrinos created by cosmic ray reactions in the upper atmosphere. This offered a unique means of verifying the otherwise invisible thermonuclear processes believed to be taking place deep in the Sun, and thus of testing the model.
The basic P-P reaction produces relatively low-energy neutrinos not amenable to detection by earlier instrumentation. However, the model implied that a further but rarer side reaction forming a beryllium nucleus should occur, that also produces a higher-energy neutrino. Accordingly, a detector designed specifically to look for high-energy solar neutrinos was constructed in the Homestake Gold Mine at Lead, South Dakota, and went into operation in 1967. It was followed in the 1980s by similar but more sensitive experiments at Kamiokade in Japan. By the 1990s, devices were being built to detect lower-energy P-P neutrinos also.
The results were devastating for the standard theory. Low-energy counts were so low that the experimental uncertainties made reliable interpretation impossible, while the counts at high energy remained obstinately at around a third of what was expected. Attempts were made to invoke a hypothetical particle dubbed the WIMP (Weakly Interacting Massive Particle) to cool the solar core, causing it to produce fewer neutrinos, but since its existence had never been actually demonstrated, and the sole motivation for wheeling it in was to save the theory, few found the approach satisfying.
The zoo of elementary particles admits three "flavors" of neutrino, known as "electron" (ε), "muon" (μ), and "tau" (τ) types. If the neutrino were allowed to possess a tiny amount of mass after all, the probabilistic nature of the physics said it would be possible for them to interconvert, one to another. At lower energies the ε type has a means of interacting with mass that depends on electron density and which isn't available to the μ and τ types. Diligent study of the equations yielded the intriguing possibility that in their passage through the dense interior of the Sun, some of the ε types could be changing into μ types, which would explain why detectors looking for ε types weren't finding as many as they should.
Homestake could detect only ε, while Kamiokade could detect ε and some μ. Cosmic rays bombarding the upper atmosphere produce μ neutrinos, which would add to the flux of μ types arriving after conversion from the Sun. The conversion rate was expected to fluctuate from day to night, since the intervention of the Earth's mass between a detector on the night side and the solar source would add to the conversion rate. But no such effect was found. The solution proposed was that μ neutrinos traversing the Earth's core converted in τ types, which the detectors couldn't see. But the overall deficiency of low-energy ε types still persisted. To answer this, a new proposal was advanced that ε neutrinos are able to change states in a vacuum to become τ neutrinos.
Thus, while ε type neutrinos require electron interaction in the dense interior of the Sun to turn into μ types, they can become τ types in empty space--and hence undetectable; but μ types achieve the same result inside the Earth's core. And so was theory squared with observation. But a huge amount of effort had been expended over 30 years, many flags of reputation and prestige had been nailed to the resulting mast, and few were comfortable.
Then, in 2001, preliminary results from the newly built Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO) in Ontario, the first to be capable of detecting all three neutrino types, brought jubilant proclamations that all was well after all. According to Physics World in July, the "Solar neutrino puzzle is solved," and "confirms that our understanding of the Sun is correct." The piece continued "The results confirm that electron neutrinos produced by nuclear reactions inside the Sun 'oscillate' or change flavour on their journey to Earth." Another article asserted, "The SNO detector has the capability to determine whether solar neutrinos are changing their type en-route to Earth . . ." 5
The first thing that should be noted here is that no results based solely on Earth-based measurements can determine whether or not anything changed en-route. If a train from New York arrives in Chicago made up of, say, 20 box cars, 10 flat cars, and 5 tank cars, no amount of sophistication or statistical juggling can establish whether changes were made at stops in between if the numbers that left New York are not known. But the claim captures the general tenor of the announcements widespread at the time and generally accepted since. However, in view of the enormous investment of material and psychic interests over 30 years, and the degree of desperation already evidenced in a determination to preserve the theory by any means, it seems that some caution might be in order here, along with a deeper look at exactly what is being claimed.
