Magnetic Reconnection – Reinventing the Wheel
One outstanding characteristic of our modern technological world
is the use of ‘standard modules’. For example, suppose you are
asked to set up the appointment schedule and billing procedure for
a law firm or a doctor’s office. What you need, of course, is a
‘database’ program. There are many good ones available for purchase
on the software market. After you buy one and learn how to use it,
you can spend your time productively adding and updating clients
names and information to this database. It would be wasteful of
time and effort to try to construct this entire computer program
from scratch using, say, Visual Basic, or some other low-level
programming language. Just buy it and add information to it – the
hard work of creating the structure of almost any generic data base
has already been done.
Similarly if you want to design and build some type of machine
tool such as a drill press or table saw, it would be foolish to
first build from scratch the electric motor that the device will
use. There are many excellent quality electric motors of all
sizes and speeds available to you from manufacturers that do
nothing but build electric motors. In other words – Don’t
‘reinvent the wheel’.
Doing something unnecessarily from scratch when a major component
or module of your design is already available to you ‘off the shelf’
is foolishly counterproductive. The only reason someone might do
such a thing is if he were unaware of the work others have already
done to produce exactly what he needs.
In other words the problem is caused by ignorance. The word
‘ignorance’ as used here is not inherently derogatory; it simply
implies the absence of certain knowledge. However, the
reason for this lack of knowledge is usually
different in each case. And this reason
may indeed deserve our critical evaluation.
It is widely believed that the wheel was invented in Mesopotamia
about 7000 years ago. There may have been an independent discovery
of the wheel in China around 6800 years ago. (Despite its overwhelming
utility, many major cultures failed to discover it – the wheel did
not appear in sub-Saharan Africa, Australia, or the Americas until
comparatively recent times.) The reason (for the reinvention) in
this case was that there was no known communication between the
Chinese and Mesopotamian civilizations at that time. The Chinese
had no way of knowing about the original invention.
In the case of the observed release of energy from a magnetic field,
astrophysicists have no excuse for their ‘reinvention’ of the
scientific physical explanation of this process. They cannot
credibly claim that nobody has studied this phenomenon.
Starting in 1820 with Hans Christian Øersted’s discovery that
magnetic fields were caused by electric currents, and progressing
through the next century and a half of experimentally verified
electrical science, the pioneers of what is now called electrical
plasma, have already discovered, quantified, and explained this
process in detail.
Hannes Alfvén was an electrical engineer who struggled to
understand and eliminate the destructive explosions that occurred on
high voltage transmission lines in his native Sweden. He determined
that the energy being released so calamitously was originally stored
in the magnetic fields that surround the electrical currents being
transmitted along the lines. Any abrupt interruption of those currents
leads to an explosive energy release. He said:
"In the case of the instability leading to the extinction of
the current, it should be remembered that every electric circuit is
explosive in the sense that if we try to disrupt the current, a
release of the whole inductive energy at the point of disruption
will occur." - H. Alfvén,
Cosmic Plasma, Reidel, Holland, Boston, 1981, p.27.
Alfvén extrapolated his findings about terrestrial power
lines to the study of magnetized cosmic plasma. In the case of the
disruption of an electric current within such a plasma, he said,
“If the current disruption is caused by an instability in
the plasma, the inductive energy in the circuit will be released in
the plasma. … The disruption of a current through a plasma is often
caused by a double layer becoming unstable.”
Astrophysicists ignore Alfvén’s work. They attempt to arrive
at a de novo explanation for the release of such energy by
embracing the notion that the motion and interaction of magnetic field
lines is its root cause. They expound on the (basically false) idea
that magnetic fields are ‘frozen into’ plasma, and by moving and
breaking, these lines carry the plasma along and spew it out into space.
Alfvén ridiculed this explanation by saying,
magnetic field line is by definition a line which is everywhere
parallel to the magnetic field. If the current system changes, the
shape of the magnetic field line changes but it is
meaningless to speak about a translational movement of magnetic
field lines.” - Alfvén, op cit,
p.12.(Emphasis in original) Despite his warnings about this,
astrophysicists persist in the notion that moving and interacting
magnetic field lines – independent of any electrical current
causality – produce the release of energy and plasma during solar
flares. They have named this process ‘
The standard explanation of reconnection is that magnetic field
lines move and eventually come together
(‘short-circuit’) at some point. There they change their structure
(reconnect) and move apart. But magnetic
field lines as such cannot move or touch each other. A compounding
error is made in assuming that plasma is ‘attached’ to those lines
and will be bulk transported by this movement of the lines. So in
coming up with this novel hypothesis they have reinvented the
wheel. But not only is this hypothesis an unnecessary ‘reinvention’,
it is based on erroneous concepts and has no clarifying value.
Hannes Alfvén was explicit in his condemnation of
the reconnecting concept:
"Of course there can be no magnetic merging energy transfer.
Despite.. this, we have witnessed at the same time an enormously
voluminous formalism building up based on this obviously erroneous
I was naïve enough to believe that [magnetic reconnection] 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: ‘merging’ … 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 part of
the published papers are science and part pseudoscience, perhaps
even with a majority in the latter group."
They have reinvented the wheel and done a bad job of it. If you
are going to come up with an alternative explanation for
something – at least get one that is defensible scientifically.
If we look closely at the reason for
this reinvention, it becomes clear that, having adamantly refused
to acknowledge the effects (let alone the existence) of electric
currents in space, astrophysicists had
to come up with an explanation that avoided mentioning them.
Moreover, in giving this explanation a catchy name –
“reconnection” – that appears repetitively, they can
avoid restating the details of their invented explanation each
time they use it and thus avoid having to defend it. We hear
“Oh, that is an example of
reconnection.” “Yes, another effect of the
reconnection process.” Etc., ad nauseum.
In the law, a well known principle is that ‘Ignorance of the law
is no defense.’ Similarly in science, intentional ignorance of
the work of an entire academy of scholars and researchers that
has applicability to the area in which you are involved, is
evidence of either incompetence or a lack of ethical behavior.
There can be no excuse for astrophysicists ignoring the
work of investigators such as Nobel laureates Hannes
Alfvén and Irving Langmuir.
In addition to his fundamental discoveries, Alfvén made
numerous important contributions to the physics of the magnetosphere,
especially auroras and magnetic storms, as well as to solar and
interplanetary physics, astrophysics and cosmology. His best known
discovery are called Alfvén waves. Hannes Alfvén
realized that the magnetic fields observed in sunspots must derive
from electric currents in the solar plasma, and that the currents
and the magnetic fields together generate forces that affect the
motion of this plasma, which in turn can induce electric fields.
He formulated this mutual interaction and the resulting waves
in mathematical form by 1942. There is no
legitimate excuse for astrophysicists to be unaware of his work.
A more detailed dissection of the ‘reconnection process’ makes up
the last third of a ‘rejoinder’ I wrote that appears
This includes an example of how magnetic field lines can be
misapplied. Also you might be interested in my presentation of
these and other ideas in
The Electric Sky – see chapter 12 Open Magnetic Fields
and Other Fictions. Lastly, for a more quantified description
see my published IEEE paper
Real Properties of Magnetic Fields and Plasma in the Cosmos.
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For an overview of Don Scott's book please visit:
The Electric Sky
Dr. Donald E. Scott is a retired Professor of Electrical Engineering and
long-time amateur astronomer.
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