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Sep 07, 2005
As the Paradigm Shifts

Today, everybody knows that Copernicus' heliocentric solar system replaced Ptolemy's geocentric system, with only a little trouble between Galileo and the Church. The paradigm has shifted.

[Or has it? Astrologers still use Ptolemy's geocentric star charts to cast horoscopes and foretell the future. If success is measured by the dollars they earn, then some are more successful than the astronomers who know where the planets orbit.]

But what did Copernicus' contemporaries think about the paradigm shift that was in progress around them? Owen Gingerich, professor of the history of astronomy at Harvard, spent 30 years researching hundreds of original copies of Copernicus' book, De Revolutionibus. He was looking for the notes their owners had scribbled in the margins. Many of these notes indicated the readers didn't believe that Copernicus was claiming that the Sun was the center of the solar system (or if he was saying that, he must be wrong.) These astronomers thought the heliocentric system was a mathematical trick. The geometry of calculating planetary orbits was easier if you pretended that the sun was at the center even though everyone knew it wasn't. Copernicus' math was being used by astronomers who still believed the Earth was the center of the universe. Is this what a half- shifted paradigm looks like?

Fast-forward to the present paradigm-in-flux. Today we are discovering that the space around us is mostly plasma. First the Earth's plasma field surprised us, then Jupiter's. Most astronomers today will say that the Sun is a ball of hot plasma, but they still haven't realized that this means that electric currents are involved. But they do recognize the magnetic fields (because magnetism is easier to detect than currents)  which exist in complex arrays all over the Sun.

From the standard description of the (above) TRACE ultraviolet image of the sun: "The bright glowing gas flowing around the sunspots has a temperature of over one million degrees Celsius. The reason for the high temperatures is unknown but thought to be related to the rapidly changing magnetic field loops that channel solar plasma." But magnetic fields must also cool the sunspots by blocking the sun's nuclear heat from below. From another sunspot description: "The [sun]spot is thought to be caused by large magnetic fields that inhibit hot matter from flowing to the surface."

In an electric universe, the heat is an expected side-effect of the electric currents which induced the magnetic fields. And the cooling isn't needed at all, because the electric phenomena of the Sun's surface is all that is needed to heat the sun. The out-of-sight nuclear furnace isn't even there, so there's no need to call upon magnetic forces for blocking the nuclear heat.

Hannés Alfvén devoted some of his Noble Prize acceptance speech to begging astronomers not to interpret space plasmas as isolated magnetic interactions. In a few specific cases, called "quiescent plasmas," magnetic energy is equal to electric current, so the electric currents can be ignored. But the Sun is NOT a quiescent plasma. The magnetic fields observed on the sun are induced by powerful electric currents. These electric current, not the magnetic fields, are the cause of the heating that baffles the astronomers. These electric currents can explain not only the high temperatures around sunspots, but also the whole life-cycle of stars.

Plasma cosmologists are like Copernicus, boldly asserting since the late 1800's that the Sun is an electric phenomenon. Astronomers still cling to the belief that you can't get charge separation in space. But that belief will have to crumble as new data erodes it. And eventually the electrically neutral universe will sound as old-fashioned to our ears as the geocentric solar system does today. The paradigm is already shifting.

See: Magnetic Reconnection

For good articles that deal with time and space see:



David Talbott, Wallace Thornhill
Amy Acheson
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