The assertion of being able to determine that flavors changed en route was based on an assumption that the μ neutrino deficit registered at Kamiokade indicated a vanishing of μ types that had been present to start with, and that they could only be accounted for by the τ types detected by SNO. There seems to be a strong element of knowing what the answer has to be, at work here. Suppose that, based on figures for New York's throughput of commerce, I've formed a model of the kind of train that I think should be put together to handle it; but I've never been able to see what actually leaves New York. Also, I have a theory that flat cars can turn into tank cars. Nobody would disagree that a mixed train arriving in Chicago with fewer flat cars than I expected is consistent with my ideas. But it can't be taken as proving them. The presence of tank cars in the train is no guarantee that any of them transformed from flat cars.
Three different reactions were used in the SNO experiment: Charged Current reaction (CC), sensitive only to ε neutrinos; Neutral Current (NC), sensitive to all (ε, μ, τ); and Elastic Scattering (ES), sensitive to all, but with reduced sensitivity to μ and τ. If total neutrino flux was the prime issue of interest, the NC experiment would be the most important one. However, at the time of the announcement that measurement was stated as being not available, to be reported at a later date. As far as I'm aware, that's still the situation. Despite the heavy public relations treatment, my inclination is that the jury is still out on this one. And even if final numbers should be presented that are consistent with the standard theory, once again a conclusion can't be taken as proof of the premise. (If it rains, the lawn will be wet. But a wet lawn isn't proof that it rained.) Other causes can produce similar end results, as we shall see. And the other difficulties with the standard thermonuclear model still remain.
Another problem concerns the Sun's photosphere--the first layer outward from the interior that we see, that gives off practically all the radiant energy that we think of as sunshine. If the Sun were indeed in a condition of mechanical equilibrium maintained to sustain the dissipation of internally generated thermal energy, then it might well be expected to "end" right there. The mechanism gives no obvious cause for anything more to happen beyond the photosphere, and unimpeded radiation into space would probably afford the best means for getting rid of the photons finally emerging at the surface. Yet the photosphere forms merely the base of an atmosphere extending for enormous distances and exhibiting astonishing complexity.
Perhaps the most striking feature of the photosphere is its lumpy "rice grain" structure. Instead of being uniformly bright as might be expected, the surface appears as made up of millions of high-luminosity granules of hot plasma in a background of lesser luminosity forming a network between them--the effect being like looking down on closely packed fluffy clouds. The granules average about 1000 kilometers in diameter and come and go, splitting and merging, with lifetimes in the order of minutes. Budding granules sometimes appear to rise from below, pushing aside or replacing older ones; otherwise they show little lateral movement.
The accepted explanation is that the granules are the tops of convection current cells, which provide the mechanism for conveying heat from its origins deep in the Sun, through the opaque interior to the surface, where it is radiated away. The cooled material then descends back between the rising columns, losing brilliance and appearing darker in comparison. Although seemingly consistent and straightforward, this view has the problem that at the temperatures and densities involved, the motion expected would be violently turbulent and chaotic. This is in stark contrast to the orderly pattern actually observed, with its structure and symmetry, where each granule seems to fulfill a localized function constrained by forces that create barriers to lateral motion and diffusion. Another peculiarity is the photosphere's differential rotation, which varies from 25 days at the solar equator to 35 days near the poles. Strong convection currents of the kind proposed should bring about a uniformity of rotation.
It is true that classical studies of convection in fluids can reproduce the structure of rising cells separated by descending flows said to be responsible for solar granularity. But assuming the validity of terrestrial laboratory physics under the conditions at the solar surface seems questionable, especially when no account is taken of the plasma's electrical nature. If such an assumption is granted, applying it then fails by its own criteria. A quantity known as the Reynolds Number, combining several physical parameters, exhibits a critical value beyond which ordered motion gives way to highly complex turbulence that precludes orderly flows. Analysis of data from the photosphere points to a Reynolds Number greater than critical by a factor of 100 billion. This discrepancy is not trivial. Similarly, the critical value of a quantity designated the Rayleigh Number, specifically devised as a criterion for the formation of convection cells, is exceeded by a factor of 100,000. And even if structured convection does exist in the Sun's depths, chaotic motion should still characterize the uppermost layer of the photosphere that we see, where gas density diminishes rapidly with height and both the Reynolds and Raleigh Numbers soar. It seems that the granulations can be explained by convection only by disregarding everything that is known about convection.
