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According to “Astronomy Picture of the Day”, May 8, 2001, this illustration depicts
 GRO J1655-40—“a beast that has never been seen directly: a black hole”.
Credit: A. Hobart, CXC


Mar 27, 2006
A Dent in the Space-Time Fabric? (2)
No “Dent”, Just Electricity

Cosmologists assure us that GRO J1655-40 hides a "black hole." But critics suggest that recent discussion of the sporadic x-ray source illustrates the growing "credibility gap" in standard theory.

Last week we reviewed a well-publicized attempt to apply modern cosmological concepts to GRO J1655-40, an enigmatic light source seen in the constellation Scorpius. Periodically, the source emits copious X-rays, before returning to its “normal” quiescence.

We found the chain of reasoning in the scientists’ speculative adventure interesting, and we were not surprised to find that it led to a report given at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society. It can be difficult for readers of such reports to assess their credibility, we suggested, “because the language used by scientific media continually confuses fact and theory”. We offered this perspective:

“The light source in Scorpius is a fact. So are the sporadic X-ray emissions. But it may surprise you to hear that everything else discussed in the report is speculation, unsupported by anything we can actually study in nature: the star running out of fuel, the implosion, the rebound, the imploded star, its “infinite density”, the stellar black hole, the “event horizon”, the companion star, the siphoning of the companion’s gases, the “accretion” disk, X-ray production by accumulating matter, the calculated “spin-rate”, X-ray frequencies linked to orbital motion of gases, and X-ray frequencies linked to “wobbling” of gases due to “spacetime deformation”.

In reports such as the one on GRO J1655-40, how is a reader supposed to identify the boundary between fact and conjecture? The report states—

“A spinning black hole in the constellation Scorpius has created a stable dent in the fabric of spacetime, scientists say”.

Fact: No one has seen a black hole. All we have are electromagnetic signals that are open to many interpretations. But “mainstream” cosmologists interpret the signals in one way only, based on their peculiar set of axioms about the nature of space, time and gravity. Many of the most accomplished plasma experts dispute the entire complex of assumptions.

Fact: The ”fabric of spacetime” is a mathematical abstraction of widely debated relevance to the study of natural phenomena. Critics say that the word “spacetime” is essentially meaningless because it combines two incompatible concepts—the 3-dimensional space we experience and a non-dimensional interval of time. In physics, a dimension can only be measured by a physical ruler. However, mathematicians use the word ambiguously to denote any number of variables. This results in the common mathematical “fallacy of ambiguity”, where the word is used with one meaning in the 'real world of 3-dimensions, and with another meaning in the theoretical world of mathematics.

Some cosmological theories talk of 26 dimensions and parallel universes, which serve only to astound and confuse those living in the physical world of 3-dimensions. As one physicist puts it, "Any theory where time is represented as a fourth dimension does not represent reality… If the math is correct but does not represent reality; then, as far as factually describing reality, the math is meaningless, unreasonable and ambiguous”.

“The dent is the sort of thing predicted by Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity. It affects the movement of matter falling into the black hole”.

Fact: The “black hole” is a theory not a fact. In his theory of general relativity, Einstein proposed a geometrical concept of gravity, suggesting that it was caused by the warping of 3-dimensional space in some “extra dimension” in the presence of mass. A growing number of scientists dispute the principle.

A common 3-dimensional illustration of the “geometric” theory of gravity shows a rubber sheet stretched by steel balls resting on it. The dents in the rubber sheet mimic the gravitational wells of the steel balls and control their movement. However, as the astronomer Tom Van Flandern has pointed out, this model only seems to work because our minds imagine the Earth's gravity acting downwards on the steel balls. Without pre-existing gravity the steel balls will not dent the rubber sheet and they will remain stationary. Critics argue that both the rubber sheet analogy and the extra-dimensional geometric interpretation of general relativity violate the principle of causality: In the physical world, all effects have causes, and it is the function of science to explore these relationships, not to deny them.

“The spacetime-dent is invisible, but scientists deduced its existence after detecting two X-ray frequencies from the black hole that were identical to emissions noted nine years ago”.

There is no actual observation of a black hole to verify this deduction from a prior guess. X-rays are most easily generated by particles accelerated in an electromagnetic field. There is no more difficult way to generate x-rays than using the weakest force in the universe–gravity. (Imagine your dentist trying to generate x-rays by dropping heavy weights from space). Nature is not in the habit of doing things the hard way.

“Black holes form when very massive stars runs out of fuel. Their cores implode into a point of infinite density and their outer layers are blown away in a powerful supernova explosion”.

Fact: There is no experimental evidence that matter can be compressed to “infinite density”. It requires the weakest force in the universe to overcome the strongest – the electric force. There is no observational evidence that stars implode. Mathematicians have simply placed a theoretical demand on an improbable model, requiring that a particular kind of star in a particular kind of binary system run out of fuel suddenly and undergo spherically symmetrical gravitational collapse to form an unreal object – a black hole.

Fact: The progenitor stars for a supernova have never been identified.

Fact: The explosion of a supernova is not spherically symmetrical. It is bipolar.

Fact: The theoretical result – a black hole – is a mathematical fiction with no verifiable connection to the natural world.

"The X-ray frequencies detected by the team of researchers came from outside the event horizon of GRO J1655-40, a black hole located roughly 10,000 light-years from Earth. It is about seven times more massive than the Sun and siphoning gas from a nearby companion star."

Fact: The scenario stated here is entirely theoretical. Hence, the rest of the report can only strain credulity further by following a series of additional guesses. (See previous summary). But how would a general reader know this, when the author of the story cites all of the speculations as if they are part of scientific knowledge today?

“GRO J1655-40 undergoes short periods of intense X-ray emissions, followed by longer periods of comparative quiet. Scientists think this blinking pattern of X-ray activity is related to how matter accumulates around the black hole.

“Every few years, however, something—scientists aren’t sure what—triggers a sudden binge fest on the part of the black hole, causing it to guzzle down most of matter in the disk within a period of only a few months”.

Here, at the end of an elaborate chain of speculations, we have an admission that the sporadic X-ray outbursts remain unexplained—though the model was designed to explain them.

It therefore remains to be asked whether, from an electrical vantage point, it is possible to account for the X-ray emissions and other observed attributes of GRO J1655-40, without taking theoretical leaps beyond our present scientific knowledge.

NEXT IN THIS SERIES: Electric Pulses in Space

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Authors David Talbott and Wallace Thornhill introduce the reader to an age of planetary instability and earthshaking electrical events in ancient times. If their hypothesis is correct, it could not fail to alter many paths of scientific investigation.

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Professor of engineering Donald Scott systematically unravels the myths of the "Big Bang" cosmology, and he does so without resorting to black holes, dark matter, dark energy, neutron stars, magnetic "reconnection", or any other fictions needed to prop up a failed theory.

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In language designed for scientists and non-scientists alike, authors Wallace Thornhill and David Talbott show that even the greatest surprises of the space age are predictable patterns in an electric universe.

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David Talbott, Wallace Thornhill
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