If any of you have taken a class on basic EM theory, you're probably well aware of the fact that magnetic fields form as a full continuum. Individual B "line" representations of a field are a gross, and oversimplified representation of an actual magnetic field. The lines just represent the magnetic orientations within the whole field. Magnetic lines have no source, and no sink, no beginning and no end. They are CREATED by the movement of charged particles. They cannot "begin", nor "end" anywhere, nor "disconnect" or "reconnect" to individual B lines. The only way that could happen is if someone found a "monopole". That would allow magnetic lines to actually have sources and sinks, in which case they could begin, end, disconnect and reconnect. Monopoles however are mythical entities and have nothing to do with THIS reality. In this reality only CURRENT has a source and a sink.
So what does the term "magnetic reconnection" actually refer to? It's a term from the field of PLASMA PHYSICS (not basic EM theory).
First of all, let's start with the WIKI definition because it does explain the *PROCESS IN PLASMA* pretty well IMO:
Magnetic reconnection is a physical process in highly conducting plasmas in which the magnetic topology is rearranged and magnetic energy is converted to kinetic energy, thermal energy, and particle acceleration. Magnetic reconnection occurs on timescales intermediate between slow resistive diffusion of the magnetic field and fast Alfvénic timescales.
Magnetic reconnection (according to the mainstream) is a PROCESS that occurs in plasma in which changing magnetic flux energy is converted into particle kinetic energy. The reconnection RATE is based upon the rate of acceleration of charged particles. The other CRITICAL thing to understand is how they calculate that RATE. Note that every single variable relates to the movement of plasma within a current sheet. That's important to understand because that is where Alfven's double layer paper comes in, and essentially explains the same events in terms of double layer particle acceleration.
So how does this process in plasma relate back to the E orientation of physics that was used by Alfven and his peers, and how does it all relate back to Alfven's double layer paper?
Let's start with another definition of the same event from an E orientation:
From Anthony Peratt's book "Physics of the Plasma Universe":
Peratt wrote:1 .5 Electrίcal Discharges in Cosmic Plasma
An electrical discharge is a sudden release of electric or magnetic stored energy. This generally occurs when the electromagnetic stress exceeds some threshold for breakdown that is usually determined by small scale properties of the energy transmission medium. As such, discharges are local phenomena and are usually accompanied by violent prαesses such as rapid heating, ionization, the creation of pinched and filamentary conduction channels, particle acceleration, and the generation of prodigious amounts of electromagnetic radiation. As an example, multi-terawatt pulsed-power generators on earth rely on strong electrical discharges to produce intense particle beams, Χrays, and microωανes . Megajoules of energy are electrically stored in capacitor banks, whose volume may encompass 250 m^3 . This energy is then transferred to a discharge regίοn, located many meters from the source, viα a transmission line.
The discharge region, or load, encompαsses at most a few cubic centimeters of space, and is the site of high-variability, intense, electromagnetic radiatιοη (Figure 1 .2) .On earth, lightning is another example of the discharge mechanism at work where electr-o-static energy is stored in clouds whose volume may be of the order of 3,000 km3. This energy is released in a few cubic meters of the discharge channel.
The aurora is a discharge caused by the bombardment of atoms in the upper atmosphere by 1–20 keV electrons and 200 keV ions spirιlling down the earth's magnetic field lines at high latitudes . Here, the electric field accelerating the charged particles derιves from plasma moving across the earth's dipole magnetic field lines many earth radii into the magnetosphere.
Essentially Peratt's definition of an electrical discharge in plasma is the same as the definition of "magnetic reconnection". They are one and the same "event". Stored magnetic field energy is being CONVERTED into particle kinetic energy. The reconnection process in plasma is nothing more than an electrical discharge in plasma!
How can we verify that? Well, the first thing we need to do is look at the origins of the name and it's early champions. One of those early champions of the "reconnection" process was James Dungey. In fact, in many of his early papers he does in fact USE both terms in relationship to solar events, and even describes the process in terms of a CURRENT coming up the Z axis that "discharges/reconnects" to the X,Y plane.
http://articles.adsabs.harvard.edu//ful ... 5.000.html
http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1 ... 0708521050
In fact they both describe an acceleration process inside a double layer, just as Hannes Alfven did in his double layer paper. They are all describing the acceleration process inside of a double layer.
So why exactly did Alfven reject the term?
Alfven wrote:B. Magnetic Merging — A Pseudo-Science
Since then I have stressed in a large number of papers the danger of using the frozen-in concept. For example, in a paper "Electric Current Structure of the Magnetosphere" (Alfvén, 1975), I made a table showing the difference between the real plasma and "a fictitious medium" called "the pseudo-plasma," the latter having frozen in magnetic field lines moving with the plasma. The most important criticism of the "merging" mechanism of energy transfer is due to Heikkila (1973) who with increasing strength has demonstrated that it is wrong. In spite of all this, we have witnessed at the same time an enormously voluminous formalism building up based on this obviously erroneous concept. Indeed, we have been burdened with a gigantic pseudo-science which penetrates large parts of cosmic plasma physics. The monograph CP treats the field-line reconnection (merging) concept in 1.3, 11.3, and 11.5. We may conclude that anyone who uses the merging concepts states by implication that no double layers exist.
A new epoch in magnetospheric physics was inaugurated by L. Lyons and D. Williams' monograph (1985). They treat magnetospheric phenomena systematically by the particle approach and demonstrate that the fluid dynamic approach gives erroneous results. The error of the latter approach is of a basic character. Of course there can be no magnetic merging energy transfer.
I was naive enough to believe that such a pseudo-science would die by itself in the scientific community, and I concentrated my work on more pleasant problems. To my great surprise the opposite has occurred; the "merging" pseudo-science seems to be increasingly powerful. Magnetospheric physics and solar wind physics today are no doubt in a chaotic state, and a major reason for this is that some of the published papers are science and part pseudoscience, perhaps even with a majority for the latter group.
In those parts of solar physics which do not deal with the interior of the Sun and the dense photospheric region (fields where the frozen-in concept may be valid), the state is even worse. It is difficult to find theoretical papers on the low density regions which are correct. The present state of plasma astrophysics seems to be almost completely isolated from the new concepts of plasma which the in situ measurements on space plasma have made necessary (see Section VIII).
I sincerely hope that the increased interest in the study of double layers — which is fatal to this pseudoscience — will change the situation. Whenever we find a double layer (or any other E ll # 0) we hammer a nail into the coffin of the "merging" pseudo-science.
He rejected it because his double layer paper makes the whole concept UNNECESSARY! Hannes Alfven's double layer paper describes the acceleration process inside of that double layer. It makes the entire "term" obsolete and unnecessary" from his perspective. If you haven't seen MichaelSuede's criticisms of the term/theory, it's well worth checking out, along with the mainstream's reaction to such a public criticism of their sacred cow:
http://www.libertariannews.org/2011/03/ ... onnection/
It's quite clear that what the mainstream is REALLY describing are the double layer interactions in a double layer that forms between two CURRENT CARRYING FILAMENTS. Aflven described coronal loop activity from the E/circuit orientation, whereas the mainstream uses a B orientation exclusively and insists on putting the magnetic cart in from of the electric horse. They are essentially quite ignorant of the role that charge separation plays in coronal loop formation.