Conventional theory would predict an atmosphere above the photosphere only a few kilometers thick. Actually found, however, is the chromosphere, an extraordinarily active region whose reddish glow is visible during solar eclipses. The inner chromosphere is ravaged by enormous, short-lived jets of material called somewhat belittlingly "spicules," measuring hundreds of kilometers in diameter and towering thousands high. Above those are found the even greater twisting arcs of "prominences," and locally disruptive explosive solar "flares" that can extend over 20,000 kilometers.
The temperature of the chromosphere rises sharply with altitude. Beyond it lies the corona, an envelope of hot, rarified gas reaching to an indefinite distance among the planets. The lower parts show a faint emission spectrum (excited atoms releasing excess energy), consistent with light scattered by electrons moving in a temperature of one to two million degrees K. Higher parts of the corona show the absorption spectra of background sunlight scattered by intervening atomic particles, along with emission lines indicating the presence of very hot, tenuous gas. The corona behaves like an expanding gas, too hot to be bound by gravity to the Sun. It provides the source of the "solar wind" of particles, primarily protons, flowing outward through the Solar System into interstellar space. A curiosity is that the solar wind accelerates as it moves away from the sun, whereas evaporated protons ought, by normal considerations, to be retarded by the Sun's gravity.
From the postulated heat source in the Sun's center, the temperature falls steeply toward the photosphere, forming the gradient along which energy flows outward. At the same time, the temperature in the atmosphere falls steeply in the opposite direction, the two gradients producing a trough of 6,000-4,000o K (granule or intervening space) at the photosphere. By basic physics, thermal energy should be trapped at this minimum until the trough is eliminated. Here we have another curiosity, this time fundamental. But it doesn't appear to have perturbed anyone overly. Since it's known that the energy source has to be inside the Sun, the gradients must sustain themselves somehow.
Earlier, when talking about Arthur Eddington's model of a self-gravitating ball of gas, we said that an internal source for the Sun's heat had to be presumed, since the astronomy of the times (and still, largely, that seen today) was essentially a science of isolated bodies interacting only through gravity. But we've already suggested an alternative picture of the whole universe as an interconnected power grid in which enormous energies represented by charge separation on a cosmic scale are conveyed by electric currents flowing between and through galaxies, down to the level of driving the processes that create their constituent star systems. Electric fields are potentially (another unintended pun) the biggest store of energy in the universe. That being so, a further question that presents itself is: Might the same source not power those stars too? In short, let's admit the ultimate heresy and consider that perhaps stars aren't driven by thermonuclear engines deep in their interiors at all.
I confess that when I first came across this theory some years ago, my first inclination was to dismiss it as preposterous. Everybody knows that the Sun is an enormous hydrogen bomb, because every textbook, encyclopedia, and treatise on popular science says so, and we have been able to recite things like "hydrogen-deuterium fusion" since our high-school days. But let's remember that all it really stems from is an authoritative consensus based on pronouncements of fact never actually observed and now known to be erroneous, and acknowledge the degree to which cultural conditioning can take on the appearance of being fact. Once the effort is made to recognize and allow for such preconceptions, the subject starts to become astonishingly intriguing.
A first objection that occurred to me was that if the Sun doesn't have a thermonuclear heat source at its core, what prevents it from collapsing to a smaller size than we see, as the standard gas laws would seem to require? There turns out to be a simple possible answer. The case for fusion reactions involves rarely occurring reaction chains, which in turn require recourse to quantum mechanical tunneling to ignite them. Dispensing with all this eliminates the need for temperatures compatible with thermonuclear fusion, and at the lower temperatures we're now talking about, not a lot of the hydrogen would be ionized. In other words, atoms and molecules will predominate. The strong gravitation that still exists would be sufficient to induce a slight offset of the nucleus of each atom from the center, so that each atom becomes a small electric dipole (a body of net neutral charge, but with its positive and negative components displaced to create local "polarization"). Alignment of these dipoles would result in a radial electric field, causing the highly mobile electrons to diffuse outwards from the Sun's center, leaving behind positively charged ions. The electrical repulsion of these like charges will then oppose the compressive force of gravity without need of a central heat source. Here, perhaps, we have an explanation for the Sun's apparent isodensity as indicated by the observed 2 hour, 40 minute pulsations that violated models where density increases with depth. (It would seem to follow that the stronger the gravity, the more powerful the electrical repulsion to balance it becomes, making it questionable whether neutron stars--and hence black holes, of which they are supposed to be the precursors--could ever happen at all. But that's another can of worms that we'd probably best leave be for the moment.)
What we're considering, then, is that clouds of hydrogen pinched together initially by forces arising from electrical currents in the cosmic plasma filaments become dense enough for self-gravitation to condense them into protostars in pretty much the kind of way that classical theory says. But long before any thermonuclear ignition takes place at the core (if, indeed, it ever could), strong electric fields are created that limit density increase and prevent further collapse. Strong electric fields also attract and focus electric currents--we've already talked about cathode and anode discharges in connection with the arc machining of planetary and other surfaces. So let's take a closer look at discharge phenomena in plasmas.
Plasma discharges evolve through three basic types with increasing electric field strength, or voltage gradient (volts per meter), between the negative cathode and positive anode. Transitions from one type to another can be abrupt, with millivolts separating different regions.
At the low end are "Dark Current" plasmas, which are invisible optically but give off radio frequency emissions. Planetary magnetosphere's are of this type (which we said ought to be called "plasmaspheres"), as is the Sun's "heliopause," extending out past Pluto. Next, as the increasing field strength initiates ionization in the intervening medium, comes the "Corona" or "Glow Discharge" type of plasma seen in fluorescent tubes, phenomena like "Saint Elmo's fire," and planetary auroras. Finally, with avalanche breakdown of the medium under strong fields, "Arc Discharge" as occurs in welding and machining, arc lamps such as those used as searchlights, and which maybe stands as a better candidate to account for much of what's seen around the Solar System than the presently favored impact theory can.
Early studies of plasma discharges tended to concentrate on the cathode region, which, as emitter of the small-mass, high-mobility electrons that carry most of the current, was considered to be where the interesting things happened. (Although electrons move physically from the negative cathode to the positive anode, the current is regarded as flowing from positive to negative. The convention was adopted arbitrarily before the underlying physics was understood, and we're stuck with it.) As a consequence, anode phenomena received relatively little attention for a long time. This was an unfortunate assessment, since discharges can occur without any definable cathode at all. High-voltage, direct-current transmission lines, for example, discharge practically continuously to the surrounding air. In the case of a positive (anode) line, electrons--always present in the atmosphere--are drawn by the positive potential, gaining energy as they accelerate through the electric field and frequently exciting air molecules by collision to produce glow effects. At higher field strengths ionization sets in, freeing more electrons and creating positive ions that drift the other direction in the field. In this way a more or less steady discharge is maintained, although there is nothing other than the surrounding air that plays the role of cathode.
The situation is curiously reminiscent of our electrically positive ball of gravitationally compressed hydrogen, sitting in a sea of electron-rich plasma formed from the same galactic currents that created it. The Sun, in other words, takes on the role of the anode in a local, cosmic-scale, cathodeless discharge. Contrary to what early investigators thought, it turns out that some far-from-uninteresting things happen around anodes, and a lot of the peculiarities that we noted earlier start to make more sense.
The hot--as measured by particle velocities--gases of the corona and the "wind" of protons accelerating away from the Sun behaves as a flux of positive particles ought to in an electric field. The recently reported "anomalies" of space probes in the outer Solar System being slowed down by some mysterious agency could be due to their acquiring a negative charge from the electrons flowing the other way. Such a possibility has apparently not been considered by the research people quoted, who rush into inventing new, unknown forces and exotic unobservable physics.
Figure 1 shows a typical experimental gas discharge tube consisting of cathode and anode electrodes at opposite ends of a sealed, gas-filled, glass vessel. When a voltage is applied, a region of non-fluorescence known as the Faraday Dark Space extends from the cathode for a distance that depends mainly on the gas pressure. Then, at a fairly sharply defined boundary marking where the accelerating electrons have enough energy to excite the gas molecules, the "Positive Column," or "Glow Discharge" region begins, and extends to the anode. In a commercial fluorescent tube the design parameters are arranged to minimize the dark space at the cathode, so that the glow fills virtually the entire length. The reddish glow of the Sun's chromosphere, closer in where the converging field lines create an intensifying field, is strongly suggestive of a glow discharge region. This is also consistent with the appearance of "red giant" stars, where a chromosphere viewed from afar would give a bloated appearance if the supply current were sufficiently low for nothing more spectacular to be happening inside.
To maintain a steady discharge, the anode must collect an uninterrupted stream of sufficient electrons to carry the current--charge moved per unit time--flowing in the full cross-section of the discharge plasma. Particles in the discharge plasma posses two kinds of motion. First are random, or thermal, motions reflected in the measure of internal energy or "temperature," in which the less massive particles move faster. Superposed upon these is a steady drift current imposed by the electric field, comprising the combined effects of electrons impelled toward the anode and ions toward the cathode. The random motions of the fast-moving electrons are typically much more energetic than their drift motions and create complications for the anode trying to maintain a stable discharge.
If the anode were in direct contact with the plasma, its fixed size would render it incapable of adjusting to fluctuations. For example, a random current adding to the drift current in such a way as to exceed the current that the discharge was capable of sustaining would result in an instability needing to correct itself. It does so by physically disengaging the anode from the plasma. By initially accepting an excess of electrons that repels lower-energy electrons from the immediate vicinity, the anode creates a thin charge-separation sheath above itself, of the kind we met before. The outer boundary of the sheath becomes the effective anode surface, but since it is a dynamic structure, it is able to alter its size to present a varying surface area. In other words, it adjusts its current density to the level needed for collecting the total electric current, enlarging itself if need be to "reach out" into the plasma to collect more electrons.
As the sheath expands, its associated electric field (arising from the separation of charges) grows stronger, accelerating electrons to greater energies and intensifying the discharge glow in the anode vicinity. But this can only be taken so far. Beyond a certain point, further current increase cannot be handled by increasing the sheath's area. It wouldn't do much good in any case, since a limit is reached where all the collectible plasma electrons are being swept up by the anode anyway. So at this point a different mechanism takes over. When ionization becomes appreciable, the sheath itself breaks down to initiate a new mode of anode burning. Suddenly, at one or more localized points of intensified activity, small "tufts" of secondary plasma spring into being, forming highly luminous nodules within the anode glow region. These high-temperature regions yield a copious supply of positive ions that are swept away in the opposite direction to augment the current of the incoming electrons. A condition for tufting to occur is a gas density great enough to support a sufficiently high rate of ionizing collisions.
It should be clear by now that the suggestion here is that what we're seeing when we look at the Sun's photosphere is the anode plasma of a cosmic electrical discharge, with tufting showing itself as the bright granulated structure and providing the protons that supply the solar wind. Eventually the accumulation of excess electrons reduces the tuft potential to a level where de-ionization sets in, and the tuft simply dies away to be replaced by a newly budding one, in keeping with the pattern observed. The radiated energy comes primarily from the tufts. It is delivered by electrons accelerated from interstellar space, which calculation indicate would achieve relativistic velocities in the voltage drop near the solar anode. The system acts, in effect, like a local step-down transformer of the power distribution grid, converting lethal cosmic supply-line energies to forms of radiation more conducive to supporting life.
Prominences and other dynamic structures are consistent with the behavior of plasmas in a complex external electrical environment. Magnetic effects follow naturally from the currents involved, without recourse to fields "frozen" into plasmas--never observed in laboratories--field lines "breaking" and "reconnecting," whatever that means (they are abstract concepts, not physical realities), and other fanciful theoretical notions introduced to relate them to dynamo-like processes hypothesized to take place in the solar interior. The differential rotation of the Sun's surface layers, whereby the equatorial zone moves fastest, testifies to a driving force applied from the outside. It's a motor, not a generator.
The appearance of the dark blotches called sunspots would indicate areas of reduced current density, where tufting isn't needed and temporarily shuts down, providing glimpses of the true "anode" surface. That it is darker than the surrounding granulated photosphere favors the suggestion that the radiant energy is being generated at the photosphere, not coming up from below. It implies the impinging of some kind of filamentary currents on the surface. A possible cause is the interception of part of the incoming electron flux by the magnetospheres of the planets. Is it mere coincidence that the basic 11-year sunspot cycle corresponds to the orbital period of Jupiter? Further analysis of solar activity shows a 170-180 year repetition of sunspot cycle intensity that has been linked to recurring lineups of planets but conventionally conjectured to be a tidal effect. It is also possible that the pattern could reflect the Sun's passing through regions of filamentary structures traversing space.
The "Fraunhofer spectrum" from the cooler region at the base of the Sun's atmosphere contains over 27,000 dark spectral lines, which remove about 9% of the energy from the background sunlight and indicate the presence of 68 of the 92 naturally occurring chemical elements. No standard model has ever been able to explain even the gross characteristics of this spectrum. Elements heavier than iron cannot be formed by the fusion reactions said to be going on at the Sun's core, and the usual solution is to have them manufactured in the supernova explosions of an earlier generation of stars, out of the debris from which a second generation of stars including the Sun was then formed. However, supernovas are processes that violently disperse matter, and at the currently observed rate of occurrence they seem too rare to account for the abundance of heavy elements implied.
But gravitationally bound fusion plasmas are perhaps the most inefficient way of manufacturing heavy nuclei. The laboratory method of using electric fields to accelerate protons or other light nuclei is much simpler and can make them fuse with just about any element in the Periodic Table. It's practically 1920s vacuum tube technology. You could probably make such a working fusion machine fairly cheaply in your garage. Don't be deterred by the high temperatures that fusion scientists like to talk about to impress people. The unit that researchers use to measure acceleration energy is the "electron-volt," equal to the particle's charge number (one for an electron or proton) multiplied by the voltage it's accelerated through. To equate this figure to degrees Kelvin, multiply by 11,604. Hence, a daunting-sounding 50-million-degree "ignition" temperature is achieved with a paltry 4300 ev. And the nuclear reactions involved in such fusions would be expected to generate all three kinds of neutrinos, at all kinds of energies.
What we're suggesting, then, is that the elements are made right there in the Sun's photosphere, where we see them. And the mix of neutrinos that's measured is what's produced, without any sleight of hand and statistical legerdemain to derive what is from what we think ought to be.
It would be in order at this point to mention another strange thing about neutrinos, too. There seems to be an undeniable correlation between the neutrino count rates reported by the various experiments, and solar activity as indicated by sunspots and solar wind. The standard model attributes the neutrino flux to events deep in the interior that by every other means need tens of thousands of years to emerge tangibly, and has no explanation for how they can affect or be affected by events taking place at the surface. But if element synthesis is in fact a result of the external electrical environment, it follows that the neutrino by-products of that synthesis should vary with other factors that are also dependent on the same electrical activity.
THE CELESTIAL ARC-LIGHT SHOW
What we've said about the Sun obviously applies to other stars too, which means that the whole generally believed picture of stellar types and how they evolve is thrown into question. So does the revised view of the universe as an essentially electrical manifestation offer an alternative way of interpreting what's observed? Well, let's take a look at it.
Figure 2 shows the Hertzsprung-Russell (H-R) Diagram, which dates from the first decade of the twentieth century and will be familiar to any reader of basic astronomy. It shows the empirical relation found between the temperature, or spectral class, of stars, and their intrinsic luminosity. Hence, it is a plot of actual observations, not something deduced from a theory, so any viable model of stellar behavior must be consistent with it. Spectral class, defined by color, is plotted horizontally, ranging from hottest at the left to coolest at the right. The vertical scale is labeled both with Absolute Magnitude, a measure of the actual luminosity of a star that takes into account its distance from the Earth (determined from its parallax, the apparent displacement seen from different positions as the Earth orbits the Sun); or alternatively Luminosity, the total amount of radiation emitted, expressed at a multiple of that of the Sun. The Sun, being a fairly typical star, falls near the center of the diagram, with Luminosity = 1, Absolute Magnitude = 5, Spectral Class G, and (photospheric) Temp. = 6,000o K.
The conventional interpretation, premised on the assumption that stars are driven by Hydrogen-Helium fusion, is that they evolve through various stages of burning as they use up their fuel, in the process slowly migrating from one part of the H-R diagram to another over spans of hundreds of thousands of years. Initially, a cloud of gas and dust coalesces under gravitation, and when thermonuclear ignition is reached, takes its place in the Main Sequence, where it enters the major portion of its stable life. This is where the majority of stars are found. Eventually, the helium "ash" accumulating at the core necessitates internal structural readjustment for burning to continue. This results in expansion and an increase in luminosity, taking the star into its Giant phase. Its time here is typically much shorter than on the Main Sequence and lasts until the helium core collapses under its own weight. This initiates higher temperatures, which enable first the helium itself to begin burning into heavier elements, and then, in turn, carbon, oxygen, and so through to iron. As mentioned earlier, elements beyond iron can't be produced by regular thermonuclear fusion.
What happens finally depends on the star's original mass. As the thermonuclear burning process ends, gravitational collapse resumes, transforming the majority of stars into white dwarfs, which eventually die and stabilize as black dwarfs. In more massive stars, however, ordinary matter is unable to resist continuing collapse, and breaks down structurally into super-dense forms, yielding such exotic objects as neutron stars and black holes. Since humans have not been around long enough to actually observe any of these slow migrations, this part of the conventionally accepted picture remains a theoretical construct.
In the electrical star model that we have been discussing, the most important variable is current density (amperes per square meter) at the effective anode surface--the photosphere. As current density increases, the arc discharges (anode tufts, granules) get hotter, change color from red toward blue, and grow brighter. So let's add Surface Current Density as an additional axis across the bottom, increasing from right to left.
On the lower right of the diagram, the current density is so low that the secondary plasma tufting that produces arcs is not needed. This is the region where we find the brown and red dwarf stars and giant gas planets, and larger cool stars characterized by their visible chromospheric glow. The plasma is in the low-intensity anode glow range, or in the case of a large gas planet, the "dark current" radio-emitting range. (The Establishment were outraged when Velikovsky's prediction that Jupiter should show radio emissions, which they had ridiculed, turned out to be correct.)
Moving leftward and upward brings us to a region where some arc tufting becomes necessary to carry the discharge current. We mentioned that this is a dynamic structure, able to adjust to fluctuating conditions. The discovery of an X-ray flare being emitted by a brown dwarf (spectral class M9, very cool) by the Chandra orbiting X-ray telescope posed a problem for the fusion model, since a star that cool shouldn't produce X-ray flares. But the appearance of an anode tuft in response to a slight change in total current is a normal feature of the electrical explanation. A strong electrical field is associated with the tuft shield region, and strong electric fields are the easiest way to produce X-rays.
With increasing current density, arcing covers more of the star's surface. Plasma arcs are extremely bright compared to plasma in its normal glow range, and luminosity increases sharply, consistent with the steepness of the main H-R band curve in this region. Not long ago, NASA reported the discovery of a star with half its surface "covered by a sunspot." This corresponds to a star where half the surface area comprises photospheric arcing. It could be viewed as a link in the continuum from gas giant planets and brown dwarfs to fully tufted stars.
Stars beyond the "knee of the curve" have fully tufted (granulated) photospheres. These get brighter with increasing current density but without adding significantly to the tufted area, and so luminosity grows less rapidly--winding up the current of existing arcs, but no longer adding more arcs. [Note: The progression from right to left is not following the evolution of one star in time, in the manner of the conventional interpretation. We are simply cataloging the different appearances of different stars, depending on their electrical environment and size--like the displays of different villages, towns, and cities seen from the air at night.]
At the upper left end of the Main Sequence lies the region of hot, blue-white, O types, with surface temperatures of 35,000o K and more. Stars here are under extreme electrical stress--at the limit of the current density they can absorb. The suggestion here is that extreme electrical stress can lead to a star's increasing its available area by fissioning into parts, perhaps explosively. Such explosions constitute what are called novas.
Recall what we said earlier about internal electrical repulsive forces opposing gravitational collapse and creating a star of uniform density rather than a self-compressing mass growing enormously dense toward the core. Such a uniform density maintained by repulsive internal forces would facilitate fissioning under unstable conditions. The drop in current density accompanying the increase in surface area would now indeed shift both the resultant bodies to new positions rightward on the H-R diagram. For resultant stars of equal size, the current density on each would reduce to 80% of its previous value. If the objects were of different size, the larger would have the larger current density--though still less than the original value. Current density on the smaller member of the pair might fall to a sufficiently low value to turn arc tufting off, dropping it back abruptly to brown dwarf or even giant planet status.
This would explain why it is so common for stars to have partners, and why so many of the gas giants detected in nearby systems appear to orbit unexpectedly close to their parent star. It could also explain why excessively large stars are not observed--there's no reason why clouds contracting purely under gravity shouldn't be any size. In place of the elaborate mechanisms devised to explain variable stars, we have a periodic discharge between companion objects, followed by buildup back to some trigger level--much like a relaxation oscillator. Electrical instabilities in gas giants could account too for the origin of the inner, "terrestrial" planets, which gives the standard accretion model so many problems. The recent birth of Venus from Jupiter is a much-debated candidate--another notion that Velikovsky was vilified for originating.
And the case here is perhaps not entirely devoid of observational corroboration. Around 1900, the star FG Sagittae was an inconspicuous hot star of temperature 50,000o K and magnitude 13. Over the next 60 years it cooled to about 8000o K and brightened to magnitude 9 as its radiation shifted from the far-UV to the visual region. Then, around 1970, spectral lines appeared of newly present elements--formed by some energetic process or liberated from the interior. The star cooled further in the 1970s and 80s, with a falling of magnitude to 16 in 1996. So, after abruptly brightening by four magnitudes, it dropped by seven magnitudes, changing from blue to yellow since 1955, and today appears as the central star of the planetary nebula (nova remnant?) He 1-5. It is unique in affording direct evidence of stellar evolution across the H-R diagram, but on a time scale comparable with the human lifetime--not at all the kind of slow stellar evolution that the mainstream theory envisions. And FG Sagittae is a binary pair!
Another example. Cosmic gamma-ray bursters have been called "the greatest mystery of modern astronomy." 6 They are powerful blasts of gamma- and X-radiation that come from all parts of the sky, but never from the same direction twice. Earth is illuminated by 2 to 3 bursts every day. Until recently it wasn't even known if they came from relatively close by or from the far edge of the universe. Then in 1997 the BeppoSAX X-ray astronomy satellite pinpointed the position of a burst in Orion to within a few arc minutes, allowing visual imaging of the burst. It showed a rapidly fading star, probably the aftermath of a gigantic explosion, next to a faint amorphous blob. Sounds a bit like fissioning again to me--an explosion, followed by a rapidly fading star, accompanied by some sort of companion. Maybe the reason why they never come from the same direction twice is that the process has relieved the electrical stress that triggered it--at least for the time being. Not so mysterious, really.
THE END IS NIGH?
Mainstream astronomy considers O-type stars to be young, and that they age due to the nuclear burning up of their hydrogen. The electrical model has no reason to attribute a greater or lesser age to any spectral type compared to another. A star's location on the H-R diagram depends only on its size and the current density that it is at present experiencing. If that current density should change for any reason, the star will move to a different position on the H-R diagram--perhaps abruptly, like FG Sagittae.
Its age is indeterminate from its mass or spectral type. This carries the sobering implication that our own Sun's future is by no means as certain as mainstream astronomy assures. The Birkeland current powering it could increase or decrease suddenly, and do so at any time. Surely we have stuff for the making of some great science-fiction doomsday scenarios here!
- For a discussion of this see Robert W. Bass, 1976, "'Proofs' of the Stability of the Solar System," Kronos 2:2, Kronos Press, Glassboro, NJ
- Arp, 1987, Quasars, Redshifts, and Controversies, Interstellar Media, Berkeley, CA; Arp, 1998, Seeing Red: Redshifts, Cosmology, and Academic Science, Apieron, Montreal, Quebec.
- Eddington, 1926, The Internal Constitution of the Stars, Dover edition 1959